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Scots share a similar approach to success

He had to leave his homeland to thrive on court, but was blessed with parents who encouraged him and drove him to success. At first, life was a struggle, and he became renowned for possessing a stubborn streak, but finally, his promise was translated into global triumph and he was the boss, the king of the world -

It's not Andy Murray we are talking about, though, but his squash-playing counterpart, Peter Nicol, the Inverurie-born luminary who, in 1998, became the first British player to secure the world No.1 ranking, in a pastime which had previously been dominated by generations of Khans.

Ultimately, it was Nicol's can-do attitude which dragged him up the standings, earned him the nickname "The Boss" and allowed him to collect the World Open title in 1999, four Commonwealth Games gold medals, and a period of 60 months at the summit of the rankings, including a continuous two-year stint in 2002 and 2003.

In that light, few Scots are better qualified to comprehend the sacrifices and skill levels which were required by Murray to transcend his opponents en route to US Open glory in New York last week. Nicol, now 39 and involved in organising tournaments, including the Xodus Legends event in Aberdeen next week, was not only blown away by what his compatriot achieved at Flushing Meadows, in the wee sma' hours of Tuesday morning, but believes he has the drive, determination and devotion to achieve further major wins in the years ahead.

"Andy is in a much harder industry than I ever was, but the way he has responded to the challenge and achieved his dream on his own terms is inspirational," said Nicol, who was involved in his own long-term battles with such redoubtable rivals as Canada's Jonathon Power, Australia's David Palmer and Egypt's Ahmed Barada.

"I can't speak highly enough about it because, when you are up against the players he has faced for the last five years – some of the greatest in the sport's history – it would have been easy for him to get down on himself, especially when some people in the media started labelling him as a failure, which was just silly.

"There were two ways to look at it. He could have said: 'this is unfair that I am playing at the same time as [Roger] Federer, [Rafael] Nadal and [Novak] Djokovic', and he could have accepted the situation and settled for a good life on the tour, without winnning a slam.

"Instead, he looked at these guys, worked out how to beat them and gradually narrowed the gap. You can see how it all came together, but nothing happened by accident. Andy is a classic Scot: he is stubborn, he is committed, never gives an inch and is very hard on himself, but you really can't be any other way at that level. When I was playing, I sometimes gained more from defeats than I did from victories and I think he has done the same.

"Sometimes I felt, if I won a few tournaments in a row, that I grew a bit sloppy, and I didn't stay completely focused. Whenever I lost, I would be hard on myself and use the experience as a spur to push me on. Of course, you can't win every single week, but you have to walk on to the court thinking you can, and I absolutely believe Andy is like that these days, and why not?

"That inner drive, that perfectionism, is the reason that he is still improving, and I am confident he will only get better in the years ahead. I was 26 when I reached the top of the world rankings and I won the world title at the same age, so Andy, who is just 25, has plenty of grounds for being confident about his future."

Nicol suffered denunciation, some of it completely over the top, after switching allegiance from Scotland to England. Murray, on the other hand, was pilloried by sections of the English media over a throwaway comment about supporting whoever was playing against England at the 2006 World Cup. Yet, as Nicol observed, these sort of storms never particularly troubled him. If anything, the greater the abuse, the higher he climbed to rise above the flak.

"Sometimes I used the criticism as an incentive, but you can spend too much time worrying about things like that, and it just doesn't help. It's all about concentrating on the factors you can control, working on these 24/7, and pushing yourself every day," he said. "Naturally, it is important to play well, but it is also vital to handle your life off the court, and make sure you do your best to find positives in every experience. Andy Murray has demonstrated he has the inner strength to do that and I have no doubt he will become even more fired up and difficult to beat after what he has achieved this week."

Both these doughty warriors are rugged individualists, fuelled by a combination of ambition and pride, allied to a hatred of complacency and comfort zones. Maybe it was hardly suprising Nicol should talk of his compatriot in such glowing terms.

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