Jamie Murray: Andy's forgotten brother
There was standing room only for a first-round doubles match on an outside court in a far corner of the Ariake Tennis Forest Park here at the Japan Open yesterday. The second seed in the singles, Tomas Berdych, was winning on centre court at the same time, but there were probably more spectators packed into the temporary stands around Court One as Andy and Jamie Murray began the defence of their doubles title.
Andy, who will resume his singles campaign against Stanislas Wawrinka in today's quarter-finals, is the big draw for the crowds, having won both the singles and doubles titles here last year.
There is more interest than ever in the 25-year-old Scot since his victory in the US Open last month and he delighted the large crowd with some outstanding play as the Murrays beat Eric Butorac, Jamie's former partner, and Jarkko Nieminen 5-7, 6-3, 10-4 on a day of glorious autumn sunshine. The Murrays next play the top seeds, Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek.
Jamie may have been the first Murray to win a Grand Slam title, thanks to his Wimbledon victory with Jelena Jankovic in the mixed doubles five years ago, but the older brother's career has never quite taken off in the way he might have hoped. Andy has won $4.30m (nearly £2.7m) in prize money this year alone, more than five times what Jamie has earned in his career.
Not that the older brother is jealous of his sibling's success. Jamie, who watched Andy win the US Open at a hotel in Luxembourg at 3am, said his brother deserved his triumph for "all the hard work he has put in".
He did not have any doubts that Andy would beat Novak Djokovic in the final at Flushing Meadows. "I didn't think he actually played his best up to the final, while Djokovic was playing great, but I just thought it was Andy's time," Jamie said.
Did he think that winning in New York had lifted a weight off Andy's shoulders? "I'd be surprised if it hadn't," Jamie said. "He has that in the bag now. Nobody can take that away from him. It must bring him such great peace of mind, knowing that he's done it."
Jamie's own career looked to be taking off when he teamed up with Butorac five years ago, but a subsequent partnership with Max Mirnyi, one of the world's best doubles players, failed to take off. Since then he has played with a succession of partners, with only limited success. He has played with 14 different partners in the last year alone.
In the last five years Jamie has won just four titles, two with his brother, one with Mirnyi and one with Andre Sa. He played with Sa in four tournaments leading up to Tokyo and will link up with the Brazilian again at Vienna in a fortnight's time.
Having reached a career-high position at No 23 in the world doubles rankings, Jamie is now No 52, with five Britons ahead of him in Jonny Marray, Colin Fleming, Ross Hutchins, Dominic Inglot and Ken Skupski. Unless the Murrays make a successful defence of the points they won here last year, Jamie is likely to fall several places in next week's updated rankings list.
"The last couple of years have been hard because I've been playing with so many different people," Jamie admitted after yesterday's victory.
"When you haven't got a regular doubles partner it's often hard to find people to practise with. If you get knocked out early in a tournament you can at least practise together if you've got a regular partner.
"This week I'm playing with Andy but I'm not practising with him. Tomorrow I'll probably practise with Dani [Vallverdu, one of his brother's coaches] after Andy has played his singles match. Last year I was playing the best tennis here that I played all season, but I was only practising for 20 minutes each day with Dani after Andy's matches."
Andy's high ranking enables the brothers to get into the bigger tournaments, but Jamie has found it hard to find a regular partner amongst the better players. "I think a lot of the top guys are changing partners for next year but they aren't going to want to play with me because of my ranking," he said. "They'll want to be playing with someone they can be sure they'll be getting into Masters Series events with."
Jamie thinks the pairing with Sa, the world No 61, might become a long-term arrangement, though a more obvious partnership would be with Marray. Freddie Nielsen, who partnered Marray during their remarkable run to the Wimbledon doubles title this summer, still has ambitions as a singles player and is not always available to play doubles with him.
Marray and Murray practised together here this week (Marray and his partner Treat Huey were knocked out in the first round), have been successful partners in the past and are good friends. Surprisingly, Jamie said they had not discussed joining forces again.
Brother Andy is among those who think a Marray-Murray partnership would have more than just alliteration going for them.
"It would be much better if Jamie could find a regular partner that he plays well with – and Jonny would be a good partner," Andy said.
Murray matters: Brothers compared
Andy Murray/Jamie Murray
25 Age 26
Glasgow Born Dunblane
2005 Turned pro 2004
3 (singles) World ranking 52 (doubles)
2 Highest world ranking 23
£14.5m Career earnings £465k
24 Tour titles 7 (doubles)
1 (US Open) Major titles 1 (Wimbledon mix doubles)