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Meeting with Spaniard is talking Murray's language

THE theft of his phrase books and study materials at Barcelona airport during his teenage years might have restricted his ability to speak it, but Spanish is Andy Murray's second sporting language.

Bautista Agut has had a similar background to Murray
Bautista Agut has had a similar background to Murray

Primarily as a result of his spent time at the Sanchez-Casal academy, the Scot is on speaking terms with the practice drills, repetitions and patterns of play adopted by Spanish players, not to mention many of the players themselves. Indeed, during one tour match against David Ferrer a few years back, he mischievously celebrated taking a set by shouting 'vamos'.

On Centre Court this afternoon, the Scot will encounter a whole new adversary from tennis's Spanish armada in the form of Roberto Bautista Agut. The two men have never met in competitive action on the tour, but that does not mean the sense of mutual recognition will not be total. Not only do the pair practise together - the latest occasion was this year in Valencia- in many ways these natives of Dunblane and Castellon de la Plana have led parallel lives.

Similarly quiet, polite characters away from the court, both men share an obsession with football which has gone unfulfilled and they could quite easily have been meeting on a centre circle as opposed to Centre Court. While Murray had trials at Rangers as a teenager before deciding to concentrate on tennis, Bautista Agut had similar dreams of being a professional footballer while on the books at Villarreal. In Spain this year, the two men mulled over a trip to the Mestella to take in a Valencia match before Bautista Agut's loyalties to their local rivals kicked in.

"We both like football a lot and when Andy was in Valencia this year he had the chance to go to one of the matches," said Bautista Agut, a striker during his days at the Yellow Submarine. "I?¯know he still likes to play football but he never told me he had the chance to play when he was younger. I?¯was a striker at Villareal and while nobody from time at the club really made it I know a lot of the players there just now.

"I?¯think I?¯made the right choice when I?¯opted to become a tennis player although I?¯think I?¯would have more chance of beating Andy at football. I?¯couldn't continue with both sports. I?¯had to take tennis. It was a hard decision to give up."

Yet while Murray started early, the Spaniard has left it late to become a player in world tennis. Unknown to the Scot while he practised in Barcelona, the No.27 seed clinched his maiden grass-court title last week at 's-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands.

The secret has been a healthy body and confidence bolstered by a big win against Juan Martin Del Potro at the Australian Open in January. "I?¯didn't know him at all," said Murray, who at 27 is the older man by 11 months. "He developed much later. I?¯know him fairly well now because I?¯have hit with him a few times and I?¯chat to him a little bit. He is a very nice guy. Very quiet. Very polite. He works hard. He has a very good attitude.

"He didn't have any junior form so I?¯would say someone that has no junior form and comes through in early to mid 20s is late, but I?¯think that is the way the game has been going the last few years. He has never really got stuck at a ranking; he has kept moving up. It will be a tough match."

To say that Murray has an investment in Spanish sport is true, both literally and metaphorically. The Scot is careful when it comes to his business interests but one item in his expanding portfolio is a production credit in Seve the Movie, the film about the life of Spanish golfing great Severiano Ballesteros. It was a purchase born from both the head and the heart.

"I?¯don't invest in loads of stuff so I?¯normally try to invest in something that interests me a little bit," said the Scot. "I?¯watched a lot of golf when I?¯was younger. I?¯know my dad was a massive Ballesteros fan; he loved watching him when we were younger. He used to talk about him a lot when we were growing up. I?¯get asked about a number of investment opportunities and things like that but that was something to me that made sense. I?¯obviously love sport, I?¯used to play a lot of golf and he was a pretty amazing guy.

"I?¯never met him and I?¯can't remember exactly where I?¯watched him but I?¯used to watch a lot of golf when I?¯was younger. We went to watch the tournament in Gleneagles quite a few times which was just down the road from our house."

As for Murray's own prowess on the golf course, his back operation in September has put paid to it, leaving brother Jamie - his handicap in his late teens was as low as 3 - as the family expert. Having said that, the younger Murray brother used to be a bit of a bandit.

"When I?¯used to play for money, I?¯always used to play off 16 or 17 and everyone got pissed off when I?¯was playing against them," said the 27-year-old. "I?¯have never lost a game of golf for money in all the times I?¯have played. I?¯haven't played since I?¯started having problems with my back, though."

Both Murray and Bautista Agut even share a love of animals. If the Scot's idea of down time is going for walks with his dogs Rusty and Maggie, Bautista Agut likes nothing more than to go riding in the mountains with his horses Bahgeera (named after the Jungle Book character) and Janto. "I?¯go into the mountains, spend some time with them and forget about everything," he said. "I need that to relax."

The Scottish thoroughbred will not be able to do likewise until this peculiarly similar Spaniard has been ushered off the premises.

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