When things get tough, perspective is everything, and lucky for Andy Murray, the former world No.1 has plenty of it as he approaches the 2022 tennis season with purpose, clarity, and a willingness to take new risks this late in his career.
Multiple surgeries and a resurfaced hip have not deterred the 34-year-old from pursuing a competitive comeback. And while results have not consistently swung his way this past year, Murray says he plans on “leaving no stone unturned” when it comes to his off-court preparations, in order to give himself the best shot at success in this upcoming campaign.
The Scot’s mindset entering 2022 requires a tricky balance between treating it as a make-or-break season so he could “do the right things” away from the court, while not piling on the pressure when he’s competing on court.
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“I just want to get the most out of what I can, whilst I'm still able to do it,” Murray told Eurosport in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the ongoing Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi.
“I've spoken to many ex-players that have said, ‘When it's gone, nothing will replace it. So enjoy it whilst you're able to, play as long as you can’. Because I know a lot of players have stopped and kind of regret it when they could have kept going.”

‘Stop mentioning the metal hip’

Many people wonder what could be driving Murray to go to such extreme lengths to keep his tennis career alive. At the core of it, he loves the sport and says he wants to “just see what I'm capable of doing”.
“Lots of people said to me, ‘Stop mentioning it, stop talking about metal hip’. And I'm like, ‘Why? It's relevant’,” he reflects.

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“The fact that I'm able to still do this, and compete with the best players in the world with a metal hip, I'm proud that I'm able to do that and I think there's very few people that would be able to compete (like that).
“I've had lots of people come up to me and say, ‘It's inspirational that you keep trying, you keep fighting and you keep going’, and I guess that's something that I would, probably when I finished playing, be remembered for.”

Fuelled by the sceptics

Murray struggled to post back-to-back wins during various stretches in 2021, but a third-round showing at Wimbledon, a tight five-set defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas at the US Open, and a promising end to the season that included two top-10 victories over Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner, provided ample proof the Brit can still cause damage on a tennis court against the sport’s best.
In the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament this weekend, he knocked out Daniel Evans and Rafael Nadal in straight sets to set up a Saturday final against world No.5 Andrey Rublev.
Murray does not hide that he enjoys proving people wrong and the more scepticism he faces, the stronger his drive it seems.
“I’ve always kind of felt that way. I like it when people say that there's something that I can’t do or something that I shouldn't do. That motivates me a lot,” he acknowledges.

Britain's Andy Murray returns the ball to Britain's Dan Evans during their quarter-final match in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi on December 16, 2021.

Image credit: Getty Images

Growing up, Murray admired Muhammad Ali and the way the boxing legend silenced his naysayers.
“I love boxing and his story I thought was an amazing story,” he says.
“When he beat George Foreman to win the world title, everyone thought he was finished, that he had absolutely no chance, everybody like wrote him off and stuff. That was something that for me at the time was inspirational.
“Right now I don't think about that every single day but it's another situation where people shouldn't be so quick always to write everyone off.
“It happened with – and I'm not saying I'm Roger Federer or Muhammad Ali, I'm certainly not. But I still have the ability to compete with the best players in the world. If my body is able to stay healthy, it's certainly a possibility. And whilst that possibility is still there, I'm going to keep on keep trying to achieve what it is that I want.”

Making changes

Murray is goal-oriented and has specific targets he believes he could achieve in the upcoming season. He wants to hit 700 career match-wins (he is currently at 691) and hopes to make it to 50 career titles (he is currently at 46).
“The biggest goal is to have a deep run in a Grand Slam and be in the quarter-finals, semi-finals of a Slam, have that sort of fairytale scenario where it's like, ‘Could he do it again? Is it possible?’” he adds.
Starting the year ranked 134 in the world, Murray has made two significant changes: He has parted ways with his coach of nearly six years Jamie Delgado and is playing with a new racquet after two decades of competing with the same piece of equipment.

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Murray tested several different racquets in the past, but could never get himself to actually go through making the switch. He says the racquet he used to play with had a particularly small head size “compared to 95 percent of the players on tour”.
“I just felt that I should be trying something that's maybe a little bit easier to play with, a little bit more forgiving,” he explains. “Especially if I’m not moving quite as well as I was in the past and maybe I’m arriving slightly, just a split second later to some balls and I’m missing the centre of the racquet, it still gives me some help. But yes, it's really not an easy thing to do.”

