New Additions to Team Murray Offer Head for Business- The Times, Neil Harman
A match completed at 1.17am, with a few hardy souls in the stands, as he grinds down an opponent while manifestly struggling with his own game is hardly the package any salesman can use to go in and pitch for Andy Murray.
It is the perennial problem that those working behind the scenes have dealt with on behalf of the Olympic and US Open champion. He is not an easy sell.
Murray, who turns 26 on Wednesday, confesses as much, which is why the changes to his management team in the past month have been so illuminating. He has remained loyal to XIX Entertainment, to which he signed five years ago because it painted a compelling image of where it believes it could market him, and he has added those with a greater sense of who he is and what he wishes to be.
Against the multigarlanded Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic — those more easy on the eye and likely to entice more backers in the marketplace — Murray, whose exertions against Gilles Simon caught up with him in a 7-6, 6-4 defeat by Tomas Berdych in the Mutua Madrid Open quarter-finals last night, has run a distant fourth, and he accepts that he has not gone out of his way to court suitors.
“Since I was 14 years old I had a clothes sponsor, a racket sponsor and two [sponsorship] patches, but the last few years I haven’t had all of that, which was fine because I didn’t have to do so many appearances, but I think it’s important for me now,” the world No 2 says.
“I don’t know how long I’m going to be able to play, I work hard and I want to make sure, when I finish, I can have the freedom to decide exactly what I want to do and how I’d like to live the rest of my life. So I need to make sure the business side is handled in the best way, with people that I trust and that’s why there’s been the change.”
Into his group has come Mahesh Bhupathi, the Indian doubles specialist whose company, Globosport, has teamed up with XIX to extract mutual advantage, and Ugo Colombini, an Italian agent whom Murray has known from playing the European junior circuit at 13, and about whom he says: “I have never heard anyone say a bad word.”
Bhupathi and Colombini will work in tandem to enhance Murray’s business and tennis portfolios. “Since I’ve been a top player I’ve played no exhibition matches, none at all, which is fine,” Murray says. “It wasn’t important for me [initially] because I was able to do my tennis and training. Ivan [Lendl, his coach] is not against me doing more exhibition events — he did them when he played — but it has to be the right time and the right place and used in the right way, to get something out of it, not just turn up for the money and have a giggle. Provided you play the matches properly, it can help.”
As someone who has always been a staunch defender of his privacy, the desire to open himself up to greater sponsorship opportunities, has to be handled with delicacy. Murray is not a marketing mannequin and never will be.
“You need to find the right balance and that’s why being with the right company, who know what you stand for and what your values are, is so important,” he says. “I haven’t gone out there and chased money, I like being at home, being around the guys I know and work with, working hard, that’s what I needed to do to stay at the top.
“I want to maintain that. The new people in the team also need to understand that there are certain things I’m comfortable with and certain things I’m not and I know what they are. Whereas, when I was young, I didn’t know exactly what I liked and didn’t like, I do now. I’ve done some TV shows and I’m not against doing them, but it has to be the right thing, where I’m going to enjoy it and get something out of it.
“I want to keep my private life private. I don’t want to be doing photo shoots for Hello! with Kim [Sears, his long-time girlfriend], that’s not me. There have been a lot of offers, but it isn’t something that as a couple we are interested in and that won’t change.”
It is with the aim to make more of himself and yet not to arrest his advance as a player — “since the US Open win I’ve reset my goals and found the things that motivate me to continue to work hard, to play well, and give myself the chance to win more of the big events,” he says — that Murray has made these game-changing appointments. How they affect what is left of his career is almost as fascinating as how many more of the big ones he will win.
• Serena Williams had gone 209 matches since the last time she lost a set 6-0, but before securing her place in the semi-final of the Mutua Madrid Open, the world No 1 had to suffer such ignominy. Williams, who defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues, of Spain, 6-3, 0-6, 7-5, said: “I wasn’t really in it. My feet weren’t moving. To turn it around, I got up earlier on the changeover and started doing high knees and stretching, and doing anything to try to get my intensity back.” Williams must equal or better the performance of Maria Sharapova to retain her world No 1 ranking.