Rarely more than the length of a phsyio’s table from angst, Andy Murray has put his fate over the concluding weeks of the season in the intuitive hands of a former ballet dancer who once shared a stage with Michael Crawford. As Judy Murray might say, some mothers do, indeed, have ’em.
The Scot has called on Teresina Goheen before, benefiting from her expertise in gyrotonics – a machine‑based mix of pilates and muscle stretching – and the Californian guru to stressed out business folk and professional athletes answered his most recent emergency call, flying to France at short notice to get him through a painful week at the Paris Masters ahead of his penultimate trial at the ATP World Tour Finals in London over the next seven days.
Goheen moves in circles as diverse as classical ballet and, years ago, in Las Vegas with Crawford in his high‑energy musical EFX. Attentive to the smallest detail, Murray has also been working with his regular physios, Mark Bender and Shane Annun. “I spent a lot of time with them, and also had Terisina come across from American for the gyrotonics I do with her,” he said. “It’s like pilates but has different movements. I did a session every day, which helps with my movement and flexibility. I also did it when she came over to Barcelona.”
It is impossible to understand properly the pressures building on Murray, from the base of his occasionally troublesome spine to the centre of his soul. The prizes are so significant – a first end-of-year ranking at No 2 if he does well in London this week, to be followed quickly by Great Britain’s first Davis Cup triumph in 79 years – it is a wonder he is not wandering the streets of the capital gibbering into his wispy beard.
Murray, for now, is impressively calm, a demeanour often at odds with his on-court persona, and there is every chance over the next week we will see him in full rant. A slip-up against David Ferrer in his opening match on Monday afternoon would probably ignite a few gnashed teeth and grimaces.
He understandably cavils at the suggestion that his eye might not be on the prize here, so momentous is the challenge on the horizon. To gauge the scale of the task, consider this: since Fred Perry and Bunny Austin secured the Davis Cup by beating Australia at Wimbledon in 1936, Australia have won the trophy 22 times. The United States have also won it 22 times, Sweden seven, Spain five, France, Germany (West and united), Czechoslovakia (and the Czech Republic) three, Russian twice, and Italy, Serbia, Switzerland, South Africa and Croatia all once.
Belgium, who Great Britain play over three days from 27 November, have been in one final: the fourth edition of the competition, at the “old Wimbledon”, Worple Road, in 1904, when they took 33 of the 112 contested games in five winless rubbers against the defending champions, a team then known as the British Isles. Losing to Belgium, whose sole star is David Goffin, is unthinkable.
So, with history bearing down from all quarters, Murray can be forgiven for channelling his psychic and physical energy in the direction of the clay of Ghent. Yet such is his competitive spirit, he cannot view the end-of-season ATP banquet, played on a hard court, as an hors d’oeuvre. “My ambition is to win the tournament but I have to be realistic about how well I will start the event ,” he said. “It’s impossible to prepare for both events – or for me anyway. For some guys, they can rock up on a clay court and immediately feel great. I will go out there and give it my best in all of the matches. That’s all anyone can ask for. You can’t always play your best but I will definitely give my best effort in all of the matches.”
Two wins in the round robin stages should ensure he remains at No2 in the world at the end of the ATP season for the first time and that would keep him on the opposite side of the Australian Open draw from Novak Djokovic, who is the odds-on favourite to win in London for the third year in a row.
“I hope it’s not a surprise if I win the tournament,” Murray said, reflecting on the embarrassing lone game he won against Roger Federer last year, “but, yes, that is possible for sure. Last year was a terrible way for me to finish and I don’t want that to be the case again.
“Also, if I was thinking ahead about the Davis Cup, to show up and then get pumped three times while getting ready for Ghent? That is terrible preparation. So I want to perform well and win some big matches against the best players in the world; that will give me confidence for the Davis Cup.”
Indeed, this might just be the ideal preparation for the final, even though the surface means the style and pace of the exchanges will be radically different. “It is in my mind because I am using it as a positive,” he said of the journey to Ghent. “Playing matches against the world’s best players is better than practising against anybody. The Davis Cup is fuelling me for this week and the training week before it gets going.”
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