Andy Murray aims to end Grand Slam jinx at US Open
Tennis has been occupying Andy Murray's thoughts both day and night. Four days after losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final he dreamed he was back at the All England Club winning the title. "I was just starting to feel better," a rueful Murray said of his post-Wimbledon blues. "That didn't help."
Within days of earning his revenge over Federer in the Olympic final four weeks later, the Scot dreamed that he had lost that match. "Obviously waking up and remembering that I had won was nice," he said. "You think about it a lot, but I think the thing with tennis especially is of course we have tournaments and things to look forward to in the not too distant future."
Murray's golden moment was only 22 days ago, but he has since played two Masters Series tournaments – failing to go beyond the third round of either – and spent a week preparing for the US Open. The year's final Grand Slam tournament gets under way here today, with Murray second up in Arthur Ashe Stadium, where he will meet Alex Bogomolov in the first round.
There are few countries where the Olympics are as big as they are here and Murray has already noticed that Americans are recognising him in the street more than they used to, despite the fact that he has chosen a quieter hotel. Ivan Lendl, Murray's coach, who reached eight successive US Open finals, was always a big believer in spending as little time as possible amid the hubbub of Flushing Meadows.
"I'm just trying to make sure I don't spend too much time around the courts, because it can be very busy, quite loud, especially the first week," Murray said. "I'll be trying to get out of here as quickly as possible and just relax in the evenings, and not spend too much time out and about. That's the key for me, anyway."
He added: "I like just being able to get back to the room and chill out. Obviously New York can be very, very noisy if you're staying right in the middle of Manhattan. That's why I decided to change this year. When it gets closer and closer to the tournament I try and stay away from the streets and just in my own little bubble."
A first-round encounter with Bogomolov is a neat reminder of how quickly fortunes can change. When Murray first played him in Miami last year the Scot was in the middle of a post-Australian Open slump and lost in straight sets. Within weeks, however, he was playing in his first French Open semi-final.
Bogomolov, meanwhile, was No 166 in the world rankings at the end of 2010, after which he enjoyed the best season of his life, reaching a career-high position at No 33 nine months later and being seeded at a Grand Slam tournament for the only time at this year's Australian Open. Since January, however, he has failed to win two matches in a row, made 13 first-round exits and fallen back to No 73 in the rankings.
It has been an eventful last two years for the Moscow-born 29-year-old, whose family left Russia in 1992, moving initially to Mexico and then to Florida. Bogomolov spent years toiling on the Challenger circuit and played as an American until he switched nationality at the end of last year.
He has since made his Davis Cup debut for Russia and represented the country at the Olympics, though he admits he has struggled to adjust to competition at a higher level.
"All these new things come your way and it's hard to digest it all," Bogomolov said. "I've always been a grinder in the Challengers and now I'm playing Olympics, I'm playing Davis Cup, and every week I'm playing a guy that's in the top 50 in the world. It's a very different lifestyle now. You play one match a week, potentially, and then you have to sit around and wait for six days. You play another and even if you play a good match, you might lose and still have to wait another six days. It's been a tough transition for me."
Bogomolov, whose father was a leading tennis coach in Russia, lost both his singles rubbers in a 3-2 defeat away to Austria on his Davis Cup debut earlier this year. He found it a high-pressure experience, which he had not been expecting given that his earliest memory of Shamil Tarpischev, the Russian captain, was visiting his house and playing with his son when he was just three or four years old.
"I thought it was going to be a fun sort of cool environment, but it was really intense and it was really filled with pressure," Bogomolov said. "I didn't play well but I tried the best I could so, for me, it was still a great experience."
Had he always felt Russian at heart? "I never really felt American or Russian, but when I was playing for the US I would play any American and nobody would cheer for me because Bogomolov is a Russian name. All my roots are in Russia – my grandparents, my Mum, my Dad, everybody [was born] there. Nobody was born in the US."
Murray may be in a different league, but at least Bogomolov also knows what a gold medal looks like. In the Russian's case, however, that is thanks to another childhood memory, when his grandfather showed him the Olympic gold he had won for Russia in handball in 1976.
Alex who? Murray's opener
* Born 23 April, 1985, Moscow
* Career singles record 48-61. Yet to win an individual title.
* Current world ranking 73
Highest ranking 33 (Oct 2011)
* Only ever reached third round of US Open (last year). His father was a former Soviet national tennis coach. He represented the US from 2002-12, before 'moving' back to Russia earlier this year.