Extract from Andy Murray: Tennis Ace by John Murray

The early January tournaments were warm-ups for the main event of the month, which was the first Grand Slam of the year – the Australian Open. With a ranking well inside the top 100, Andy was guaranteed entry into all the Grand Slams and didn’t have to worry about qualifying any more. But his debut appearance in Melbourne was short lived, ending in a first-round defeat to Juan Ignacio Chela. With that, his Australian adventure was over until the following year.

His next tournament took him all the way back to Europe – nearly 10,000 miles away – to Zagreb, Croatia. The draw wasn’t kind to him: he was up against wold No. 5 and local favorite Ivan Ljubicic, and lost in three sets.

It had been a long way to go for another first-round defeat, but that was part and parcel of being a professional tennis player. Sometimes things don’t go your way, sometimes they do – as Andy was to find out in his next event. After he had travelled another 6,000 miles to get there, of course!

Andy had a new travel companion for his trip to the SAP Open in San Jose, California. Normally he went to tournaments with his coach at the time, Mark Petchey, or his mum, Judy, and sometimes both. Neither had made the journey across the Atlantic this time; instead he was accompanied by his girlfriend, Kim Sears.
Kim, also 18, had first met Andy at the previous year’s US Open. A student at the University of Sussex, she had an artistic side, having studied drama, music and art for her A-levels at school. Yet while Kim might not have been a fellow tennis pofessional, she certainly had the sport in her blood. Her father Nigel was a top British tennis coach (in 2011 he became the coach of former world number one Ana Ivanovic).

This was the first time Kim had travelled with Andy to a tournament. Could she be a good-luck charm as he tried to win his fist ATP title? It cerrtainly appeared that way in the early rounds as her boyfriend beat Mardy Fish for the loss of only four games and was no less dominant against Jimmy Wang, conceding six games. Robin Soderling won the first set of their quarter-final clash, but Andy bounced back to book a spot in the last four.
He would need more than just good fortune to advance to the final, however, as he was up against a formidable foe in Andy Roddick – the player with probably the most lethal serve in the world. The top-seed was the highest-ranked opponent he had faced since Federer, but that didn’t bother Andy. he refused to wilt under pressure and won 7-5 7-5. It was the highest-profile victory of his career so far.

Admittedly, not many of Australia’s Grand Slam titles had come in the past 20 years, but one player who had taken home a couple was facing Andy on the other side of the net. In 2001, the year he had won the US Open, Hewitt had become the youngest ever world No.1, aged 21.
The Australian, who was now ranked 11, had not won a tournament since 2003. He began the final with the drive of someone who wanted to change that – fast. Hewitt took the first set 6-2. Murray then gave him some of his own medicine, winning the second set 6-1 to level the match.
The third was much closer. Hewitt showed incredible resolve at 4-5 and 5-6 to hold off two championship points, both times finding a thunderous serve when he needed it most. That took the match to a tie-break, where it was third time lucky for Andy: he grasped the opportunity on his third match point and became the youngest ever Brit to win an ATP Tour title.

After shaking hands with his opponent and the umpire, it was time to thank his biggest supporter all week. He went and gave Kim a kiss.

Amélie Mauresmo and Justine Henin, Australian Open 2006

Interview by l’Equipe, translation by Tennis Buzz:

Yesterday Amélie Mauresmo was the biggest fan of her protege, Andy Murray, but ten years ago she captured her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne. Flashback.

Q: Do yo remember exactly your route to victory here in 2006?

Ouch! (Thinking…) I start with the Chinese Sun. Right? Then Emilie (Loit), and Krajicek who retires. And in the fourth round, who was it? That’s right, Vaidisova! And then I defeat Patty (Schnyder) in the quarterfinals, Kim (Clijsters) in semis and Justine (Henin) in the final.

Q: Do you remember the score of the shortened final?

6-1 2-0 30-0.

Q: After the final, everybody critizices Henin’s attitude. Mats Wilander says “Even crawling she should have finished the match”. But you don’t say anything.

I only do realize that the next day. And suddenly I feel bad. And I say to myself: “But wait, she did that! She only had 3 or 4 more games to play. And she stopped.” Yet she was not dying. You can not do that.

Q: Have you forgiven her?

It took time. When I was still playing, not really. She stole me a moment. And moments like that are rare.

Q: Did she apologize?

No.

Q: Your coach Loic Courteau was annoyed because all the emotion could not get out. And you?

Yes, of course, but I was so sure this tournament was for me. Withdrawal or not, in my opinion I was better.

Q: Did you have the same feeling, six months later in Wimbledon, that the tournament was for you?

Not at all. I was not playing as well at Wimbledon. The final was not good. In Melbourne, before the final, I had no doubt, no stress. Unlike the Wimbledon final, where I hardly slept the night before.

Q: From when did you feel that superiority in Melbourne?

Not immediately. But after my win against Vaidisova and my big match against Patty. Against her, even I won often, it was always tough. But that time, I did dominate her physically and tactically.

Q: Would you have won the tournament if you had not win the Masters in 2015?

It’s related. The Masters are a real trigger. I experienced these Masters a bit like my first Grand Slam. I surfed on that confidence. The winter that following, during preparation, I played like crazy. The practice sessions (lots of them with Alexandre Sidorenko who won the boys’ title the same day as Mauresmo) were amazing.

Q: Yet a few weeks before the Masters, you had reached a low point.

The match agasint Mary Pierce at the US Open had killed me (a 6-4 6-1 loss in the quarterfinals). After the match, I thought “I can’t do it against hard-hitting players. I don’t return as well as these players. I can’t do it.” Mary, Davenport, Venus, Serena, it was going too fast for me. Even Justine who could do more things chose that playing style. Was there some place for me? For change of pace, variation? I asked myself a lot of questions. We thought about it with Lolo (Courteau) and we decided to go to the net even more. But I play two disastrous tournaments, Moscow and Zurich. I win one or two games a set (she loses 6-1 6-1 to Schiavone in Moscow and 6-2 6-0 to Srebotnik in Zurich). I keep questioning myself: I’m 26 and except Novotna, there is no female player winning a first Grand Slam title at that age.

Q: You do not have always known you were a champion

That’s right. I fought against a lot of things related to our sporting culture in France, to our approach to winning or rather our non-approach.

Q: Also fight the “She has a nice game” cliché

Technically, my forehand was not really good, but people said: “She has a nice backhand, she varies her shots, she volleyes”. Efficiency is not a priority in France. I can feel the difference with Andy (Murray) and even before when I worked with Azarenka.

Q: By winning in Melbourne you also get rid of another weight, that of being labeled as the world number one who had not won a Grand Slam. Was it important?

I was eager to put an end to this discussion. But it was not a suffering.

Q: At the 2006 Australian Open, three players retire against you, but you also had big problems..

The morning of my match against Vaidisova, I wake up and I’m panicked. My neck is blocked, I’m upset. I call Michel (Franco, her physiotherapist), he massages me, he does what he can. I play suffering, serving at 130 km/h, but Vaidisova commits lots of unforced errors. That year it is very hot. In the semi finals, with Kim, we play a big match, very physical. We play indoor because it is 40 °C. She twists her ankle because she is tired; back to the hotel, I fainted. The next day I did not come to hit at the stadium.

Q: In 1999, you had also reached the final in Melbourne..

Yes, but in the game, I do not really know why. My game was very instinctive. I do not even know how I was playing back then. In 2006 my game was in place.

Q: You keep good memories of the Château d’Yquem 1937 you drank to celebrate your victory

In fact we drunk it during the summer of 2007. It was excellent.