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Murray Slog is paying off


WHEN Andy Murray walks out on to Centre Court today against Xavier Malisse he will do so safe in the knowledge he is in arguably the best shape of his life.

Injuries and growing pains have at times hindered his development and progress, but hopefully no more.

The 21-year-old, an injury absentee here last year, has actively embraced the fitness and work ethic suggested by legend John McEnroe in order to compete with fellow young guns like Rafael Nadal.

The powerful early signs from Tuesday's first-round win over Fabrice Santoro looked encouraging.

And Team Murray member Jez Green, delegated with whipping the Scot into the best possible shape, believes the best is yet to come.

The fitness guru said: "We've been working together since November but I've known Andy for a few years. He's naturally very quick and sees the ball early.

"He has very quick reflexes, good height and power potential.

"You don't want to be too bulky as a tennis player because you have to move around court pretty quickly.

"But he needed five or six more kilos on him, just to hit the ball continuously over five sets as hard as these top boys do, and he's halfway there.

"He can put on a couple of more kilos and hit the ball 5-10mph faster.

He has worked on his core strength over the past couple of years really well, so he's resisting injuries.

"But the actual physical strength and power from the gym is something he brought to the table and is getting the benefits from." Murray has also worked on improving his first and second serves, crucial weapons, he admits, if he is to progress in this tournament.

The Dunblane man said: "It's so important on grass now.

"The courts are slower but if you put a high percentage in, and you're serving above 130mph, it makes a difference.

It's something I've worked hard on. I've always had a big first serve but I've been working on the consistency.

"The further you go in the tournament the more you're going to focus on putting a high percentage of first serves in.

"You need to keep the second serve away from your opponent's strengths, so it's more about getting the placement right rather than the pace you're hitting it at." Murray has never met Malisse at this level and the Scot won't underestimate Wimbledon's 2002 semi-finalist.

The British No 1, who has practiced with Malisse at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida, said: "Xavier is really talented. He has had quite a lot of problems with injuries over the past couple of years.

"He probably isn't playing as well as he was when he made the semis here but he is a dangerous opponent and can play very well on grass." Malisse hopes his opponent might not handle the pressure of expectation.

"I mean, it's got to be huge, " said the 27-year-old Belgian of the home nation's demand for success on Murray.

"Every year Tim Henman had tocope with it and he played unbelievably well under the pressure.

"Murray is still so young, so I thinkhehastolearn.

"He has played a couple of Wimbledons and knows how it is. But I've been in similar situations here.

"Of course it will be tough and he'll be the favourite but I feel like I'm playing well.

"I think once you're busy with the match, he just focuses on his game – it's just a big bonus that everybody's cheering for Murray.

"Hopefully I can give him a tough match and come out on top."   

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