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Murray is looking forward to birth of new era

By Paul Newman

Published 09/01/2016

Baby talk: Andy and Kim Murray have an exciting year ahead of them
Baby talk: Andy and Kim Murray have an exciting year ahead of them
Coach Amelie Mauresmo

Andy Murray is sitting in a corner of the gymnasium here at the Perth Arena, relating how much he had missed having Amélie Mauresmo around at the end of last year, when he notices a woman at the entrance holding a baby.

"Amélie," Murray calls across to his coach, a smile across his face. "There's a baby here to see you."

If Murray had been the centre of attention five minutes earlier, with his entourage gathered around him as he warmed down on an exercise bike following his last match at this week's Hopman Cup, the show is stolen in a matter of moments by Aaron, Mauresmo's four-month-old son.

Before long it will no doubt be Murray's own son or daughter - he told a TV journalist here that he and his wife Kim do not know the sex of the baby they are expecting next month - stopping the show at a tennis tournament.

For the moment, however, the Scot is having to do the baby talk on his own.

Almost every on-court interviewer has been asking him this week about impending fatherhood (yes, he will fly home immediately if his wife goes into labour, and no, tennis will not be the only career he will encourage his offspring to follow).

He can expect more of the same when the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year, starts in nine days' time.

While the two other key women in his life are here - Mauresmo returned to work last month and Judy Murray, the World No.2's mother, is working as Heather Watson's temporary coach until the end of the Australian Open - Kim is back home in Surrey.

Murray can barely remember when she last missed a Grand Slam tournament - "It was at the French Open a long time ago" - and said the six weeks they will have spent apart if he reaches the latter stages in Melbourne would be their longest separation for "many, many years".

Would it feel strange not to have her there when he looks up at his entourage during his matches at Melbourne Park?

"I don't think so," Murray says. "Miami and Queen's are the only other two tournaments during the year (apart from the Grand Slams) that she comes to, so I play the rest of the tournaments without her there.

"Obviously, I like it when she's there - otherwise she wouldn't travel to the events she does - but that's just the way it is."

There have been suggestions that thinking about the forthcoming birth could be a distraction.

"It's something that I think about on a daily basis because of where I am in the world," Murray says. "That's normal. But when I'm on the court I'm not thinking about it.

"I want to be there for the birth - and at this stage anything can happen. There are no guarantees. It's something I think about. I wouldn't have thought it would distract me in terms of how I play in my matches, but it's something that I think about a lot because as soon as I get the call I'm on the next flight home."

Murray has been in a relaxed mood all week at what is a delightfully laid-back tournament in an equally easy-going city.

On Thursday night the two British players and their respective entourages went to a performance of "The Lion King". The unity of Murray's team is evident and having Mauresmo back in the fold is clearly a source of pleasure for him.

At last year's US Open, which Mauresmo missed, Murray suffered his earliest exit at a Grand Slam tournament for five years with his fourth-round loss to Kevin Anderson.

The Scot thinks the biggest reason was that he had been playing too much - he barely had a break after Wimbledon - but Mauresmo's absence may have also been a factor.

Jonas Bjorkman coached Murray after Wimbledon but is not working with him any more.

"I did miss Amélie, yes, because I love working with her," Murray says.

"I get on well with her and any time someone in your team changes it's not easy, it takes a bit of time. The more continuity you have, the better. If there's someone in your team that you find very influential and they aren't there it can have an impact."

Mauresmo will be on the road with Murray for between 22 and 24 weeks this year. The Scot is also looking to appoint a full-time coaching assistant, who would work under Mauresmo's supervision, in time for the Indian Wells Masters in March.

While Murray has great respect and affection for Bjorkman, he did not want to continue with last year's two-coach arrangement.

"Amélie and I will spend a lot of time together (this year) for sure," Murray says.

"The most important thing for me is not spending periods where I go, say, six or seven weeks without seeing her, because I think it's good to have that continuity.

"I don't like having two coaches splitting the time equally, with one coach one week and another the next, dipping in and out."

Murray thinks the benefits of his recent work with Mauresmo have been evident here in Australia.

"It's about trying to play as offensively as possible, being up as close to the baseline as possible," he says.

"I did that at the end of last year in a lot of the matches. I did it in the Davis Cup.

"I felt I was able to dictate more of the points and be more pro-active than in the matches I played at the US Open, for example, where I felt I got away from that.

"Losing is disappointing, but when you lose and you feel like you've played the wrong way that hurts."

Having ended last year at his highest ever position as World No.2, Murray has been working on ways of closing the gap on Novak Djokovic, the World No.1 and winner of nine of the last 20 Grand Slam tournaments.

"For sure there are certain patterns of play that I work on for playing against him," Murray says.

"It was something that I did with Ivan (Lendl) and something that I've spoken to my team about doing.

"Obviously when you go on the court against those guys you want it to be drilled in, everything that you want to be doing against them. You don't want to be thinking loads about it when you're on the court."

Djokovic has beaten Murray at four of the last five Australian Opens. Might this year be time to turn the tables?

Murray is certainly feeling good physically - as a result, ironically, of his short off-season. He played his first match of 2016 just five weeks after leading Britain to their impressive Davis Cup triumph.

The Scot had only 10 days' rest before going to Dubai for a training camp with Mauresmo before Christmas.

Still wearing his match kit as he sits on the edge of a massage table while Mauresmo junior continues to be the focus in the middle of the room, Murray hardly looks like a man who has just played and won two matches in succession - a singles and a mixed doubles - in the heat of an Australian summer's day.

"My body is feeling different to what it normally does at the beginning of the year," Murray notes.

"Normally I pull up a bit stiff and sore in quite a lot of areas. My hip has been a bit sore in the first couple of matches, though it was better here.

"But the rest of my body is not sore or stiff because I had such a small break. I think my body is more match-ready than it normally is at the beginning of the year."

Could that give Murray a crucial edge in Melbourne?

"I don't see it being a disadvantage," he adds.

"I think being match-fit is good. I think finishing (the season) with a lot of momentum is good.

But the off-season is also shorter so there is less time to rest and train. You just have to trust a little bit the work that you've already done last year and see what happens."

Belfast Telegraph

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