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Andy Murray column: ‘Let’s see what happens’ – Playing at Wimbledon with Serena Williams

In his regular BBC Sport column, Andy Murray talks about his new mixed doubles partner Serena Williams, what he admires most about the American great and their chat about the Wimbledon creche.

Playing mixed doubles with Serena is something that hadn’t been on my mind until this opportunity came up.

I don’t know her that well and we haven’t played together before or spent much time hanging out – so let’s see what happens!

But I think we do a lot of things quite similarly on court that should bode well for us as a partnership.

Both of us play predominantly from the baseline and we are both good movers and athletes. And she serves unbelievably well.

I don’t think we have ever hit together over the years, but hopefully we are going to do that today before this evening’s match.

Serena’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou has been keen for us to have at least one practice together before we go out so we can have a chat about things together on court.

We did chat briefly here at Wimbledon the other day and we spoke a little bit about the tennis – what side of the court we are going to play on. We also spoke about our injuries because she has had some issues with her knee recently and I’ve had the problems with my hip.

Aside from that, we were chatting about parenting because we’ve both got kids that are similar ages and that led to discussing how handy the crèche is here on site, which a lot of the players use.

But the conversation hasn’t extended to exchanging any parenting tips just yet.

‘One-off partnerships make off-court bonding difficult’
Although I’ve never really hung out with Serena off court, we have spent a little bit of time together at tournaments over the years.

I remember we did the draw ceremony and media around the US Open in 2013, because we had both won the tournament the previous year.

And then in 2016 we both won Wimbledon so we had to sit at the same table at the Champions’ Dinner. Thankfully we didn’t dance together after, which has been a tradition in the past. No-one needs to see my dancing!Andy Murray and Serena Williams with their Wimbledon singles trophies after winning their respective titles in 2016 Andy Murray and Serena Williams with their Wimbledon singles trophies after winning their respective titles in 2016Andy Murray and Serena Williams with their Wimbledon singles trophies after winning their respective titles in 2016

Andy Murray and Serena Williams with their Wimbledon singles trophies after winning their respective titles in 2016
Andy Murray and Serena Williams with their Wimbledon singles trophies after winning their respective titles in 2016
Here at Wimbledon it is difficult to build a relationship with a new doubles partner by doing things away from the court, like going out together with our families and teams for dinner.

After my doubles match last night with Pierre-Hugues Herbert, we stretched, cooled down and did ice baths together after finishing our match at almost 9:30pm.

And then we are playing again today, so dinner is difficult because it is so late!

When it is a one-off partnership, finding the time to socialise together is hard.

But when you commit to playing with a new partner for a longer period of time, like my brother Jamie does, then you start to spend more time with each other at events and you can do things such as eating together because you’re on the same schedule.

But here Serena is playing singles – so she will play mixed doubles with me late today and then she is playing singles again tomorrow. I’ll be back playing doubles with Pierre too, so we’re on different schedules.

‘The rest of the tour has a lot to thank Serena for’
Serena is one of the world’s greatest athletes so there are lots of things that are impressive about her as a player and as a person.

What I admire about her most is her longevity.

That’s the one thing where she and Roger Federer differ from many players before them – and possibly many after them.

The length of time they have been at the top of the game is incredible and, after about 20 years on the tour, they seem to still enjoy competing and pushing for the biggest titles.

People sometimes take for granted how difficult that is to do, how hard it is to keep your motivation and drive for so long, especially when there are so many ups and downs – tough losses, injuries, families – to cope with.

That love for the game, and the amount that these players put into it, is maybe something which is not easy to see all the time and not always appreciated enough.

She’s also been a huge ambassador for women’s sport for a number of years and I think that there is a lot of responsibility, pressure and stress which comes with that.

Serena, and her sister Venus, have been advocates for a lot of things which have benefited the women’s game, including equal prize money, and these positive changes have come down to them, the pull they have and the new fans they have attracted to tennis.

The rest of the tour – especially the women’s side – have a lot to thank her for.

‘A brilliant feeling to be back playing at Wimbledon’
On Thursday night, I made my Wimbledon return in the doubles with Pierre and we won in four sets after making quite a nervy start.

It was a brilliant feeling to be back after missing last year’s singles with my hip problem.

At the beginning we were both a bit nervous, maybe because we don’t know each other that well, and in doubles that can show because the communication between each other is so important.

But as the match went on we started to relax, fed off each other and began to read each other’s game better.

Andy Murray marks his return to Wimbledon with victory in the men’s doubles
At first, Pierre was probably doing more of the organising in terms of where to serve and where we were going to move but as the match went on it felt as if we were communicating more as a team.

Ultimately that is the best way to go about it, rather than having a leader who calls the shots.

With two people, I don’t feel as if you need a leader; you just need two guys to communicate well and feed off each other.

Hopefully we can continue building that understanding – by winning more matches!

Andy Murray was speaking to BBC Sport’s Jonathan Jurejko at Wimbledon.


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