‘Louis has been huge for me, I wouldn’t have achieved what I have with­out work­ing with him’

Em­i­nent dou­bles coach Louis Cayer has helped trans­form Jamie Mur­ray from also-ran to win­ner

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Tennis - Si­mon Briggs TEN­NIS CORRESPONDENT Jamie and Louis’s mas­ter­class was part of the LTA’s new Bri­tish Ten­nis Team Mem­ber­ship’scheme. To learn more visit lta.org.uk/mem­ber­ship

On an in­door court at the Na­tional Ten­nis Cen­tre, the em­i­nent dou­bles coach Louis Cayer is hit­ting balls at Jamie Mur­ray from close range. Very close range. If you tried this with your av­er­age park player, they would sus­tain enough bruises to make a join-the-dots puz­zle.

Yet Mur­ray needs no body ar­mour. His un­canny re­ac­tions send each ball re­bound­ing per­fectly into play. “I call this ‘stealing’,” Cayer tells a small au­di­ence of open-mouthed ju­niors. “I want him to be clin­i­cal at the net, great of­fence, fin­ish the point, but also steal points with his re­flexes.”

It would easy to take Mur­ray’s mas­tery for granted. He is only a dou­bles player, af­ter all, and the pro­fes­sional game still treats dou­bles as a sec­ond-class for­mat. He is also far less rich and fa­mous than his younger brother, Andy.

This week, though, Mur­ray is the only Bri­ton among the 24 in­vi­tees to to­day’s Nitto ATP Fi­nals. Last year he and his part­ner, Bruno Soares, reached the semi-fi­nals at the O2 Arena to seal their po­si­tion as the top dou­bles pair­ing of 2016. Not bad for a man whose ten­nis ca­reer was in dan­ger of fiz­zling out in his early 20s, un­til his mother Judy rec­om­mended giv­ing up sin­gles.

The Mur­ray we see to­day has lit­tle in com­mon with the lost soul Cayer met 11 years ago, af­ter Judy had asked him to take a look at her el­der son’s game. As she writes in her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy: “He came back … with an amaz­ing num­ber of ob­ser­va­tions. He seemed to have no­ticed so many things about Jamie’s game that I hadn’t.” Cayer re­calls his first meet­ing with

Mur­ray, when he asked about his goals. “He said he wanted to play the grand slams and to be in the top 100,” he says. “I said, ‘OK, it is good for me to know that you don’t know much. Top 100 in sin­gles makes slams, in dou­bles you have to be top 70’. I am tough on my play­ers at the be­gin­ning. I want to see if they strive to be the best they can be, if they are keen, if they are coura­geous. I squeeze them to see what juice comes out. “Af­ter a few weeks, I say to my wife, ‘He has a lot to learn, but I think he will learn it fast. He is com­pet­i­tive and he is a win­ner’.”

Their work­ing re­la­tion­ship would fit per­fectly into one of those movie train­ing mon­tages. The ea­ger young cadet and the griz­zled sergeant-ma­jor, who would turn up for prac­tice with a cou­ple of long ropes. “I was just an­other for­eigner com­ing in,” Cayer re­calls, “so I sup­ported ev­ery­thing I did with clips and stats and teach­ing aids. “I worked with both broth­ers and I re­mem­ber Andy say­ing, ‘You must be jok­ing’ when I told him not to cross the mid­dle of the court when poach­ing at the net. That’s when I would get the rope out, to show the path of the ball so he could see it and feel it.” The penny dropped. As it would for a whole gen­er­a­tion of Bri­tish dou­bles spe­cial­ists, once the Lawn Ten­nis As­so­ci­a­tion had asked Cayer to take on a wider brief. “Louis has been huge for me,” says Mur­ray, dur­ing a breather from close-range drills. “I wouldn’t have achieved what I have if I hadn’t met him or worked with him. When I started, we didn’t have any dou­bles play­ers in the top 100. By three or four years ago, we had eight in the top 60.” Com­pare Jamie with his younger brother and they share lit­tle ex­cept height and red-brown hair. Jamie is light-hearted and flip­pant, an an­ti­dote to Andy’s frown­ing in­ten­sity.

He is also skinny and gan­gly, a grey­hound placed along­side a rot­tweiler. It’s a good thing they no longer sim­u­late wrestling bouts, as they used to in their be­d­rooms 20 years ago, be­cause the con­test would be one-sided. The same would be true if they went head-to­head on the sin­gles court. “The lat­eral move­ment of sin­gles is a killer,” says Cayer. “Andy can run side-to-side for five hours, and Jamie is not able to do that.”

But when it comes to deft rack­et­work, the el­der Mur­ray has a rare gift. Dur­ing Great Bri­tain’s tri­umphant Davis Cup run in 2015, it was of­ten Jamie who car­ried his brother through epic dou­bles rub­bers against France, Aus­tralia and Bel­gium.

“You watch Bruno and Jamie play and maybe Bruno looks more spec­tac­u­lar be­cause he can hit hard,” says Cayer. “Jamie doesn’t hit hard, but he has his chip, his an­gle, his lob.

“Peo­ple say, ‘Oh, I al­ways play bad when I play Jamie’. Why do you play bad? Be­cause he moves a lot, he mixes his shots, so you are in a state of un­cer­tainty.”

Mur­ray is open-minded when it comes to re­fin­ing his game, and has made re­cent tech­ni­cal ad­just­ments to sev­eral key strokes. Yet one pe­cu­liar­ity re­mains: his re­luc­tance to hit a clas­sic

top-spin fore­hand. This dates back to child­hood, when he left home at 13 for an un­happy spell at an LTA-run ten­nis school in Cam­bridge. Judy wrote: “The coach… made some changes to Jamie’s fore­hand in the first cou­ple of weeks which were com­pletely desta­bil­is­ing.”

Now Cayer says: “There is too much emo­tional bag­gage, a men­tal block. I can teach him a very good loose fore­hand, he will have 19 in a row, but if he misses the 20th the racket goes into the fence.

“I un­der­stand be­cause when I was 13 I went through the same thing

– even if I was not world No1 in my age group like him. They changed my grip and 50 years later I have never got my fore­hand back. But why worry? As a dou­bles player, Jamie doesn’t need to rally with fore­hands. Watch him vol­ley, watch him poach, and for me he is still the No1.”

Help­ing hand: Jamie Mur­ray (right) gives Si­mon Briggs some friendly ad­vice at the Na­tional Ten­nis Cen­tre and (left) Louis Cayer

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