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Andy Murray on clay
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Iona16 Offline
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Andy Murray on clay
Iâ€ll start this thread off by wishing my boy Andy a very happy 26th birthday.

I may live to regret starting this thread but Tented asked me my thoughts on Andy and the clay. When discussing Andyâ€s disappointing results on clay people do tend to make a point of stating that he did train in Spain. Why isn't he better on the clay? I think itâ€s worth pointing out a few things.

A talk with Rafa played a part in Andyâ€s decision to train in Spain. Iâ€m eternally thankful to Rafa for that advice. Andy was 15 at that point. Still very young but Andy had been playing tennis since the age of 3 – just not on a clay surface. It was an alien surface to him at 15 and I think itâ€s still a little alien to him now some 11 years later.

Despite the talk of Andy being somewhat of a ‘drama queen†I donâ€t think anyone would argue with me when I say that Andy very, very rarely talks about his knee condition. A condition that was diagnosed when Andy was 16 and which forced him to rest completely for 6 months. A few years ago the BBC consulted a leading sports physician for an insight into Murrayâ€s condition. I did post this article on tennis.com last year so some posters will have read it.


WHAT IS A BIPARTITE PATELLA?

In essence, it is a kneecap made up of two separate bones instead of one. During childhood, most kneecaps form as a single segment but occasionally - as seen with Murray - they form as two, fused together by fibrous tissue.
"A bipartite patella is very rare," said Dr Franklyn-Miller. "It occurs in about 1% of the population and often goes unnoticed because it is only when you exercise at the intensity of a top-level sportsman like Murray that you might see symptoms.
"It tends to be found incidentally - you would be X-raying for another reason, such as knee pain, and come across a bipartite patella - but the two bones have a very close join that normally settles down and doesn't cause any problems."

WHY, THEN, DOES MURRAY EXPERIENCE PAIN?

"It's very unusual that pain would stem from the actual join between the two pieces of bone. It's more about how the separation affects the patella tendon, which attaches the kneecap to the lower leg.
"As our thigh and lower leg bones grow in adolescence, they put enormous force on the patella tendon. If you're involved in high-level sport, these forces are even greater.
"When your thigh muscle contracts, a regular kneecap will pull the patella tendon in one direction but a bipartite patella will pull it in different directions. This abnormal loading irritates and inflames the tendon, resulting in pain."

"At a Grand Slam tournament, you could play as many as seven five-set matches with very little rest," added Dr Franklyn-Miller. "Tennis is all about explosive movements. The longer a match, the greater the load on your knees.

"The load through the tendon is at its greatest when you come to a sudden stop. In that sense, clay should be more forgiving than hard courts because the give in the surface acts as a shock absorber.
"But then again, clay plays slower than hard courts so there's a lot more scampering into the net, stopping sharply, bending down to retrieve low balls and twisting to get back in position."

IS MURRAY'S CONDITION DEGENERATIVE?
"The back of our kneecaps come into contact with the joint itself and it's possible that his bipartite patella could be roughening the cartilage, which can lead to osteoarthritis.
"But most elite athletes are susceptible to an element of osteoarthritis.

SO HIS CAREER IS NOT UNDER THREAT?
"It's certainly not career threatening," insisted Dr Franklyn-Miller. "The problem with modern-day tennis is that it's a year-round sport but Murray and his team will have a routine set out for dealing with the knee and it seems to have been pretty successful so far.
"Because a bipartite patella is formed at birth, there is no cure and there is no way of predicting exactly how the condition will develop in the future.
"But Murray will have the very latest biomechanical technology available to him. That will ensure he can monitor what's going on inside the knee and treat it accordingly."

HOW WILL MURRAY BE TREATING THE PROBLEM?
The tried and trusted Rice principle (rest, ice, compression, elevation) continues to prevail. Murray's methods include Bikram yoga, ice baths and physio, all of which keep his injury at bay.
"There are a variety of techniques designed to settle the pain - like rest and use of a leg brace. You can also go down the surgical route to alter the pull of the thigh muscles or remove the second segment of bone but these are completely inappropriate to a top athlete like Murray," concluded Dr Franklyn-Miller.
"So he will probably manage inflammation with lots of icing, leg-strengthening exercises, stretching and perhaps things like shock-wave lithotripsy and simple injections of water. He will carefully manage training but the critical focus should be on recovery after matches.

-------
As a Murray fan Iâ€m the first to admit that Iâ€m disappointed with Andyâ€s clay performances. However, I know that clay is the worst surface for his knee. The pain will always be particularly acute during the clay-court season. He will only ever play the 3 clay court masters events. You wonâ€t see him at 250 clay events. On a rare occasion he may play Barcelona but that would be the only 500 event you will ever be likely to see him at.

