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Andy Murray© Getty ImagesAndy Murray has won more titles than any other British players in the Open Era.

Andy Murray shoulders the privilege and pressure of playing in front of home fans at The O2. Can Britain’s best player of the Open Era rise to the occasion? 

“It’s amazing I get to play in front of a home crowd again,” said British No. 1 Andy Murray when he was first told he’d qualified for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. “It was such a good atmosphere last year. It was the first year at The O2, and they put on a great event. I look forward to competing again.”

This will be Murray’s third appearance in his capital city this year. He reached the third round at the AEGON Championships in June, and then, a couple of weeks later delighted British fans with his stunning run to the semi-finals at Wimbledon. One of those British fans was The Queen, who watched her subject in action and met him in person after his match.

While spectators at Murray’s other tournaments throughout the year may not have been quite so regal, he has nevertheless posted some sovereign results. After reaching the final of the Australian Open in January – the first Briton to do so since the 1970s – he later lifted trophies at two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events, in Toronto and Shanghai, winning both finals over Roger Federer in straight sets.

MurrayAll of which brings his total tally of tour-level titles to 16. When you consider that fellow Britons Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski won 11 and 15 titles respectively before retiring, it’s fair to say that Murray is now Britain’s most successful tennis player in the Open Era. And still only 23 years old.

It’s quite an achievement, and one that Murray has worked very hard for. Currently ranked No. 5 in the world – but previously as high as No. 2 – he looks to be one of the most physically strong of all the players on the tour. His ability to chase down balls other players would leave for dead and his knack of striking aggressive winners from almost anywhere on the court make him a very intimidating opponent. Often, even more effective than this, is the way he disorientates opponents by constantly varying his style of play.

Murray knows that if he is to reach the very top of the South African Airways ATP Rankings he needs to both heighten this aggression and continue with the variation, especially when he’s up against three players ranked above him: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

“I have to make them feel like they’re under pressure a little bit more,” he said recently. “I think when I played [and beat] Roger in Toronto, I played a lot more aggressive; didn’t give him many chances to really dictate the points, especially on my serve. That’s something I need to do against them in the future if I want to beat them.”

“It’s amazing I get to play in front of a home crowd again.”

Murray believes he knows which areas to target. “Roger plays closer to the baseline, but he doesn’t hit as many winners off his backhand. You obviously need to try to keep the ball away from Roger’s forehand, whereas Novak, he can hurt you from any part of the court. You need to kind of balance your attacks a bit more. You need to change the pace of the ball, use some slice, try not to let him get in too much of a rhythm because when he is in a rhythm he can dictate the points.”

Based in Surrey, where he lives in a £5 million mansion with his girlfriend Kim Sears and his pet Border Terrier Maggie, Murray is very much the local boy at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. It’s surely an advantage that he can commute home after matches, instead of having to stay in a hotel.

Aside from Kim and Maggie (the latter of whom incidentally now has her own Twitter page), other members of Murray’s entourage include part-time coach Alex Corretja (who twice reached the Roland Garros final), strength and conditioning coaches Jez Green and Matt Little, and physio Andy Ireland. Murray says he plans to appoint a full-time coach in the near future.

MurraysWhen it comes to family there is father William (who works in retail management), mother Judy (a professional tennis coach) and older brother Jamie, whom he teamed up with to win the Valencia doubles title earlier this month.

It was thanks to his older brother that, in the week ahead of their Valencia triumph, Murray made a rare trip back to his hometown of Dunblane, up in Scotland. The occasion was Jamie’s wedding to his Colombian girlfriend Alejandra Gutierrez. As best man, Murray stood alongside his brother – both men in kilts, of course – at the private ceremony at Cromlix House, a luxury hotel near Dunblane. Murray also organised Jamie’s stag party at a nightclub in the West End of London.

But now his entire focus will be on the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. In 2008, on his debut in the season finale, when the tournament was played in Shanghai, he reached the semi-finals. Last year he won two matches and lost one match during round robin play, after which he narrowly missed out on qualification into the semi-finals due to game difference.

This year, as the only home nation player competing, he must ensure he progresses further.

Story reproduced with permission from the official Barclays ATP World Tour Finals tournament program. Order your copy online: http://merchandise.theo2.co.uk/

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