From the start Andy was des

The dossiers he com­piled on play­ers when a teenager showed Scot’s sharp tac­ti­cal mind

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport - GREG RUSED­SKI FOR­MER BRI­TISH NO1

To get a sense of what makes Andy Mur­ray so in­cred­i­bly special, we need to go right back to the be­gin­ning. I will never for­get talk­ing to his mother Judy, and her telling me a story about Andy as a young teenager try­ing to make it as a ju­nior player. Andy, she told me, was al­ready such a vo­ra­cious student of the game that he would write de­tailed dossiers on in­di­vid­ual play­ers and out­line what tactics would be needed to beat them. One on for­mer world No1 Marat Safin par­tic­u­larly stood out in her mind.

This metic­u­lous at­ten­tion to de­tail and prob­lem-solv­ing abil­ity turned out to be two of Mur­ray’s great­est as­sets. He has al­ways had that pas­sion and in­ter­est to fol­low the game, from when he was writ­ing those re­ports for his mother to the present day. He still ob­ses­sively fol­lows tennis at all lev­els, even Fu­tures, Chal­lengers and Ju­niors – any­thing he can get his hands on.

Maybe in part be­cause of how much he watches, he has this amaz­ing abil­ity to study play­ers and dis­sect what they do and how to beat them. That is why the part­ner­ship with Ivan Lendl worked so well, be­cause in their first ses­sion he would ask how to beat Rafael Nadal, Roger Fed­erer, No­vak Djokovic, and they would talk about it for hours.

Work­ing out pre­cisely what he needed to do to win and then ex­e­cut­ing it per­fectly be­came Mur­ray’s call­ing card, with oth­ers, be­sides Judy, re­veal­ing to me that this is a long-stand­ing qual­ity. The for­mer Bri­tish dou­bles player Colin Flem­ing re­mem­bers Andy at un­der-12 level loop­ing balls high into the air – “moon-balling” his op­po­nents to death – be­cause he knew he could beat ev­ery­one by do­ing that and he would find any so­lu­tion re­quired to win a match.

Once he turned pro­fes­sional, it be­came ap­par­ent that Andy could do ev­ery­thing on a tennis court and tac­ti­cally would do ev­ery­thing in his power to win. If he needed to set up an im­pen­e­tra­ble wall at the back of the court then that is what he had do. If he needed to bring his op­po­nent in by us­ing drop shots and short balls then that is what he would do. If he needed to get for­ward and be at­tack­ing he would. He knows what an op­po­nent’s strengths and weak­nesses are and how to use those to his ad­van­tage at the most high-pres­sure mo­ments.

Even­tu­ally he be­came, for my money, the most as­tute player tac­ti­cally of his gen­er­a­tion. One match that stands out is the Wim­ble­don quar­ter-fi­nal against Fer­nando Ver­dasco in 2013, the year he won his first Wim­ble­don. Andy was two sets to love down but with Mur­ray it is never over un­til the last point is done, and he came back to win in five, which was the cat­a­lyst for that break­through Wim­ble­don ti­tle.

Hav­ing been bat­tered by Ver­dasco for the first two sets, Andy started to mix it up, read the serve bet­ter, take away his op­po­nent’s rhythm. He got the slice into play, got the crowd into it. Know­ing whether to make it a phys­i­cal match, men­tal match, ag­gres­sive match is Andy’s great skill, and in five sets you have that lux­ury – and that is where you are de­fined as a player.

The only slight er­ror Andy made with his strat­egy was not play­ing a bit more ag­gres­sively more of­ten early in his ca­reer. We saw when he brought Lendl on board that he needed to do that to beat the best guys.

Away from his crafti­ness as a player, Andy also al­ways had this re­mark­able drive and de­ter­mi­na­tion. When­ever there was an area he had to im­prove, he would find the right per­son and work with his team to get there. Look at how he trans­formed him­self phys­i­cally after those painful de­feats early in his ca­reer by Ar­naud Cle­ment and David Nal­ban­dian. Or how he turned to Lendl when he needed to make that fi­nal step men­tally.

But un­der­pin­ning ev­ery­thing was that some­thing you can­not quite de­fine: that X-fac­tor. I re­alised Andy had this in spades when he was 17 and we played a set at the old Queen’s Club.

He just had this pres­ence that I had only found with a cou­ple of oth­ers that I had hit with at a young age. The oth­ers were Fed­erer at 16 and Djokovic at 18. Andy had this tenac­ity on the court that was just that lit­tle bit more special. That is what’s got him where he is – that tenac­ity, that be­lief. He kept on breaking my serve, and I kept breaking back but I just kept think­ing he was mak­ing me work so much, and his weight of shot was unbelievable, what he could do with the ball at such a young age. I thought he would go on and win ma­jors.

In the end he has done that and more. When­ever he de­cides to re­tire he can look back and say: “Wow, this is what dreams are made of.” If you’d told him after he won the US Open ju­niors in 2004 that he would be a three-time ma­jor cham­pion with two Olympic golds, world No1, Davis Cup win­ner etc, he would def­i­nitely have taken it – and he should be very proud.

Andy’s next chal­lenge will come in man­ag­ing the tran­si­tion to re­tire­ment, but I am sure he will be fine. He has his man­age­ment group with some of Bri­tain’s best ju­niors, he can do me­dia or coach­ing, the world is his oys­ter. But it is ob­vi­ously heart­break­ing when you have done this your whole life since four or five and sud­denly you are in your 30s and the only thing you have known is gone. It will be a tough tran­si­tion but he will man­age it. For me, I threw my­self into TV and did some coach­ing, but ev­ery player is dif­fer­ent.

I hope that Mur­ray can re­tire on his own terms and make it to Wim­ble­don. It would be won­der­ful if he can get that send-off.

Ei­ther way, when re­tire­ment comes, Andy will be remembered not just as our finestever tennis player but as one of the best sports­men in Bri­tish history. His achieve­ments are ab­so­lutely ex­cep­tional, and if you want a role model for max­imis­ing, he max­imised and then some.

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