Relaxed Andy Murray happy, healthy and raring to go at Wimbledon
Defending champion and World No1 talks family, pressure and the rigours of age, as Wimbledon gets under way
The winner of the men's singles title here in a fortnight's time will earn £2.2m, while even first-round losers will leave with cheques for £35,000 in their pockets. It might be just as well that Wimbledon's prize money has gone up by 12.5 per cent given that Andy Murray will soon have an extra mouth to feed.
It was revealed here on the eve of the defending champion's opening match that his wife, Kim, is expecting their second child. "We're both obviously very happy and looking forward to it," the Scot said at his pre-tournament press conference.
Murray said they had found out she was pregnant again "a while ago". He said Kim would still be coming to Wimbledon and did not think that her condition would put any additional stress on him. "I'll be fine dealing with that," he said.
It has been Murray's own condition that has been of greatest concern to his own supporters over the last fortnight. The Scot has been dealing with a hip injury since losing to Jordan Thompson at Queen's Club 12 days ago in his only match in his only warm-up tournament.
Murray rested for two days last week and pulled out of two scheduled exhibition matches but has been back on the court here since Friday and has appeared to be moving better with every passing day.
"The last few days have been very good," he said. "Practice each day has got a little bit better. It's been slightly stop-start preparations, but each day I've felt better.
"A little bit like at the French Open, where maybe I didn't come in as well-prepared, I still found a way with each match to feel a bit better and built confidence each day, so I'm hoping that's the case here."
Murray said he had made the decision to take a rest in consultation with his coach, Ivan Lendl, and the rest of his team. "I needed to take a few days' break if I was going to give myself the best chance to be ready," he said. "There was no use pushing for three or four days and making myself worse."
Asked if there had been any stage when he feared he might have to pull out of the tournament, Murray said: "You never know. I haven't been in that sort of position too often, not feeling good at all only a few days before a Slam.
"Obviously this is an extremely important tournament, so you worry a little bit. It's a little bit stressful if you can't practise for a few days. You really want to be preparing, training as much as you can to get ready and make yourself feel better, especially when you haven't had any matches.
"But I've just tried to think positively. I tried to make the best decisions along with my team to give myself the best chance to feel good on Monday. I feel like I've done that."
Murray said the injury itself was nothing new. "I've had hip problems since I was very young," he said. "It's just been very sore the last few weeks. It was giving me quite a lot of trouble moving to certain shots and getting into certain positions.
"That was why I needed to take the break, to try and give it a chance to settle down, calm down a bit. I spent a lot of time with my physio and doing some extra exercises in my warm-up, strengthening exercises, a lot of stuff to try to loosen off that area. It's felt much better the last few days."
Murray said he was confident that he would be fit enough to play seven matches over the next fortnight if necessary, provided he suffers no further injury setbacks.
"As I am today, if I feel like I am today, I'd be delighted and will have no issues getting through," he said. "If necessary, I can take some anti-inflammatories if my hip flares up, but hopefully that won't be the case."
Murray's first opponent in today's opening match on Centre Court is Alexander Bublik, a flamboyant 20-year-old from Russia who now represents Kazakhstan. Murray has never played the world No 134 before but talked to him earlier this year in Indian Wells, where Bublik interviewed the Scot as part of a promotion for the inaugural Next Gen Finals in Milan later this year.
"He's obviously a big personality and not a quiet guy," Murray said. "From what I've heard, he's pretty entertaining on the court in terms of the way he plays, how he is. He's quite unorthodox. He plays a lot of unexpected shots, a lot of drop shots, mixes his game up a lot, takes chances, tries shots that guys may play in exhibitions."
Murray said he expected to have nerves going into his opening match. "There's pressure at this event because it's one of the most important we play during the whole year," he said. "If I wasn't nervous or didn't feel any pressure, then I'd be very worried. I'm not sure I'd be wanting to keep playing if that was the case.
"I want to be nervous. I want to feel the pressure at these events. But the nice thing about it is that at the end of the days, when I leave the courts, I can get away from it maybe a little bit more than at some of the other tournaments just because I'm at home with my family in my own house."
This will be the first Wimbledon Murray has played since he turned 30. Only one 30-something (Roger Federer in 2012) has won the men's singles title here since 1975.
"You want to make the most of every tournament you play," Murray said when asked about the advancing years. "I think you realise that a little bit more as you start to get older. I hope I'm still playing here for five, six, seven more years, if possible, but obviously I don't know what's going to happen.
"Just because of what Federer's doing just now, which is incredibly rare, a lot of people think everyone is going to do that. I'm not sure that's going to be the case."
Murray thinks that past experience of going into a Grand Slam tournament as the defending champion will stand him in good stead, particularly as he is that much older now, but he added: "Once you get out there, I don't feel like I'm coming in trying to defend something. I'm going out there trying to win Wimbledon again. I want to try to win the competition.
"Maybe it adds a little extra pressure. Maybe there are a few more nerves, especially at this Slam with the way the scheduling is as you're the first one out there on Centre Court. You feel like you're opening up the tournament, and that adds a few nerves. But I feel OK. I've felt fairly calm the last few days considering how I've been feeling."
Independent News Service