Andy Murray on the defense: His natural state at Wimbledon

Andy Murray on the defense: His natural state at Wimbledon
Andy Murray is expected to face plenty of pressure from the home crowd over the next two weeks as he looks to successfully defend his 2013 Wimbledon title. (Al Bello / Getty Images)
By the time most people wake up Monday, Andy Murray will have likely made a successful beginning defense of his Wimbledon tennis title.

He's scheduled to play a decent player, No. 105-ranked Belgian David Goffin, in the first match on Center Court here Monday.


That's traditional, as is most everything at Wimbledon. The previous year's men's winner is first on on Monday, the women's champion first on on Tuesday.

Of course, Marion Bartoli of France won't be out there Tuesday. After running through last year's draw without the loss of a set and without being able to raise her right (serving) shoulder over her head each morning of the tournament before getting treatment, she served an ace on championship point and retired shortly thereafter.

At age 28, she walked away from the pain and the game and now designs shoes.

So the bulk of this year's Wimbledon tradition falls to Murray, who continues to handle this silly provincial British pressure cooker as well as anyone can imagine.

When he won last year, the first male Brit (he is Scottish) to do so since Fred Perry 77 years before, it was as if a higher power had waved a wand and absolved the entire UK of some sort of massive unidentifiable guilt.

Now, having exorcised all their ghosts, Murray returns to what should be a walk in the park. He won. He did it. He is one of the best in the world, so he has a decent chance to win again. Cannot the UK just sit back, relax and let it play out this time?


The first question at Murray's Sunday news conference, playing off the fact that England had already been eliminated in the World Cup, was: "How does it feel to have the hopes of a despondent nation on your shoulders?"

Murray's response was an appropriate "Wow."

He is a fascinating study. After hanging around on the edges of greatness on the pro tour for several years — he was Mr. No. 4, with zero major titles — he broke through by winning the Olympic gold medal right on Wimbledon's Center Court in 2012, then followed that by taking his first Grand Slam title in the 2012 U.S. Open and erasing the ghosts of Perry in last year's Wimbledon.

Now he is 27, No. 3 in the world, a likely contender here for years to come on tennis ability and not merely national emotion. And yet, nobody seems to cut him any slack.

Maybe it's the tabloid mentality here, where newspapers still appear to matter. But that can't persist if the populace doesn't feed it.

The coach who was given much credit for Murray's making the big push to the top is no longer his coach. Murray and Ivan Lendl were made for each other. Each were sports nuts who loved to talk trash to each other about everything from the World Cup to the World Series. Each has a dry, biting sense of humor. Lendl had the mental toughness that carried him to eight major titles and made him among the foremost players in the world between 1983 and 1990. Lendl, perhaps sports' most underrated wit, was able to impart that toughness to Murray.

No less than Murray's mother, Judy, a fine player in her own right and his coach for years, relished the value of the Murray-Lendl relationship.


"They got along like a house on fire," she says.

In March, Lendl stepped away from the job of coaching Murray. Knowing Lendl, the motivation probably was nothing more serious than the need to have more time to play golf, which he does at a scratch level.

But what a story it became, especially when Murray hired, to coach him for his run at a Wimbledon defense, Amelie Mauresmo, a former French star, multiple major winner and former Wimbledon champion herself.

Yes, Murray hired a woman to coach him.

The sexist Neanderthals couldn't crawl out from under the manhole covers fast enough.

It is now the story at Wimbledon. Were he to lose early, guess who will be a laughingstock and guess who will need a police escort out of the country?

Virginia Wade, a former Wimbledon champion herself for Britain, who once had called Murray a "drama king" for openly suffering through a match with a back problem, characterized Murray's move with Mauresmo as another one of his "stunts." Fellow player Marinko Matosevic of Australia said he would never do anything like that because "I don't think highly of the women's game."

Murray was pushed hard on the Mauresmo question. No, he said, he was not trying to become some feminist icon. He just thought she could help his game, that she was somebody who had struggled with nerves on the court early in her career and overcome that later.

"She listens, she's firm," Murray said, not mentioning that the person who coached Bartoli to her stunning victory here last year was Mauresmo.

A few moments later, he was asked if he was pleased with England's performance in the World Cup.

Just about anybody else would have leaped off the dais and squeezed a neck.

Not Murray. He took a deep breath and answered calmly.