Iâ€ve seen Andy play great tennis on the clay – against both Rafa and Novak. He's capable of it. I know it's never going to be Andyâ€s best surface but Iâ€m OK with that fact. I do wish though that people would remember that this is a surface that Andy will always struggle with because his knee condition does have an impact on how he performs on this surface.

Murray fans do still have expectations. Simply because Murray is one of the best players in the world. However, I should point out that some Andy fans can't wait for the clay season to be over.

Lest We Forget
(This post was last modified: 14-May-2013 07:55 PM by Iona16.)
14-May-2013 07:50 PM
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tented Offline
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
Thanks for beginning this thread, Iona! I'm pleased that a question in a PM has turned into something which everyone can discuss.

I've heard talk of Andy's bipartite patella before, but never looked into exactly what it is. The article you've quoted, however, does a great job of explaining it, so I'm glad you posted it.

And before I go any further, I'll state that Andy is not a drama queen about his knee problem. Everyone, myself included, has ribbed him for grabbing his side, for example, after losing a point, but I honestly don't ever remember him mentioning his knee disorder as the reason he lost a match, or whatever.

I had no idea that clay would actually be the worst surface for his knees, but obviously his knee problems are different from Rafa's. I wrongly assumed that clay would be good for Andy as a natural surface, therefore he would relish this time of year. Now that I know it's the worst season for him physiologically, I have a new understanding of his game.

It sounds, then, that the knee problem was diagnosed around the same time he went to train in Spain. Perhaps it was even first noticed because of the stress of the surface. Do you know how long he stayed in Spain?
14-May-2013 09:07 PM
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Didi Offline
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
Thanks a lot for that, Iona. It helped me to understand why he struggles so much on the dirt. It's really a pity because he is not really a bad claycourter at all and has everything in his repertoire (at least in theory) to succed on it. When you think about it, he's got terrific footwork and movement, incredible consistency off of both wings, has the variety and the tactical brain to go for dropshots and effective slices, can grind it out all day long if necessary and at the same time he's one of the best in the world in turning defense into offense from every position on the court. His passing shots are also only 2nd to Nadal and Djokovic.

And he already proved that he can be a threat on clay to the very best by taking a set off of Nadal in the semifinals of Monte Carlo in 2011 and almost beating Prime Djokovic in Rome the same year. I also recall Nadal having to fight tooth and nail to beat him in the semifinals of Paris that year. It was as close and competitive as it possibly gets for a win in straight sets. I'm very confident we will see Andy at his very best in Wimbledon, Canada, Cincinnati and New York.
15-May-2013 05:04 AM
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herios Online
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
Thanks Iona for the explanation, as this gives us answers to the issues Andy has with the clay surface, and indeed "Happy birthday: to Andy, hopefully he'll celebrate with a win today!
15-May-2013 06:10 AM
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ricardo Offline
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
Don't know what it is, Murray is very easily rattled on clay. All his strengths, consistency, excellent backhand, movement all seem to drop many levels very easily when he is playing on clay. He becomes vulnerable out there, inconsistent, impatient, lacking strategy, lack of anticipation etc; all of which are against his traits... very strange. I would've thought that under the guidance of the great clay courter Lendl, he not only would maintain his strengths but would improve on those yet he is doing the opposite.
15-May-2013 08:28 AM
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Front242 Offline
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
I just noticed Andy retired in his match today? At work and was just checking the scores and I saw he won a close TB 2nd set and retired? Everything ok with him? What was the reason for retirement? Very interesting artlcle too, Iona and a bit of an eye opener for Nadal and fans as that doctor basically says the opposite to what many (Nadal himself included) believe in that slow surfaces like clay are bad for knees. I've always maintained that was quite obvious too with all the extra grinding and running. Good to have a doctor confirm it. Of course hard courts are nasty on knees but maybe team Nadal should take note when they consider his schedule. Be a good idea to cut down on a few tournaments imo.

This part in particular sums it up and naturally that's not just to do with Andy's condition, it applies to anyone playing on clay:

"The load through the tendon is at its greatest when you come to a sudden stop. In that sense, clay should be more forgiving than hard courts because the give in the surface acts as a shock absorber.
"But then again, clay plays slower than hard courts so there's a lot more scampering into the net, stopping sharply, bending down to retrieve low balls and twisting to get back in position."

