London: Andy Murray warmed up for the start of his Wimbledon title defence by swatting away suggestions he could crack under the pressure of carrying Britain`s sporting hopes on his shoulders. Murray will walk onto Centre Court on Monday afternoon for his first round tie against Belgium`s David Goffin as the first British man to defend the singles title since Fred Perry 77 years ago.
And with England`s World Cup campaign coming to an embarrassingly early conclusion after just two matches in Brazil, the British public and press have turned their attention to his fortunes at the All England Club. The 27-year-old Scot might have been forgiven for hoping the World Cup would take some of the spotlight off him this year, but the disappointing efforts of Roy Hodgson`s team have put him back in the firing line.
His pre-tournament press conference on Sunday was barely a few seconds old before the world number five had to deal with a question about his chances of lifting the nation out of their World Cup gloom. “Wow!,” Murray said with a laugh. “To be honest, I don`t feel too much different than I did a few days ago (before England were knocked out).
“I`m here to try and win the tournament. That`s it. My focus is solely on the first match, preparing properly for that. I trained hard the last 10 days or so. Preparation`s gone well. So it`s now down to me to try and perform on the court. “When you come back to a Grand Slam, there`s always nerves and pressure there before you start the event. I like that. If you win a tournament like this, you feel the benefits in the latter stages because you know what it takes.
“I believe if I play my best tennis, I`ll put myself in a position to win the tournament.”
Murray will have the full support of the home crowd throughout his defence, in stark contrast to the time he angered a section of the British public with a jokey comment that he hoped anyone but England, traditional rivals of his own country, won the 2006 World Cup.
With that in mind, he was on his guard when subjected to one or two pointed questions about how he viewed England`s underwhelming efforts this time.
“Why would I be pleased with their performance?” he said.
“I don`t think they played too badly, to be honest. I think the first match against Italy was probably better than the second against Uruguay.” Murray was also asked to respond to the claim from Virginia Wade, the British woman who won Wimbledon in 1977, that his decision to hire Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach was a “joke”.
It is not the first time Wade has taken a swipe at Murray — she also claimed he was exaggerating injuries at the 2012 French Open — and he said: “She`s done it a few times before with me. It doesn`t surprise me. “I think Amelie will help me. I`ve really enjoyed the last 10 days I spent on the court with her. It`s been great.”
Murray has failed to reach a singles final since beating Novak Djokovic to win Wimbledon, a difficult 12 months that also saw him have back surgery and split with coach Ivan Lendl.
But his record at Wimbledon, where he has reached at least the semi-finals on his last five appearances, gives hope he can challenge for the title again. And Murray believes Mauresmo`s experience of defending the Wimbledon crown she won in 2006 will be a valuable resource to draw on.
“The only person I`ve spoken to about it is Amelie. I`m aware when I walk out on the court tomorrow I`m going to be nervous. I know there`s going to be pressure,” Murray said.
“That`s why today when I woke up there`s butterflies there. You`re one day away from starting the tournament. “I don`t know how I`m going to deal with it because it`s something I`ve never had to do before. “But last year the final was definitely the most pressure I`d felt in all the years I`d played here and I managed to come through it. That comes with age and experience.”