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Murray mulls over secrets of McIlroy's major run

HOW Andy Murray will be hoping the time spent with Rory McIlroy over the past week will signal the kind of change in fortunes which have led the Northern Irishman to leave the golfing world in his wake.

Andy Murray practises at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Andy Murray practises at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Murray watched McIlroy - the world No.1 after winning two majors in succession - compete in The Barclays tournament in New Jersey before the pair returned to Manhattan to enjoy a basketball match later that evening.

Along with a dinner date, the pair have also been discussing the pressures which come from being at the top of their sports, while touching on what McIlroy had done to take his game to another level.

Bidding to repeat his victory of 2012 at the US Open, Murray would love to emulate McIlroy's major form, but has not won a tournament since being crowned Wimbledon champion last summer.

Yet when the current world No.9 walks out today at Flushing Meadows to face Dutchman Robin Haase, the world No.70, the possibility of going on a run à la McIlroy will not be discounted.

"We are both in individual sports and there has been a lot of expectation on both of us over the last few years," said Murray. "It is nice and can be helpful to talk to other athletes in different sports. I find it interesting and it can give you a different way of looking at things. I enjoyed spending time with him.

"We spoke about the last couple of months for him, but didn't talk about how long it took to break through. You watch him live but then you speak to him and can see he is a totally normal guy, he's not different to anyone else, just incredibly gifted at golf.

"He obviously works extremely hard at it as well. You see him playing with Bubba Watson and Jimmy Walker. He is hitting the ball 30 or 40 yards further than Jimmy Walker, who is a fantastic golfer, and that's special because you can't teach that.

"He's a small guy and not incredibly strong but he has incredible technique and timing. It was great to watch."

The last time Haase met Murray in New York the Dutchman put on a display of carefree hitting to go into a two-set lead before the Scot finally awoke to win the match in five sets.

Haase, who has struggled with injury to the point where his right knee resembles that of a "60 or 70-year-old" believes he will walk out tonight at around 6pm UK time with a chance of causing an upset.

"That was a very strange US Open for me because I didn't want to play at all because I was injured," Haase said. "I had a very good draw in the first round. I was warming up and then I went to go to the office to pull out. My back … there was a nerve that was blocked. I couldn't move.

"I won my first round just by serving and hitting a few winners. Against Andy I knew that's not possible to do the same. But somehow he let me actually because in the first two sets he didn't make me run as much.

"Once he did, it was very quickly over. It's a long time ago. Last time we played at the Australian Open, where I knew I had no chance to win. I had made some changes, I didn't feel good at that time. Now it's a different time for me. I feel much better on the court. I give myself a much better chance than a year ago."

Seeded eight after the withdrawal of defending champion Rafael Nadal, Murray believes Roger Federer, at the age of 33, is the favourite to win in New York, despite the presence of world No.1 and top seed Novak Djokovic.

While players in their thirties are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to grand slam tournament victories, Murray feels Federer could, over the next fortnight, add to his tally of 17 major titles.

"It doesn't surprise me because it has happened in the past with great players, Agassi was one of them, or Connors making a great run here when he was 39," Murray said. "Everybody's body works differently. Some guys by the time they get to 30 their bodies are burnt out and some of them, like Roger, with the way that he moves and the way that he plays, he doesn't put as much stress and strain through his body.

"A lot of people were writing him off and saying he wouldn't win another major but he proved at Wimbledon that he can still do it."

Federer at least came close to victory at Wimbledon in July, losing 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 5-7, 6-4 to Djokovic, the No.1 seed in New York, who could meet Murray in the quarter-finals and today begins his tournament against Argentine Diego Schwartzman.

In the women's draw, fifth seed Maria Sharapova today takes on fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko.

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