Pretty sure whatever he retired for today was precautionary anyway and he'll be fine.
(This post was last modified: 15-May-2013 09:25 AM by Front242.)
15-May-2013 09:22 AM
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johnsteinbeck Offline
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
^ i think the real takeaway here is that two players with knee issues (with the help of different experts) seem to blame two completely different, almost opposite playing surfaces for being worst on their knees, and it just so happens that these are the ones they're worst on.

not to dig on either player, mind you - they got to right to say it and i'm sure they honestly mean and feel it (although tbh, i haven't heard Andy raise the surface issue personally). but it could be that what's really making your injury-prone joints feel worst is playing on surfaces that you're not very comfortable with overall.
15-May-2013 11:09 AM
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herios Online
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
(15-May-2013 09:22 AM)Front242 Wrote:  Pretty sure whatever he retired for today was precautionary anyway and he'll be fine.

A ctually, Murray is not sure he'll be able to play in Paris. Decision to be made in the next few days.

"I need to make plans and see what to do. Tonight I'll speak with the physio and come up with a plan for the next few days and then make a decision on Paris after the next five days. I'll need to take some days off and see how it settles down, but a few days can make a difference."
(This post was last modified: 15-May-2013 11:35 AM by herios.)
15-May-2013 11:33 AM
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tented Offline
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
(15-May-2013 11:09 AM)johnsteinbeck Wrote:  ^ i think the real takeaway here is that two players with knee issues (with the help of different experts) seem to blame two completely different, almost opposite playing surfaces for being worst on their knees, and it just so happens that these are the ones they're worst on.

That is definitely the takeaway. Murray and Nadal have two different problems, which produce opposite results on the same surface.
15-May-2013 12:43 PM
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Iona16 Offline
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
(15-May-2013 11:09 AM)johnsteinbeck Wrote:  ^ i think the real takeaway here is that two players with knee issues (with the help of different experts) seem to blame two completely different, almost opposite playing surfaces for being worst on their knees, and it just so happens that these are the ones they're worst on.

not to dig on either player, mind you - they got to right to say it and i'm sure they honestly mean and feel it (although tbh, i haven't heard Andy raise the surface issue personally). but it could be that what's really making your injury-prone joints feel worst is playing on surfaces that you're not very comfortable with overall.

Well, Iâ€m not going to discuss Rafaâ€s knee condition as I think it has been done to death + it has nothing to do with Andy on clay.

I have to say that I think youâ€re being incredibly unfair to Andy. The article I quoted was from 2010 and it was the BBC that consulted a sports physician for an insight into Murrayâ€s condition. Clearly because they wanted British tennis fans to understand the problem that the British no.1 has with his knee. It was not an article issued by Murrayâ€s camp or even leaked by Murrayâ€s camp. Andy is not getting ‘help†from an expert to explain his poor performances on clay. I thought the article explained why both clay and hard courts were problematic for a sportsman with Murrayâ€s knee condition.

Andy does not have ‘injury prone jointsâ€. He has a chronic knee condition. A birth defect. As the article pointed out it is a defect that would probably have gone unnoticed if Murray were not an elite sportsman. Itâ€s his profession and the surfaces he plays on that make his condition problematic.

During this clay court season Andy has not mentioned his knee once. To my knowledge he didnâ€t mention it in 2012 or 2011 either. Thatâ€s probably why you donâ€t recall Andy raising the subject of his knee.

Heâ€s never asked for less clay masters events. He didnâ€t complain when he won the Madrid Masters in 2008 on a hard court and they changed it to clay the next year. The grass is the best surface for his knee but you donâ€t hear him point out that fact.

This is not a dig at the other players but youâ€re far more likely to hear about Rafaâ€s knees, Novakâ€s ankle or Rogerâ€s back than you are about Andyâ€s knee.

OK, that's my rant over. Smile

Lest We Forget
(This post was last modified: 15-May-2013 09:13 PM by Iona16.)
15-May-2013 07:30 PM
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johnsteinbeck Offline
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
Iona - i made a point to say that i've never heard Andy raise the clay/knee issue on his part (although he kind of did in his most recent interview). but thanks for pointing out that the argumentation in your article is not sanctioned by Andy's team, but comes from an outside source.

as for "injury prone joint" or "chronic knee condition" - it's a bit potayto pot potahto to me. because of the birth defect, his knees are more sensitive to the tennis-related stress, forcing him out of play, into 'injury timeout' more often. that's what i meant.

