Gearing Up for the Open
For the first time in his career, Andy Murray enters a Grand Slam as defending champion. I spoke with the No. 3 seed at the Adidas store in downtown Manhattan about the challenge of repeating, his NYC routines, and how he customizes his racquets and shoes for the big event.
TENNIS.com: How much, if at all, has your preparation changed or been affected now that you're coming into this U.S. Open as defending champion and the reigning Wimbledon champion?
MURRAY: I mean, it doesn’t change the stuff you do on the court so much. I try to prepare the same for this event as I have for the last few U.S. Opens because they’ve gone well. But yeah, there’s a few more sort of demands on your time away from the court in terms of press and sponsor commitments and stuff. That’s the thing you need to make sure you balance that well and make sure you get some rest time as well.
TENNIS.com: Your coach, Ivan Lendl, was a defending Grand Slam champion many times in his career. Has he offered any advice to you on how to handle your heightened celebrity?
MURRAY: Not so much because I think everybody deals with it differently. Some people like to do nothing; some people like to do more. So long as the quality of the practices that I have don’t go down then he’s happy. It’s been fine so far and hopefully that will continue.
TENNIS.com: You've talked in the past how much you enjoy the U.S. Open. Do you think your heightened level of celebrity after the past year might make some of the things you like to do here more difficult?
MURRAY: I don’t know. I haven’t noticed a huge difference now. I’m still staying in the same place; going to Whole Foods for lunch; walking around Central Park; going out for dinner. So it’s been fine so far. Not too much difference.
TENNIS.com: Are you one of those players that’s a creature of habit and will try to follow the same routines—eat at the same restaurants, stay at the same hotel, use the same practice court—that you did last year when you won?
MURRAY: Not quite like that. I’m staying in the same hotel because I enjoyed it—it’s comfortable, quiet, which is important. During these couple of weeks it’s an extremely busy city, it’s very energetic, it can be quite frantic and hectic if you’re in the wrong spot. So you need to make sure you conserve your energy as best as possible and that’s something I’ve gotten a bit better at the last few years when I’ve been coming here.
TENNIS.com: We're here at the Adidas store and one of the reasons is the Barricade 8; I believe that’s the shoe you’re wearing. What do you like about the shoe and how does it compare to previous models?
MURRAY: I’ve been wearing Barricade shoes for literally ten years. Ever since I came on tour I’ve been wearing them. They’re always very durable, they’ve got very good stability. The one thing people have wanted to see is to have a lighter shoe. So this one is a little bit lighter, is a bit more breathable, there’s not so much material on it. They’ve tried to lighten it up and hopefully it will help me move around the court a little bit quicker.
TENNIS.com: How many shoes do you typically go through during a tournament? Do you burn through a bunch?
MURRAY: It depends on the surface. During the grass-court season I wore a new pair for every match. Just because you can slip easily on the grass courts, so I tried to use a new pair. Whereas on the hard courts I actually like the shoes to be a bit more worn in. If I play seven matches in a Grand Slam if you get to the final, I probably get through two or three pairs on a hard court, which takes into consideration also all the practices and stuff we have on the off days and before matches as well, so they last a while.
TENNIS.com: At a tournament like the U.S. Open during the first week you can have a hot, muggy day; the second week you can have a cool, chilly night where the temperatures change dramatically. Do you do any tinkering with your equipment, like your string tensions to adjust for that? Or is that something you don’t pay too much attention to?
MURRAY: Yeah, I do. I also try to make sure if I’m playing in the evening, if I haven’t practiced in the evening, I’ll come out the day beforehand and have a hit late at night and try and serve under the lights a little bit. Just try to get used to those conditions because it can be 15, 20 degrees cooler and that changes the way the ball bounces off the court and also the way it comes off your racquet, too. So sometimes I’ll make adjustments to tensions, but I try to have the same two tensions throughout the whole event if I can.
TENNIS.com: Which two tensions do you use?
MURRAY: Again, it depends; it changes from tournament to tournament. But last year here I played around 60 pounds. And I’ve been practicing with that so far this week.
TENNIS.com: Which strings do you use?
MURRAY: I use Luxilon and natural gut.
TENNIS.com: Roger Federer recently, famously, tried to switch racquets. He has scrapped that for a little while. Have you ever tried—I know you’ve been a Radical guy for a long time—but have you tried to switch racquets? And if you did, or ever considered it, how long would it take you to make an adjustment like that?
MURRAY: I’ve never tried to make an adjustment in terms of the head size or anything like that. I’ve tried a longer racquet, like an inch longer. I’ve tried distributing the weight differently which compared when I first came on the tour, my racquet is not so much lighter but the weight is distributed differently. It used to be right in the head; now it’s much more balanced.
What else have I done with the racquets?
When I hurt my wrist—I used to have an 18x20 string pattern—then I change to a 16x19 string pattern. So yeah I’ve made changes during my career, just not to the racquet itself. I like the Radical; I’ve been using it for, again, I’ve been using that since I was 15 years old, 14 years old. So no need to change now.
TENNIS.com: If you did try to do it how long do you think it would take you? More than two tournaments like Roger?
MURRAY: Ivan, my coach, he changed racquets during his career and he said it took him six months before he felt comfortable using the racquet. I mean most players will stick to same racquet for a lot of years and it does take a lot of time to make a change.
TENNIS.com: Slightly off the court question. Could you tell us a little bit about your involvement with Malaria No More?
MURRAY: Yeah I’ve been doing some bits and pieces with them for probably about five years now. I did a few things with David Beckham basically to promote the charity and the campaigns they’ve been running. It’s obviously a huge issue in Africa and I’ve just been trying to help. Hopefully one day—in tennis we’re fairly busy—but in the off-season I’ll try to get over to Africa and see it for myself.
TENNIS.com: You’ve got another book coming out in November? Is that right?
MURRAY: Yes. Hopefully, if it gets done in time. Neil Harman—I’ve spent a bit of time with him over the last few weeks. It’s not an autobiography, it’s more a sort of picture book. But there was a few books after the U.S. Open last year that came out—unofficial biographies and what not. I think it’s important when that starts happening to kind of do your own thing with your words and make it more official.
TENNIS.com: Lastly, we’re at the Adidas store. Fred Perry got his own line after he won Wimbledon. He’s got a store down here. When are we going to see the Andy Murray line of expensive polos and track jackets?
MURRAY: I don’t know. I mean I think that’s probably more something for when I finish playing. It takes a lot of time that sort of thing. I obviously used Fred Perry’s clothes when I was younger, but I started working with Adidas when I was 12 years old, too. So I’m enjoying it with them just now and no plans yet to do my own thing.