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John Lloyd: 'I actually think that Andy Murray will go all the way at Wimbledon this summer'

Strawberries and cream might taste better in the open air, but you can still catch all the tennis action from your sofa. Keeley Bolger rallies Wimbledon pundit John Lloyd before the BBC coverage swings onto screens.

Published 27/06/2015

Andy Murray
Andy Murray
John Lloyd and Chris Evert on their wedding day
John Lloyd in action with his first wife Chris Evert
John Lloyd highly rates Andy Murray

If Wimbledon commentator and former tennis pro John Lloyd's inklings are correct, then there will be plenty of reason to pop open the bubbly on Murray Mound during the annual tennis competition this summer.

"I actually think Andy Murray will win this year," says the 60-year-old, who also thinks Serena Williams will be unbeatable - providing "she's in the right frame of mind".

"Either Murray or (Novak) Djokovic (will win)," he continues. "I'm not exactly putting myself on the line there saying that, because they are the two obvious ones, but I think Murray might be the slight favourite.

"He had a great run at the French Open, he loves playing on the grass, he's at home, and he's able to be in his own house for five or six weeks, so it all adds to his chances."

Of course, not all of us are lucky enough to score a court-side ticket for the event - or a pew in the pundit box - to cheer Murray to victory, but the BBC coverage means that, globally, an estimated one billion of us will be tuning in to watch.

And once again, Lloyd - who's been commentating on the Championships for "about 15-20 years; I can't remember!" - and his fellow pundits Andrew Castle, John McEnroe, and Martina Navratilova, will have their work cut out for them during the two-week tournament, which starts on Monday.

Born in Essex, Lloyd played professionally in the late Seventies and Eighties, competing in both singles and doubles matches before turning his hand to coaching and captaining the GB Davis Cup team. A former Australian Open finalist, he is the younger brother of tennis-pro-turned-gym-tycoon David Lloyd. And while he won the 1983 and 1984 Wimbledon mixed doubles with Wendy Turnbull, he says he has mixed emotions about his time on the hallowed courts of SW19.

"I have a love-hate relationship with Wimbledon," explains Lloyd, who has two grown-up children with his wife, Deborah. "I didn't play that well in singles there over the years. I had a couple of good wins, but generally speaking, I got a bit nervous and didn't play as well as I should have done. But playing in the mixed doubles was special."

At the time, Lloyd, whose first wife was American tennis star Chris Evert, the former world number one, suffered with painful stomach problems and felt especially nervous playing on British soil.

"I used to have a problem with my stomach, but I got around it, and now I don't have any more problems," says the pundit, who spends much of his year in California and Florida. "I don't know if it was nerves, no one's been able to find out, but since I've been on the homeopathic stuff, it seems to have helped. So no more problems for me, which is great."

And having battled with the jitters, Lloyd, who celebrated his milestone birthday last year with a joint party for him and some close pals ("including my wife, who I count as a best friend") in Los Angeles, is even more impressed with how British stars cope when the weight of expectation is placed upon them.

"I actually admire people like Tim Henman and Murray even more, because they're the great British hopes. Not that I was that, but I was number one for a while and number two, and so people expected things from me.

"Quite frankly, I didn't adapt well to that pressure, and yet Henman, and Murray even more so, love that pressure and love playing in England. I preferred playing in the US Open, or Australia, where I was just another player, so I admire them because you put yourself on the line for the pubic and, if you lose, you feel like you've lost for everybody else. It's a different type of pressure, but they seem to excel in it."

While fellow pundit Andrew Castle flits between commentary and playing in the senior matches, after two knee operations, Lloyd, a lifelong Wolverhampton Wanderers fan, isn't following suit. These days, he only picks up his racquet to "play with clients during the half of the year that I work as a real estate broker in Florida".

"With tennis, the only way I'll be going with it is backwards, unfortunately," he adds, laughing. "You can't turn back nature. As you get older, you can't move as well, you can't see the ball as well and you get worse.

"I'm not a particularly good golfer, but I figure that I can only get better. I don't think I can get worse, I don't think that's possible!"

And while he jokes that "it's best I hide away from the Wimbledon courts now and just have good memories", he's pleased to be behind the box for another year, where it's a "privilege" to watch "geniuses" like Roger Federer play.

"I had a good career and a fun career and now I've extended it into commentating," Lloyd adds. "I've been very fortunate, because there aren't that many people in tennis who get that opportunity. I'm a lucky chap."

Wimbledon 2015, BBC One, Monday, 1.45pm

Belfast Telegraph

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