however, the point i was trying to make was not so much that complaining that either player blames another surface, but that their respective worst surfaces are also where their physical issues show the most - and i think that's a hen or egg kind of thing. being uncomfortable on the surface hinders your groove, might make your movement 'unnatural', resulting in more stress on those knees etc. on the other hand, losing will remind you of the pain that's been there all the time, building up. as i've said before in regards to the phenomenon of some players of indicating discomfort and pain only when they lose points - i don't believe in any way that they're faking it. it's just that when your winning, the endorphines and dopamines and all that covers over any niggles and pains, while when you're losing, you start feeling them (which, unfortunately goes to show just how serious Andy's injury could be this time, as he actually retired after winning a tight second set, in a moment when the endorphines should've been at work).
(This post was last modified: 16-May-2013 02:35 AM by johnsteinbeck.)
16-May-2013 02:30 AM
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isabelle Offline
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
he won't go far if he's back injured, poor Andy
Hope he'll rock on grass
16-May-2013 07:37 AM
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tented Offline
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
(16-May-2013 07:37 AM)isabelle Wrote:  he won't go far if he's back injured, poor Andy
Hope he'll rock on grass

Good thought. Let's hope he makes a complete recovery in time for Queen's Club and Wimbledon.
16-May-2013 02:45 PM
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Front242 Offline
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
He surely will. He's one of the main contenders on grass and he knows it. That's why it's not worth risking making things worse by playing RG. Queens is where his best part of the season starts.
16-May-2013 02:55 PM
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
(14-May-2013 07:50 PM)Iona16 Wrote:  Iâ€ll start this thread off by wishing my boy Andy a very happy 26th birthday.

I may live to regret starting this thread but Tented asked me my thoughts on Andy and the clay. When discussing Andyâ€s disappointing results on clay people do tend to make a point of stating that he did train in Spain. Why isn't he better on the clay? I think itâ€s worth pointing out a few things.

A talk with Rafa played a part in Andyâ€s decision to train in Spain. Iâ€m eternally thankful to Rafa for that advice. Andy was 15 at that point. Still very young but Andy had been playing tennis since the age of 3 – just not on a clay surface. It was an alien surface to him at 15 and I think itâ€s still a little alien to him now some 11 years later.

Despite the talk of Andy being somewhat of a ‘drama queen†I donâ€t think anyone would argue with me when I say that Andy very, very rarely talks about his knee condition. A condition that was diagnosed when Andy was 16 and which forced him to rest completely for 6 months. A few years ago the BBC consulted a leading sports physician for an insight into Murrayâ€s condition. I did post this article on tennis.com last year so some posters will have read it.


WHAT IS A BIPARTITE PATELLA?

In essence, it is a kneecap made up of two separate bones instead of one. During childhood, most kneecaps form as a single segment but occasionally - as seen with Murray - they form as two, fused together by fibrous tissue.
"A bipartite patella is very rare," said Dr Franklyn-Miller. "It occurs in about 1% of the population and often goes unnoticed because it is only when you exercise at the intensity of a top-level sportsman like Murray that you might see symptoms.
"It tends to be found incidentally - you would be X-raying for another reason, such as knee pain, and come across a bipartite patella - but the two bones have a very close join that normally settles down and doesn't cause any problems."

WHY, THEN, DOES MURRAY EXPERIENCE PAIN?

"It's very unusual that pain would stem from the actual join between the two pieces of bone. It's more about how the separation affects the patella tendon, which attaches the kneecap to the lower leg.
"As our thigh and lower leg bones grow in adolescence, they put enormous force on the patella tendon. If you're involved in high-level sport, these forces are even greater.
"When your thigh muscle contracts, a regular kneecap will pull the patella tendon in one direction but a bipartite patella will pull it in different directions. This abnormal loading irritates and inflames the tendon, resulting in pain."

"At a Grand Slam tournament, you could play as many as seven five-set matches with very little rest," added Dr Franklyn-Miller. "Tennis is all about explosive movements. The longer a match, the greater the load on your knees.

"The load through the tendon is at its greatest when you come to a sudden stop. In that sense, clay should be more forgiving than hard courts because the give in the surface acts as a shock absorber.
"But then again, clay plays slower than hard courts so there's a lot more scampering into the net, stopping sharply, bending down to retrieve low balls and twisting to get back in position."

IS MURRAY'S CONDITION DEGENERATIVE?
"The back of our kneecaps come into contact with the joint itself and it's possible that his bipartite patella could be roughening the cartilage, which can lead to osteoarthritis.
"But most elite athletes are susceptible to an element of osteoarthritis.

SO HIS CAREER IS NOT UNDER THREAT?
"It's certainly not career threatening," insisted Dr Franklyn-Miller. "The problem with modern-day tennis is that it's a year-round sport but Murray and his team will have a routine set out for dealing with the knee and it seems to have been pretty successful so far.
"Because a bipartite patella is formed at birth, there is no cure and there is no way of predicting exactly how the condition will develop in the future.
"But Murray will have the very latest biomechanical technology available to him. That will ensure he can monitor what's going on inside the knee and treat it accordingly."

