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All change for Murray's glorious return to Wimbledon

Mark Hodgkinson
June 20, 2014
Andy Murray will experience a new sensation at Wimbledon this year: no weight of expectation © Getty Images
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This is the time of the year when ulcers start appearing in Andy Murray's mouth. No other tennis tournament has that physical effect on him. But this summer, you wonder whether Murray is going to do something extraordinary at the All England Club: become the first British man for more than 70 years to enjoy playing at Wimbledon.

The same applies for Britain's sofa-surfing tennis public; are they going to take pleasure from the entire fortnight for the first time since the 1930s? No more agonising over whether we will ever again see a British man win the title.

Of course, it would be going too far to imagine that these Championships are going to pass off without at least some drama and anxiety, and that the All England Club is ever going to feel, as advertised, like a summer garden party. A player of Murray's ambition and talents will want more from this tournament than just performing the defending champion's role of opening Centre Court on the first Monday.

Amelie Mauresmo has replaced Ivan Lendl in Andy Murray's coaching team © Getty Images
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But nothing that happens this summer can ever be as excruciating, as bad for the nerves, as the experience of serving out his straight-sets victory over Novak Djokovic last year. As someone once observed, Centre Court is a lovely place where horrible things happen. Even worse than that, it's a place where horrible things threaten to happen.

For Murray, and for a generation of British tennis fans, last year was The End of Agony. We're all living in a post-2013 grass-court world. Murray will be doing everything in his powers to retain his trophy - doubtless some won't let him forget that Fred Perry scored three titles in a row - but if he can't win Wimbledon this year, there will be less of the usual sorrow and bitching that follows a defeat.

Here's a pre-Wimbledon prediction you couldn't have made at any previous point in modern tennis history: British tennis won't eat itself this summer. British tennis also shouldn't have a mouth full of ulcers. "There's no reason for Andy to fear this year's Wimbledon," Tim Henman, who is a friend of Murray's, told ESPN.

"Absolutely Andy should enjoy this summer's Wimbledon, much more than he has ever enjoyed it. The hard work is done - he's coming back as Wimbledon champion. Whatever happens this summer, or in the future, no one can ever take Andy's Wimbledon title away from him.

"He can look back at the summer of 2013 for the rest of his life. He's earned the opportunity to go back to Wimbledon on Monday to open Centre Court, and that's just fantastic. What an honour and a privilege. So why would he go out there feeling any fear?"

Andy has earned the opportunity to go back to Wimbledon on Monday to open Centre Court - why would he go out there feeling any fear?
Tim Henman

Goran Ivanisevic believes that Murray will have a different experience at Wimbledon this summer. "My opinion is that you can never truly enjoy Wimbledon if you're British because there's so much pressure," said the 2001 Wimbledon champion. "Still, he's going to enjoy it a lot more now that he's champion as he's no longer going to have people saying to him, 'come on, we've been waiting 70-something years for a British man to win this'.

"Whatever he does, he's always going to have his Wimbledon title, so because of that, it's going to be easier. And his form has been improving recently, and he has the crowd behind him, so he's going to be difficult to beat."

Henman feels some sadness that Ivan Lendl, who coached Murray to last year's title, won't be around this summer. "It's sad that, having achieved so much in their time together, including winning Wimbledon, Lendl's not going to be in Andy's corner on Centre Court this summer," said Henman, who was speaking at the BNP Paribas Tennis Classic at London's Hurlingham Club.

News of Amelie Mauresmo's appointment as Murray's new coach - announced just a fortnight before the start of Wimbledon- took Henman by surprise. "I don't know how well Andy knew Amelie before that. I hope it works, because I think continuity works, and not chopping and changing. And he's had a few coaches already. But Amelie's in position now, and I really hope it works."

Ivanisevic's view was that Mauresmo's gender - Murray is the first leading male player of modern times to work with a female coach - is irrelevant. "I don't think it makes a difference whether Andy chose a female or a male coach. If it doesn't go well, people are going to give him a hard time, whether he's working with a man or a woman.

"Actually, I love Mauresmo - she's a nice person, always polite, and an amazing tennis player. She had an unbelievable one-handed backhand, it was one of the nicest, a beautiful backhand, and she was a great competitor. She won grand slams. Amelie's not someone Andy picked off the streets.

"I think Andy picked a good moment to start with a new coach. His form was getting better and better in Paris, and then he started working together with Amelie before Queen's, so there's time before Wimbledon to practice. He's going to be fine. Technically, she's not going to teach him anything new, but I'm sure they will have good conversations."

A couple of months ago there were concerns about Murray's tennis. Murray's time as Wimbledon champion hasn't exactly been straightforward - he needed an operation to his back last autumn, and there was the break-up with Lendl in a Miami restaurant in March. But now there's an optimism about Murray's chances.

"The way Andy played at the French Open, his game has really come on in the last six weeks," Henman said. "He's got a good chance of winning Wimbledon, though I wouldn't make him the favourite. I would put Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal ahead. Andy should go out on to Centre Court and really go for it, really enjoy himself."

Andy Murray will make his triumphant return to Wimbledon on Monday © PA Photos
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Mark Hodgkinson is the author of Lendl: The Man Who Made Murray. He will be writing daily for ESPN throughout Wimbledon

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