Tennis

Boxer helping Murray through struggles

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Richard Evans

Richard Evans has covered tennis since the 1960s, reporting on more than 150 Grand Slams. He is author of 15 books, including the official history of the Davis Cup and the unofficial history of the modern game in "Open Tennis." Follow him on Twitter.

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MONACO

Sports stars are frequently drawn to their peers in other sports, and the British tennis player Andy Murray has been expanding on his burgeoning friendship with world heavyweight champion David Haye as he works his way through the field at the Monte Carlo Masters tournament.

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Murray, who has always been a huge boxing fan, first met Haye when he was playing an ATP event in Los Angeles last summer. Then, last month, he took the opportunity to visit Haye at the Englishman's training headquarters in Miami.

"It was there that we had a real chat about how we deal with stressful situations in our sports," said Murray. "I was particularly interested in how he dealt with big fights and the mental attitude he took into the ring. I suppose sports psychologists can help you with this, too, but they have not been there and done it and I prefer to listen to someone who has."

Murray, who recently divested himself of his Spanish coach, Alex Corretja, was in need of advice because, following his fine run to the final of the Australian Open final in January, he proceeded to lose four matches in row, two of them against Americans ranked outside the top 100. Players ranked No. 4 in the world are not supposed to do that, and Murray admitted that he was suffering from one of the worst periods of his career by the time he caught up with Haye.

"Everyone goes through these patches and David was able to talk me through the mental attitude you need to get through them," Murray said. "The two sports have similarities. It's one on one and although we don't suffer from the physical contact that boxers do, we do go through physical punishment when a match has been going on for hours and you are being made to run and run. It hurts and you need to be mentally strong to keep yourself going. There is pain involved, believe me."

Murray has a reputation of being stubborn and not accepting advice easily although he suffers, like so many in the public spotlight, from a grossly exaggerated depiction of what he is really like. His keen sense of humor got the better of him on April Fool's Day when he tweeted about hiring a new coach, which was not what he was about to do, and suggesting it might be his good buddy Ross Hutchins, a British doubles player.

"I think I need another 'yes' man," he tweeted, tongue firmly in cheek.

The giant Haye is obviously nobody's 'yes' man, and anyway the manner in which Murray's eyes light up when he tells you how much he enjoyed meeting him, reveals the respect he has for a champion in what he describes as the toughest sport in the world.

As a result of the meeting in Miami, the pair have become friends and they have been exchanging text messages prior to Murray's matches in Monte Carlo where, by Thursday evening, he had reached the quarterfinals.

"It has helped," he admitted. "I have been trying to maintain a positive attitude through all this and luckily I have been playing really well in practice matches, beating everyone, actually, including Rafa Nadal. I know practice is not the real thing but you cling to everything positive in these situations and David has been emphasizing that."

Murray knew the rot had to stop somewhere, and although European clay is not supposed to be his best surface, he convinced himself that this was where he would start winning again.

"I needed to believe it would be here," he said. "I needed to turn it around sooner than later."

The power of positive thinking packs a pretty good punch, especially when it arrives from an authentic source.

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