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Murray on familiar ground

MAKING the second week of Wimbledon has become second nature to Andy Murray.

Murray's serve looked in good shape in his win over Roberto Bautista Agut Photograph: Getty
Murray's serve looked in good shape in his win over Roberto Bautista Agut Photograph: Getty

Eight times in his nine visits here he has reached the fourth round, only missing out on his maiden appearance in 2005 when he lost to David Nalbandian in the third round.

Quite simply, there are no surprises left for the Scot at SW19. Everything this tournament can throw at him, on and off the court, he has fended off before. The 27-year-old appears to know the games of first-time opponents such as David Goffin, Blaz Rola and Roberto Bautista Agut better than they do themselves, and in interview rooms and players' lounges he sidesteps nimbly away from the mischievous games played by certain sections of the media.

Such calm and self-control has Murray exhibited at this tournament that you almost have to remind yourself that he should be coming into it racked with uncertainty and doubt. In the last 12 months he has undergone back surgery, been through a traumatic change of coach and gone a full year without either winning a tournament or beating a top-10 player.

Murray - and his mother Judy - have become celebrities in their own right, but he said last night that he still attempts to avoid eye contact with the star-studded crowd on Centre Court. So far this tournament, that roll call includes comedian Ricky Gervais, retired basketball star Shaquille O'Neal and a who's who of British sport.

"I obviously try not to look up, but it is tough when they are sitting right behind the court," Murray said. "I mean Shaquille O'Neal is pretty hard to miss. But it shows tennis is in a good place; that people want to come out and watch. It is always packed here compared to the other slams."

Another visitor to this patch of south west London yesterday was David Beckham, a stablemate of Murray's from management company XIX Entertainment, of which Murray's own 77 brand is a subsidiary.

The Scot, who spends much of the year in Florida, has a season ticket for the Miami Heat basketball team, but hinted he could be persuaded to take an interest in the MLS franchise being set up in the city by Beckham and his business partner, XIX's Simon Fuller.

"I have met [Beckham] a few times and I obviously watch a lot of football," Murray said. "They don't really have anything in Florida just now so I am sure they will get good crowds. There are a lot of South Americans in Miami too and they like their football."

While most people vacation abroad, Murray does things the other way around: he spends his holidays at home.

Nonetheless, the Scot regards one the greatest benefits of the life of a tennis player is a chance to indulge his love of seeing different parts of the world.

"I don't like the flying and the airports and stuff," he said. "But I love it when you get to different places. This year I went to Acapulco. It was the first time I'd been there and I didn't know what to expect but it was a great, great place to go to.

"I think for a lot of tennis players, that's the nicest thing we get to do, travel the world from a young age. I wouldn't have got to do that in many other jobs.

"I don't go on many holidays now. When I'm not playing, I like to be at home. But I'd like to go to the Maldives and to Hawaii." At some point in the last two years or so, Murray says he has finally started to feel grown up. "When I first came on the tour, I absolutely loved it," he said. "I enjoyed everything that went with it. I felt pretty free. But then obviously I had a few problems with the media. I didn't feel like I was represented fairly.

"I went into my shell and didn't feel like I could express myself at all. I became very defensive because I felt like I was getting criticised about not just my tennis but my hair, the way I looked, what I was saying. Now I feel like I'm a grown-up so I can handle myself fine now."

Although rain caused chaos for the schedulers yesterday, Murray will go into tomorrow's meeting with the giant South African Kevin Anderson well rested and still waiting for his first test of the tournament.

"You can lose a slam in the first week by playing two or three five-set matches," he said. "They do take their toll a little bit. I obviously have a couple days off, so I'll be able to work on a couple things on the practice court."

One of those will involve his hitting partner Dani Vallverdu serving at him from just behind the service line in an attempt to mimic the 6ft 8in Anderson's deliveries.

It is worth pointing out, however, that Anderson, enjoying his best year on the tour, has a better return game than other physical giants of the men's game such as John Isner and Ivo Karlovic.

"There might be more chances to break, but equally he will return better and make more balls when I am serving," Murray said,

Anderson, who resides in Florida these days and occasionally hits a ball or two with Murray, also had a rare chance to practise with a certain Ivan Lendl recently.

"Ivan still loves to play," Murray said. "He hits balls all the time when he is over in Miami, so that doesn't surprise me in the slightest."

But then, not much does. Don't be surprised if Murray goes all the way again.

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