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All change and yet no change for defending champion

THE more Wimbledon changes, the more Andy Murray stays the same.

Andy Murray practises ahead of his opener against David Goffin this morning. Picture: Getty Sport
Andy Murray practises ahead of his opener against David Goffin this morning. Picture: Getty Sport

While the Centre Court scoreboard remains frozen in time - it proclaims the stat line of the Scot's 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Novak Djokovic in last year's final - in every other way the casual visitor to the All England Club could hardly fail to see the differences in this old place since the Scot ended 77 years without a male British winner of the home grand slam tournament.

His name is embossed upon the roll of honour, his smiling picture with the trophy adorns the entrance to Aorangi practice courts, even his kit from that sunny day in July, complete with shoes, has pride of place in the Wimbledon museum.

It says it all about the Scot that, while he is in the museum, he has never actually gone in there to see it. Wimbledon and the wider world has merely changed around him. He wouldn't have it any other way.

"Nothing has changed, to be honest," said Murray. "Maybe abroad I get recognised more than I used to but, in terms of what I do on a day-to-day basis, nothing has changed. For me, that has probably been the nicest part about it because it was something I was worried about. I had spoken to psychologists before and told them that.

"I spoke to Ivan [Lendl] about it. I gave the museum my kit after the match but I have never been in there. And you'll have to ask Wimbledon when my statue goes up!

"I don't even know if there will ever be one. Fred Perry won Wimbledon three times, so I think I've still got a long way to go."

Having said that, Murray's last 12 months are worth recounting in detail. They have seen the 27-year-old undergo surgery to correct a long-standing back problem, part company with one coach, Ivan Lendl, and replace him with another, Amelie Mauresmo.

He has seen one friend recover from cancer in the form of Ross Hutchins and watched as another, Elena Baltacha, lost her battle against it. Three grand slam events have come and gone, with him only once making the semi-finals. In the calendar year of 2014, he has yet to defeat a single top 10 player.

As for his business affairs, he has started up his own management company, 77, but typically not all of the commercial opportunities which have presented themselves - the ones which do not fit in with his gruelling practice regime - have been acted upon.

Likewise Murray has been scrupulous about declining to treat himself with gifts and fripperies but there was one comic moment at the exclusive Hurlingham Club this week when his business advisor Matt Gentry had to gently remind the Scot that he had at least made one indulgent purchase this year: the luxurious Cromlix House Hotel.

"There have been quite a few offers but it is about doing the right stuff and working with people who understand what my goals are and what I am trying to do," he said.

"It is very easy to sign five or six deals but I want to play tennis and concentrate on trying to win more. It is not only the people in my team, the companies I work with have to understand that as well.

"Last week for example is incredibly important for me to prepare properly and train properly and practise and stuff and I don't want to give up loads of my time," he added. "For a lot of those companies, that is a bit off-putting because this is exactly the time of the year they want to be doing loads of things. Some players are fine doing a lot of things the week before a slam, but that's not for me." Murray's attitude towards Wimbledon is changing, however. A full member of the All England Club these days, he has the run of this place regularly when not in Miami, with Tim Henman his inside man on the committee.

Gradually its exclusive confines have been modified to Murray's benefit. "When Tim started working with the club I communicated to him a lot of the things that I liked and the things that I didn't like; things that could be changed or done better," said Murray. "Having somebody to talk to about those things helped.

"And this is where I have played the most important tennis matches of my life," he added. "Out on that court. Obviously, it is going to mean more to me as my career has gone on. Nowadays it is a place I like going to because it is quiet. I like to go to Wimbledon to practise sometimes, but sometimes I just go there for lunch or just to be there. It is a place where I can go and I don't get bothered. I can think there. I like it."

It is not just the All England Club which is altered in the last 12 months. A replica of the trophy he won last July has pride of place in his Surrey home. "I have a trophy room at home," he said. "I don't go in there specifically just to look at that, but I do see it there from time to time."

Posterity has a mixed story to tell when it comes to the challenge of defending a Wimbledon men's singles title. On the face of it Murray has located a favourable route through the draw at a venue where he has reached the semi-final or better on his last five visits.

Yet, while only two Wimbledon champions, Manuel Santana in 1967 and Lleyton Hewitt in 2003, have followed it up with a first round loss, it is equally true that only four of the 20 first-time winners in the Open era have gone on to retain it: Bjorn Borg in 1977, Boris Becker in 1986, Pete Sampras in 1994 and Roger Federer 10 years later.

Murray has long since learned that every opponent in turn must be treated on his merits and that will not change now he is defending champion. The Scot has never faced David Goffin, the 23-year-old world No.105 from Liege, but he is wary of an ability to produce on the grand arenas of the world game, most notably against Federer at Roland Garros in 2012. "He has played some very good tennis on the big stages before," said Murray. "And he's a solid player in all parts of the court. It will be a tricky match."

But, also unchanged with last year, Murray feels good, with only a few areas to quibble with in his game. "There are a few things I could do a little bit better but that was the same thing last year," he said. "I am moving well and my body feels good. No player knows how they are going to perform until they get out there but  I have prepared pretty much the best I could. I feel ready, and that's it."

Follow @Wimbledon and @andy_murray on Twitter for news from The Championships 2014. For all the latest live scores and results visit Wimbledon.com and download the official iPhone, Android and iPad apps.

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