sports psychologist & clinical psychology

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME A TRUE CHAMPION? GYM’LL FIX IT

The Times of London – Jul 28, 2006 – Katie Scott – Our correspondent gets the experts’ views on what Andy Murray needs to do to overcome his growing pains.

WHEN Brad Gilbert was confirmed as Andy Murrays new coach this week he wasted no time in getting to the crux of the Scots problem: I need to train him more like a boxer, Gilbert said. He needs to get tougher and stronger.

In order for Murray to compete at the very highest level of the game, he must couple his exceptional natural ability � which has taken him to No 36 in the world rankings � with a ferocious physical fitness. From cramping at Queens Club on his debut in 2005, to vomiting at the US Open, to growing pains in Paris this year, Murrays career has so far been peppered with moments of physical ineptitude.

So when Gilbert suggested that the Scot must bulk up, he conjured up images of Rafael Nadal. The Spanish world No 2 is the consummate competitor: bursting with muscles, he is like a wild animal on the prowl, a matador, a swashbuckler. Stand Andy Murray shoulder to shoulder with Nadal and, apart from their age � 19 and 20 respectively � there is simply no comparison. Murray has no such physical presence. He lopes and he mopes.

So what must Murray do in order to become more like Nadal? First, it is a question of putting in the hours in the gym. Andy wants to become physically like Nadal, it’s plain and simple, it has got to come from him, Kieron Vorster, the LTAs former head of fitness, said. Hes got to identify the importance of fitness, which he hasn’t done so far in his career. Do I think hes lazy? Yes I do.

“You can’t go on hiding behind excuses, like the growing pains. Hes got to get his head around the fact that he’s going to have to work hard. He’s a phenomenally gifted player, a natural athlete, but that’s not enough. Andy needs to spend more time in the gym. For four to six weeks after the US Open Andy should concentrate on his fitness. [He should do] 1½ hours running in the early morning, then 1½ hours in the gym.

“Of course Andy can become as fit as Rafael Nadal but he will never replicate his physique. Andy’s game is different and he doesnt rely so much on fitness but he still needs to be in incredible shape. Thats the difference between where he is now and the next level.

Nadal’s strength comes not only from his body but also from his mind. His ability to compete and to get under the skin of his opponent, illustrated by his dominance of Roger Federer, the world No 1, this year, is something that Murray has yet to develop.

“Nadal is the ultimate positive source, whereas Andy tends to appear a little bit lacking in motivation, Dr John Murray, a leading US tennis psychologist, said. Murray is never going to be Rafael Nadal but he seems like he has a lot of ways in which he can maximise his game mentally. I am a great supporter of him.

{Clarification: The above paragraph might appear miselading. Dr. Murray did not imply here that Andy cannot be as good or better than Nadal, only that they have different games an styles. In the comment about his motivation, Dr. Murray actually told the reporter that all great athletes need mental coaching and that some including John McEnroe on national television have questioned his body language … and that Dr. Murray is a big advocate of Andy Murray}

Dr Murray made a point of introducing himself to Murray at Wimbledon this year and offered him a copy of his self-help book, Smart Tennis. Murray response? I chucked the book in the bin, he said at the time. One doubts Nadal would have done the same.

{It should be noted that later Murray admitted he was just having fun on his blog and did not toss the book}

MAKING A NEW MAN OF MURRAY

Yes Andy, you too could have a body like Rafaels. You just have to adopt a few Spanish practices and tweak your daily training schedule slightly

MURRAY

7.00: No idea what that time means

10.00: Struggles out of bed, finishes off the Mars bar on his bedside table for breakfast

11.00: On court for a training session, stretches a bit, talks about last nights episode of Prison Break

1.30: Times his lunch to coincide with Neighbours

3.00: Wakes up from siesta – he learnt that in Spain – and stretches a bit

3.30: Gets back on court and plays a couple of tie-breaks with his hitting partner

5.00: Exhausted, goes home and reads a copy of Mens Health magazine, thinks about doing some weights

6.00-midnight: Plays on his X-Box and settles down with a takeaway pizza to watch Big Brother

NADAL

7.00: Breakfast of four Shredded Wheat

8.00: On to the court for a two-hour training session, including solid hitting, shuttle runs and skipping

10.00: Break

10.30: Back on court for two more hours of training, focusing on cardio-vascular exercise

12.30: Lunch

2.30: Into the gym for weight training, concentrating on power, especially through bench presses

4.30: Warm down

5.00: Home to play computer games and dream about tennis

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

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