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Murray has gone full circle by returning to Wimbledon

ANDY MURRAY has got that tingling sensation again.

Andy Murray is impressed with how quickly Amelie Mauresmo has settled as his coach. Picture: Getty Sport
Andy Murray is impressed with how quickly Amelie Mauresmo has settled as his coach. Picture: Getty Sport

Not only is the Scot's excitement building at the prospect of defending the Wimbledon title which he claimed so thrillingly 12 months ago, but it tends to manifest itself in another, rather unfortunate, manner.

Not for the first time, he has spent the week leading up to the big event afflicted by mouth ulcers. "I had them last week and I have still got one of them," the 27-year-old said. "It might not be anything to do with nerves or stress, I don't know; I just happen to get mouth ulcers at this time of year. But they have calmed down the last few days."

It was widely assumed, on that sun-kissed 7/7 day at SW19 - when a sequence of 77 years without a British winner of the home grand slam tournament was brought to such a startling end - that winning Wimbledon would provide the platform for Murray to conquer the world. Instead, he has spent much of the intervening 12 months requiring to conquer his own demons.

He freely admits to having felt lethargic and lacking in motivation in the wake of his triumph at SW19, while nagging away at him was a back issue which left the Scot wondering if he would ever be in peak physical shape again. Considering Murray's fondness for hard graft in the gym and on court, this is a bit like Mr Motivator neglecting his breakfast TV slot to have a lie-in.

Instead of pushing on from his spot as No.2 in the world, Murray spent a couple of months this spring ranked as low as No.8. Three grand slams events came and went, not least the challenge of defending his US Open crown, which fizzled out against Stanislas Wawrinka at the quarter-final stage.

"For a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, afterwards, it was different," said Murray. "Not having motivation for me was not a nice feeling because I'm used to being extremely motivated, so there are parts [of winning Wimbledon] that made me happy and there were some things like when I was struggling to get up for practices and training. That wasn't that nice but now I feel the same as before.

"It was a combination of things. I got asked about it so much and people were saying to me that whatever happens now does not matter. They said it was normal if I was struggling for motivation and were questioning whether tennis was ever going to be the same for me. So I started thinking that way a bit.

"That was part of it but there was also the physical stuff as well. I was thinking that my back was bad and wondering what I was going to do about it. I didn't know if it was ever going to be perfect again. When I decided to have the surgery, that was it. I kind of moved on. The motivation has been there ever since."

In addition to surgical assistance, Murray's mood has been lifted by a certain Mademoiselle. While the departure in March of Ivan Lendl was a source of further upheaval, and the process of recruiting a replacement dragged on a bit, the early signs are promising when it comes to the Scot's partnership with Amelie Mauresmo.

It is a relationship which has been forged in the full glare of the world's media - at times it seems as if Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie enjoy less paparazzi attention - but, for starters, the pair clearly enjoy each other's company. The Frenchwoman has gradually taken a more hands-on role in the course of their first full week of practice, while the pair went out to dinner during the week. Like Lendl, Mauresmo shares the Scot's understated sense of humour.

"Obviously the first few days, it was not the perfect place to start," said Murray. "Every time we were on the practice court and she stood anywhere near me there were the clicks of a hundred cameras. It is normal to be a bit uptight in those circumstances, especially as we did not know each other that well at that stage.

"Since then we have managed to get away from everything and spend some time together on court and I had dinner with her on Wednesday night. She has fitted into the team very well and very quickly. It is a tough period of the year to start something, so I suppose the thing that has surprised me is that she has fitted in very quickly.

"We've had a good time: good fun on the court and good fun off it as well. It takes a few days before you start cracking jokes or saying anything, but we have had good fun. I don't know if it is the most fun I have had since last summer, but I have definitely enjoyed the last few days."

The arrangement is on probation only for the duration of the grass court season, chemistry or not. A further discussion between the world No.5 and his coach will take place after the tournament and results - like the Scot's surprise defeat by Radek Stepanek at Queen's Club - will not determine the length of their partnership.

"It is not based on results," said Murray. "You cannot, as a coach, change anything in five or six days. It is silly to suggest otherwise. But what I can sense is whether I feel the things we are working on in practice are the right things; whether I feel we are able to communicate well and how I feel about tactics and the way we talk after a match; how she looks into matches and stuff. That is what I will judge. I could lose in the first round at Wimbledon and it certainly wouldn't be her fault."

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