Conversations With Andy Murray: Dreaming Up Tennis Venues
By BEN ROTHENBERGhttp://straightsets.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/31/conversations-with-andy-murray-dreaming-up-tennis-venues/?smid=tw-share&_r=0
Andy Murray recently toured Madison Square Garden, the site of his coming exhibition match in March against Novak Djokovic, an opponent whom he has faced in three of the last four Grand Slam finals. Although the arena is being renovated, Murray, a boxing fan, said he was excited to see how the court would be laid out, and to visit an arena that had hosted many famous boxing matches.
In his most recent conversation with Straight Sets, Murray discussed what other venues he might like to compete in some day, and how the build-up to tennis matches varies from boxing.
Q. Are there any other arenas or stadiums in the world you’d like to play in some day, even ones that may have never hosted tennis before?
A. I mean, there’s football stadiums I’ve been to where I’ve thought it’s a great atmosphere. But there’s no chance of playing a tennis match there. I went to watch Newcastle play at St James’ Park when I was pretty young, that was a great atmosphere. Hmm, where else have I been that was cool? I’ve been to the Bernabéu; I’ve been to the Camp Nou. I mean I’ve watched loads of big football matches where there’s been great atmospheres, but probably not going to get to play tennis there, unfortunately.
Q. There has been a ton of boxing at Madison Square Garden. And this match you’ll have there against Djokovic is a little bit like boxing, because you’ll have this long advance notice that you two are playing each other, and both your faces are on the posters. Do you wish tennis had more boxing-type hype and build-up for the matches?
A. Yeah, I think that’s one of the things with tennis that’s difficult, because you can play a left-hander in the first round, and then a right-hander in the second round. One of them plays serve-and-volley, the other one doesn’t. You have one practice session of like an hour, maximum, to get ready for each opponent. So it would be interesting to see if, say for example, Roger and Rafa, they weren’t doing anything for four months, but they knew at the end of that four months they were going to play against each other. What sort of adjustments would they make? What things would they work on for those four months? For sure they would play a different match, because they’re going to be playing the same way in practice over and over again, just working on the patterns of play that work specifically against each other.
Q. What about in terms of the other stuff that goes on in boxing, like pre-fight trash talk and bluster? Because tennis doesn’t really have that at all.
A. No, but the thing is as well, a lot of it in boxing is purely that they need to sell the fight. And I know a lot of boxers, and I know a lot of it is just nonsense just to get people talking about it, and to make it like they hate each other. Sometimes they do, but most of the time it’s just to sell the fight, and that’s what they need to do. But yeah, I don’t miss that, I don’t miss it.
Q. Do you think tennis could benefit from any of that? It’s maybe not all the theatre you want, but I remember when you were watching Djokovic-Nadal playing in Montreal and Nadal hit Djokovic with the ball, you tweeted, “This could get tasty now!” Do you feel like tennis could use more edge like that sometimes?
A. No, that’s the sort of things that come out on the court. Like with boxing, once you get on the court it’s the nature of the match, and the person that you’re playing against, that bring out your competitive streak. And whether or not Rafa and Novak trash-talked each other before the match or not, one of them gets hit in the face with a ball, yeah, that’s annoying, and it’s embarrassing a little bit as well, and that’s what gets you fired up. If they talked about it before the match, I don’t think it would make a huge difference. Because after the first 5 or 10 minutes or so you start to calm down. Yeah, trash talking I don’t think makes much difference.
Q. Is there more intensity than we realize? Obviously there’s a lot at stake in these matches, but the general air of friendship seems to obscure that sometimes. Your coach, Ivan Lendl, is a guy who had a lot less friendly rivalries than the ones that are at the top of the game now. Has he spoken to you about how that’s changed, how he sees it now?
A. Yeah, I mean it’s changed a lot, but that’s because the rules are very different now. I mean, McEnroe and Connors got away with murder when they were on the court. They could say whatever they wanted to the umpires and the lines judges, and it was fine. You do that now and you would get kicked off the court and you would be banned from the tour. There’s rules in place now: you can’t do that. You have the challenge system, so you know pretty much about the line calling.
It’s just different, it’s more civil now. Rafa, Novak and Roger — I mean they’re not best friends. Everyone gets on with everyone. But look, I’m sure when everyone finishes playing, they’ll talk and they’ll get on fine. But right now it’s not easy to be best mates.