Andy Murray is through to the third round of Wimbledon
Just how does Andy Murray do it? It is only a couple of weeks since he confessed that “I’m always telling myself that each match might be my last.”
And yet the man with the metal hip has just put away two big-hitting opponents – first Nikoloz Basilashvili and then Oscar Otte – in exhausting slugfests that lasted 3hr 32min and 3hr 51min respectively.
So, what are the secrets behind his remarkable staying power?
Weights and power
The first clue is visible to the naked eye. When Murray played Oscar Otte last night, they could have been members of two different species. Otte is a 6ft 3in beanpole with gangling limbs. Murray resembles the actor Henry Cavill after he bulked up to play Superman.
The logic is clear enough. When your joints are ageing or breaking down, extra muscle offers support and protection. Hence the additional gym work that Murray has overtaken in the last couple of years. One player who crossed paths with him in the gym recently said that they had never seen him so ripped.
When Murray made his Wimbledon debut in 2005, he was himself a coltish teenager who collapsed with cramp against David Nalbandian. Ever since then, his approach has been “Work harder, lift more.” Today, he can deadlift 270kg, which is about the weight of a middling-sized motorbike.
And yet, even though strong musculature is increasingly vital as he enters sporting middle-age, Murray now regrets overdoing the intensity of his training programmes – and especially the 400m dashes he used to perform along Miami Beach. They increased his stamina, but at the expense of too much wear and tear. Now, he has eliminated running from his training regime, and cycles instead.
Gyrotonics and flexibility
Which leads us to our second point. How Murray must envy Novak Djokovic, the most durable player of his generation. Crucially, Djokovic was told by his childhood mentor Jelena Gencic to avoid weights completely and simply hang from door frames instead. As a result, the bewilderingly flexible Djokovic soaks up the impact of day-to-day training like a giant shock absorber.
Murray has a more traditional male body: powerful but tight. He has always struggled with flexibility. To go back to the off-season Miami training camps from his heyday, he used to attend bikram yoga classes to open up his ligaments and tendons in a 40-degree heated studio, which enables even the stiffest of bodies to stretch out.
Bikram did not last long, though. As Murray once confessed, the room “stinks” with all those sweaty bodies. So after his back operation in 2013 – when he had a small piece of bone shaved off one of his vertebrae – he switched to an upgraded form of pilates named “gyrotonic”.
This discipline is mainly performed on a frightening-looking contraption, equipped with multiple levers and pulleys, that instructors refer to as ‘The Cobra’. This piece of kit, more formally known as the Pulley Tower Combination Unit, is too complicated to be used unsupervised, so Murray hired an American expert named Teresina Goheen to take him through the movements.
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According to Juliu Horvath – the Hungarian former dancer who invented gyrotonic – “the octopus, the monkey and the cat are my basic models because they can move in any direction with strength and control.”
Diet and supplements
Murray used to chew his way through vast stacks of sushi as he refuelled after his witheringly intense training sessions. We would even see him chugging it in the press conferences after matches.
He still likes the stuff, but as he struggles to regain his old ease of movement, he is increasingly turning to vegan meals, which are believed to lower inflammation in the body.
He is also taking a closer interest in dietary supplements: not only as an athlete but a businessman too. Two years ago, he formed an alliance with the former Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro – who left the club after a notorious spat with manager Jose Mourinho in 2015 – to create a supplement containing collagen (a protein which supports connective tissue) and the traditional Indian remedy turmeric, among various other ingredients.
Turmeric – a plant better known as a curry spice – is increasingly popular with athletes. The former West Bromwich Albion winger Hal Robson-Kanu is another devotee, insisting that it helped him recover from an appalling broken leg at the age of 15 to become a Wales international.
If all else fails, Murray falls back on his ferocious will to win, which recalls football manager Jurgen Klopp’s description of his Liverpool players as “mentality monsters”.
On Wednesday night, Murray picked on a few individuals in the crowd who were enthusiastically supporting him and began to interact with them.
“I hope the fans like it and don’t think that it’s a bit weird that I’m sort of staring at them and screaming at them for like an hour,” he said. “But they seem to enjoy it, as well.”
That certainly seemed to be the case for Justin Rodrigues – a South African accountant with a Scottish mother who was standing in the front row during Murray’s five-set battle with Otte.
“I was just shouting at him ‘Come on, Andy’, ‘Come on, Andy’, and we just connected,” Rodrigues told Telegraph Sport after the match, as he clutched the shirt that Murray had given him as a thank you.
“I had a Scottish rugby jersey on and he saw that. After the game, he came and said ‘thanks’. It’s the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”