Not too many people associate Miami - the city of long beaches and longer nights - with hard work. Andy Murray might be an exception.
Murray was born in Scotland and has travelled to cities all around the world during his career, but Miami is where most of the magic happened. It’s where he spent his winters for several years, going through gruelling training camps in a bid to be at peak fitness for the new season.
It’s where he bought an apartment, which he sold in 2017, and where, in 2012, he invited reporters to come and experience a few days of his intense conditioning programme, under the eyes of fitness coach Jez Green and coach Ivan Lendl. It’s where he invited several other British players to join him for training blocks and where he was in 2013 and 2016 when he accepted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
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It’s also where he pushed himself so hard in training that one of his former GB team-mates, Jamie Baker, reportedly said he would be “lucky to still be playing at 30”.
Miami has been integral to Murray’s success – but did it also play a part in his downfall over the last few years?
The 33-year-old is heading back to Florida next week after getting a wildcard for the Miami Open, a tournament he won in 2009 and 2013, but last entered in 2016.
It was his former coach Brad Gilbert who first encouraged him to spend his winters in Miami, and his hard work there earned him plenty of plaudits.
Leon Smith, former head of men’s and women’s tennis at the Lawn Tennis Association, said that Murray was helping to “change the culture” of British tennis by inviting players and coaches over with him. Former world No 1 Andy Roddick said he “respected” Murray for the effort he was putting in over the off-season.
"It just seems that over the years he became more and more motivated, perhaps because of the pressures that were put on him," Roddick said. "He almost took it the other way and ratcheted it up and worked harder. That is something you respect."
Murray’s work in Miami was fuelled by a desire to get to the very top of the game.
Andy Murray on the beach in Miami
Image credit: Getty Images
"It's a great place to train and prepare because the conditions are some of the toughest on the Tour as it's extremely hot and humid," he explained in 2013. "So when you go and play in Europe afterwards it doesn't feel as bad."
The invite to journalists a few months earlier was to prove just how hard he was working – how hard he had to work to try and keep pace with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
"The reason for the invitation dates back to some tough questions in press conferences through the years after some difficult losses," he explained at the 2013 Australian Open. "I was always being asked whether I was doing enough to become a Grand Slam winner, when it was going to happen or if I would consider approaching things a different way."
The 12-hour days and runs up and down South Beach paid off for Murray as he won three Grand Slam titles and two Olympic gold medals. But, in the long term, did he put in too much work?
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Looking back on 2016, when he arrived in Rio for the Olympics, Murray said he "couldn't stop" training. "The competitor in me wanted to compete." That same summer, Nadal’s former coach, Toni Nadal, reportedly saw Murray training and asked: “What are you doing there? You're going to kill yourself. You work too hard.”
In 2019, Murray admitted that maybe less might have been more.
“I know that I did give my best to the sport. I tried as hard as I could. I practised hard. I trained hard, probably too hard at certain stages in my career. That was something that I would change and do differently if I could go back.
"It's important to prepare well and train hard. But you don't have to train four to five hours off the field every day or run three to four times on a track as an addition to tennis training."
It’s likely that the pressure on Murray to keep up with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic played a big part in his gruelling off-season work. But after seeing so much success come out of his time in Miami, it was also where he first realised that his career might be coming to an end.
Training with Fernando Verdasco in December 2018, Murray was struggling with pain in his hip and told his team later that day he would “feel a lot better” if he quit.
"We were in pieces, absolute bits," Murray’s strength and conditioning coach Matt Little told The Guardian. "Myself, Jamie [Murray] and Shane [Annun, Murray’s physio], there were a lot of tears in that locker room. We didn’t leave for a while."
Two years later, Murray is still playing, although he is down to No 118 in the world after battling back from hip surgery and only has one ATP Tour win to his name this season.
He said ahead of his return to Miami that he feels “comfortable” in the ‘Magic City’. But how much has the city taken out of him? And how much magic does he have left?
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