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Andy's Column - The Australian

Andy's Column - The Australian

Andy -

Column taken from The Australian:

SINCE winning the US Open in September, there has barely been an interview where I have not been asked if it is a life changing experience.
Before the start of a grand slam, some of the higher ranked players are asked to do press conferences for the world’s media. Most are pretty standard but Saturday’s came with a twist, one I reckon will see it go viral on YouTube.

If you can remember some of my columns for The Australian during last year’s Open, I mentioned that my coach Ivan Lendl had a wicked (and slightly strange) sense of humour. You may also recall that he was a beast on the court when playing against John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg, he did everything in his power to win, which is one of the main reasons I decided to join forces with him at the start of 2012. But when you combine that competitive streak with his sense of humour, well, let’s just say it led to a grown man, a proud man, a great mate embarrassing himself on the world stage.
We bought a new piece of training equipment, a VersaClimber, around the time of the US Open and my fitness coach Jez Green made a bet with Lendl that he would never be able to match him on it. This is a tough machine that makes you feel like you are climbing up a mountain.
Try to imagine this. Basically, you have your two arms outstretched above you and your feet locked in at the bottom and then you start climbing. Adjust it one way and it kills your quadriceps, the other way and your arms are aching at the end. Before the challenge, they were going back and forth at each other with banter and while Ivan hadn’t trained that much, he was a little overweight when we started working with each other, he hates losing. Hence what occurred on Saturday, for the loser, Jez, had to read out a piece written for him by Ivan.

If you have a few spare minutes, go on to YouTube and check it out but just in case you do not, here are a couple of the lines Jez had to read out.
“Ivan is a far superior physical specimen than myself, all this despite a near 13-year age gap. I apologise for my performance. I feel very bad about myself.”
Funny stuff, though it will be a while before any of us, and particularly Jez, challenge Ivan. Though it is is not the first time I’ve had a press conference crashed, with Alex Ferguson and Sean Connery coming into say hello midway through one in New York last summer, that certainly lived up proceedings, especially as they’d had a couple of glasses of wine each – more on that in another column though.

After the press conference finished, I had several other media obligations to complete, a couple of radio interviews and around eight television interviews. I must confess, I was a little distracted through them though as I was trying to keep track of my mate Jamie Baker as he attempted to qualify for the Australian Open. Jamie is a good mate, I’ve known him for years and recently he worked with me in Miami during the off-season. The thing about Jamie, and why he upstaged me on Saturday, with his story in all the British papers yesterday, is that a couple of years ago he almost died with a freak blood disease. He has done a great job to fight back and that’s why I was so excited to see him make the main draw, even if it surprised the woman interviewing when I pumped my fist and roared “yes”.

Now, to answer the question I started with. Obviously it feels great to have won a grand slam and the Olympic gold medal and I feel less pressure now that I’ve done this. Don’t think, though, that I won’t be doing everything I can to win more majors. That is the great thing about Ivan and Jez and the rest of the team, they haven’t allowed me to slacken off at all and, if anything, I worked harder than ever before in Miami in the off-season.

I begin my Open campaign against Robin Haase on Tuesday. He’s a talented player and tends to save his best for the big courts, so it is not the easiest of starts. I had to work hard to beat him a couple of years ago in a grand slam but I feel like I’m in good form and certainly played well enough to win the Brisbane International a week ago. With a bit of luck and some good play, I’ll be able to write some columns through the whole fortnight and hopefully give you more of an insight into what goes on behind the scenes, until then…