LONDON: Andy Murray will focus firmly on Wimbledon semifinal rival Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Friday, having cast a longing gaze across the Atlantic for title-winning inspiration from NBA basketball hero LeBron James.
Murray, looking to become the first British man to reach the Wimbledon final since Bunny Austin in 1938, is an avid follower of basketball and believes he can learn from James’ recent breakthrough NBA triumph with the Miami Heat.
Like Murray, James also spent years battling the critics who doubted his winning mentality.
“He came very close to winning quite a lot of times and winning this year for him was massive,” said Murray, who has now reached four successive Wimbledon semifinals without being able to push on.
“I would say for me it’s a similar situation. I’ve been close a lot of times and not quite made it.
“There’s a lot of people out there that didn’t want him to win. There’s a lot of people that said he would never win. There’s a lot of people who said he never played his best in finals. In the fourth quarter of games he never steps up.
“Then you see how he played the whole of the finals, the whole of the playoffs. Sometimes it takes guys a bit longer than others.”
Murray, 25, knows what it’s like to reach Grand Slam finals – he was runner-up at the 2008 U.S. Open and 2010 and 2011 Australian Opens.
But he has not been able to end Britain’s long wait for a men’s Grand Slam singles champion, a stretch which has now reached an agonizing 76 years.
He is aware that there are plenty of opinions out there, from the media to players, but he is confident he can block out any unsolicited advice.
“If you think too much about it, and you read the newspapers and you watch the stuff on TV that’s said about you, I think it would become far too much,” he said.
“But if you kind of shield yourself from it all and just get into your own little bubble, only listen to the people that are around you, then it’s something you can deal with.”
Murray is playing in his seventh Wimbledon and is a far more imposing figure than he was when as a scrawny teenager on his 2005 debut he took the first two sets off former runner-up David Nalbandian before losing in five.
Ever since that third round loss, Wimbledon has experienced regular bouts of ‘Murray mania’ amongst a desperate British public which has slowly taken the straight-talking Scot to its heart.
However, Murray admitted that it wasn’t love at first sight when he first experienced the All England Club with all of its fussy traditions.
“When I first played here I didn’t understand what it was like, and it still took a few years for me to understood how important this tournament was to me, how important it is to tennis, and also this country,” he admitted.
“I didn’t necessarily appreciate that the first time I played because you’re just a kid. It’s something new for you. You’re excited to play on Centre Court.
“But it’s not until I played a lot of matches there that I started to understand how special a court it was.
“It’s become more and more special to me the more I’ve played.”