Preserving a friendship

When it comes to his coaching staff, Murray is not making any snap decisions in replacing Delgado. In Abu Dhabi, he is on trial with Jan de Witt, who has worked with Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon and Nikoloz Basilashvili, while Delgado has joined Denis Shapovalov’s camp as head coach.
Murray admits it’s “a little bit weird” seeing Delgado with Shapovalov in the UAE capital this week, but assures there is no awkwardness between them.
“It's not easy working with someone that you're friends with and when it's not going well at the end there's probably frustration on both sides,” Murray says.
“You don't want the professional relationship to damage the personal relationship. When we (Jamie and I) spoke about it, that was something that for me, for both of us, was really important. It was like, ‘Look, let's just get on with this and let's go back to being friends and let's go out for dinner when we're in Abu Dhabi and just move on and go back to what it was before’.”

Navigating the tough times

Throughout his career, Murray has been outspoken about the importance of mental health and has worked with psychologists for many years – albeit conceding he wishes he had utilised them more in the past.
He says the toughest part of this current period, besides not getting the results he was hoping to achieve, is being away from his wife and children.
Murray and his wife Kim always wanted a big family and they now have four kids, three girls and a boy. The three-time major champion says it is getting more and more difficult to travel and leave them behind, especially as they’ve grown more aware of his absences.

Britain's Andy Murray returns the ball to Britain's Dan Evans during their quarter-final match in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi on December 16, 2021.

Image credit: Getty Images

“Now obviously they ask, how many days are you going to be away, how many weeks are you going to be away for?” he says of his older girls.
He added: “Just balancing that work-home life as well; making sure I’m being a good dad but also doing all the training and everything that is required to keep my body in shape, and able to play the highest level of tennis with the issues that I have. My body is not easy.”
That being said, Murray believes his family is one of the main reasons he’s been able to preserve his mental health through his gruelling comeback attempt. His wife and children are more important than winning or losing a tennis match and that reality has helped him keep his professional woes in perspective.
“I feel like I have a responsibility there to try to be a good dad to my kids. I try not to get down about that stuff and maybe four or five years ago I certainly would have done,” he states.
“I wish maybe when I was younger I’d enjoyed the good times and probably dealt with the bad times a little bit better and being a little bit kinder and easier on myself than what I was.”

‘I believe vaccines are safe and effective’

Looking ahead, Murray will fly back to London to spend Christmas with his family before heading to Melbourne, where he hopes to compete in one or two lead-up events and is eyeing a wildcard for the Australian Open. If he doesn’t get an invite into the main draw there – an unlikely scenario considering he reached the final five times at Melbourne Park – Murray says his “ego is fine enough” to play qualifying, if necessary.
Before hopping on a plane to Australia, Murray is looking to get a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot. All players must be fully vaccinated in order to compete in the opening Grand Slam of the season, and the Brit is keen to get his third jab as an extra precaution.
Asked if he would be surprised if Novak Djokovic misses out on a chance to clinch a record-breaking 21st major and 10th Australian Open title because of his stance against vaccines being mandatory, Murray says yes and no.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays against Marin Cilic of Croatia during the Davis Cup Finals 2021 Semi Final match between Croatia and Serbia at Madrid Arena.

Image credit: Getty Images

“Yes I would be surprised by that because I believe the vaccine is to be safe. I know some people are now saying they're not effective because they're now having to get more vaccines to help against the new strains and everything but that's I think with a lot of illnesses and diseases,” replied Murray.
“Like the flu for example, we're offered flu jabs every year, and they’re tweaked slightly, just to try to reduce the risk. I believe them to be safe and effective, so yeah, I'd be surprised if he didn't go for that reason.
“But also, I guess it's getting very close now and we don't really know exactly what's happening, but you'd assume that he’s potentially been reluctant to do it. So I guess if I heard tomorrow he wasn’t going, would I be surprised? No I don’t think so.”
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