HOW WILL MURRAY BE TREATING THE PROBLEM?
The tried and trusted Rice principle (rest, ice, compression, elevation) continues to prevail. Murray's methods include Bikram yoga, ice baths and physio, all of which keep his injury at bay.
"There are a variety of techniques designed to settle the pain - like rest and use of a leg brace. You can also go down the surgical route to alter the pull of the thigh muscles or remove the second segment of bone but these are completely inappropriate to a top athlete like Murray," concluded Dr Franklyn-Miller.
"So he will probably manage inflammation with lots of icing, leg-strengthening exercises, stretching and perhaps things like shock-wave lithotripsy and simple injections of water. He will carefully manage training but the critical focus should be on recovery after matches.

-------
As a Murray fan Iâ€m the first to admit that Iâ€m disappointed with Andyâ€s clay performances. However, I know that clay is the worst surface for his knee. The pain will always be particularly acute during the clay-court season. He will only ever play the 3 clay court masters events. You wonâ€t see him at 250 clay events. On a rare occasion he may play Barcelona but that would be the only 500 event you will ever be likely to see him at.

Iâ€ve seen Andy play great tennis on the clay – against both Rafa and Novak. He's capable of it. I know it's never going to be Andyâ€s best surface but Iâ€m OK with that fact. I do wish though that people would remember that this is a surface that Andy will always struggle with because his knee condition does have an impact on how he performs on this surface.

Murray fans do still have expectations. Simply because Murray is one of the best players in the world. However, I should point out that some Andy fans can't wait for the clay season to be over.

Thanks for the insight
(This post was last modified: 17-May-2013 09:23 PM by fedfan.)
17-May-2013 09:21 PM
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Iona16 Offline
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
(14-May-2013 09:07 PM)tented Wrote:  Thanks for beginning this thread, Iona! I'm pleased that a question in a PM has turned into something which everyone can discuss.

I've heard talk of Andy's bipartite patella before, but never looked into exactly what it is. The article you've quoted, however, does a great job of explaining it, so I'm glad you posted it.

And before I go any further, I'll state that Andy is not a drama queen about his knee problem. Everyone, myself included, has ribbed him for grabbing his side, for example, after losing a point, but I honestly don't ever remember him mentioning his knee disorder as the reason he lost a match, or whatever.

I had no idea that clay would actually be the worst surface for his knees, but obviously his knee problems are different from Rafa's. I wrongly assumed that clay would be good for Andy as a natural surface, therefore he would relish this time of year. Now that I know it's the worst season for him physiologically, I have a new understanding of his game.

It sounds, then, that the knee problem was diagnosed around the same time he went to train in Spain. Perhaps it was even first noticed because of the stress of the surface. Do you know how long he stayed in Spain?

I'm glad you found found the article interesting Tented.

I couldn't your question about Spain so I checked back.

The amount of tennis Andy played increased dramatically when he moved to Spain (age 15). I now know he was age 16 when he started to experience real pain in his knee. Andy went to see the Academy physiotherapist. He was told that it was probably a combination of growing pains and playing too much tennis on hard courts. He was told to take time off and ice the knee. He would do that but every time he went to play again the pain returned. Andy was telling his coach Leon Smith (now GB Davis Cup coach) that the pain was bad but Leon was listening to the physio. A few months later Andy played a Spanish Futures event. He won his first match. He woke up the next day and could barely walk. Leo told him he'd be OK and to play his match later that day - he lost 6-0 6-0. He didnâ€t play again for nearly 7 months. By all accounts it took many months for his condition to be diagnosed. He was back home in Scotland at this point. I know he did try and play wheelchair tennis during that time but he wasnâ€t very good – his words. During those 7 months he said he watched every single match that he could on TV. He used that time to study the players on the ATP tour. I donâ€t know exactly how long Andy was in Spain but I think it was less than 2 years.

BTW thanks to my fellow posters for the positive responses.

Lest We Forget
(This post was last modified: 19-May-2013 07:46 PM by Iona16.)
19-May-2013 07:44 PM
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
Andy Murray is one of the best tennis players in the world. I like to watch all his matches. I still remember the day when he won gold medal in Olympics.
23-May-2013 05:38 AM
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RE: Andy Murray on clay
hi shanerio - thanks for joining us. thank you for sharing with us your passion for andy. oooh, and what a wonderful signature you got there! Wink
23-May-2013 07:09 AM
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