27th August 2007
An Italian sports psychologist who worked with West Ham United as they avoided relegation from the Premier League last season has been helping Andy Murray with his US Open preparations.
The British No 1 lost two out of three comeback matches since he suffered a right wrist tendon injury in May at the Hamburg Masters.
The US Open, which starts at Flushing Meadows today, will be only his third tournament back and he admits that concern about thumping his forehands was hampering his play.
For help, he consulted Roberto Forzoni.
The psychologist, who was at Upton Park for the final 10 matches of last season, told Murray to watch footage of his pre-injury forehand at its best.
That way Murray gained a clear picture in his mind of what it looks like to swing through at full power, helping him to move on.
“I do still think about the wrist, but it’s just got much less and less,” said Murray, who faces Uruguayan qualifier Pablo Cuevas in the first round.
“Although it’s still in the back of my mind a little bit, I’ve tried to block it out as much as possible. The more matches and the more practices I have where I’ve come off the court and I’m pain-free, the more it’ll go out of my mind, I’m sure.
“It’s been a pretty tough time but I’ve always tried to stay positive through it. I said at the start that it’s an injury that no tennis player could control. So many of the top players have had problems with their wrist – it just kind of comes with one shot and it’s really unexpected. So I’ve just tried to deal with it like that and the psychologist has helped me a lot with that.”
The West Ham squad recently gave Murray a signed shirt after being impressed by a YouTube video of him juggling a tennis ball with his feet. Defender Anton Ferdinand scribbled on the shirt: “Believe to achieve.”
Murray looked extremely tentative on the forehand side at his first two comeback tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati. He won a match in Montreal, but was destroyed in the first round of the Cincinnati event by Marcos Baghdatis.
He, therefore, opted to pull out of last week’s New Haven tournament to go back to London for a few days to train, see friends and speak to Forzoni.
“It was great being in London – it was the best thing I’ve done since the injury,” he said.
“I got six or seven days of really, really good practice. I saw the sports psychologist. I spent time with my friends.
“It got me in a positive frame of mind because obviously Montreal and Cincinnati were quite difficult.
“I feel much, much better than I did when I went back there and I’m just really looking forward to going on the court again and feeling that I can compete 100 per cent again.”
A slight, but to be expected, pain in his recovering wrist, was what Murray said had done the damage mentally.
“Although the doctors say to you that it’s normal to feel it, in the back of your mind you’re still thinking about the pain that you felt when you actually injured it and it’s quite difficult to overcome.”
That mind-set, which he believed affected his games in Cincinnati and Montreal, is now behind him.
“This week there are no excuses,” he said. “The wrist is definitely behind me. I just want to go out and play my tennis again.”