When you see a headline that reads “Andy Murray is as fast as Usain Bolt,” you know something sounds a little fishy.
That’s part of the headline that ran in The Telegraph, which interviewed Murray’s long-time fitness trainer, Jez Green. Speaking on Murray’s increased fitness, which he attributed to yet another grueling offseason, Green said Murray’s “lazy speed” belies his Usain Bolt quickness.
“Andy has lazy speed — by which I mean that he doesn’t look as if he’s moving that fast, but it’s actually deceptive. He’s been clocked at moving at 10 metres per second over very short intervals, maybe even as short as a single step, which is as fast as Usain Bolt. I’m not saying that he is that fast over 100 metres but he has great acceleration when he is chasing down a drop shot.”
In other words, in a footrace the length of “a single step”, Andy Murray is as fast as Usain Bolt. Got it.
In all seriousness, it’s interesting to read that Murray has put on three pounds of muscle over the offseason. In an era when players are actually looking to reduce their weight in order to manage the wear and tear on their bodies, Murray is still focused on getting stronger. Green says while Novak Djokovic’s strength comes from his wiry frame and extraordinary flexibility, Murray has to rely on his anticipation and agility, the latter of which requires increased leg strength.
“Even more valuable than his flat speed is the ability to stop and turn so quickly. He’s putting three times his body weight through his legs in that moment, so they have to be seriously strong.
Of course, the concern is that adding muscle means adding weight, which in turn could lead to a slower Murray. Tennis has seen examples of players who hit the gym to bulk up only to lose a step in their speed and drop a few notches in form. Fernando Verdasco’s transformation has been particularly notable. The Spaniard was much leaner than he is now when he clinched the Davis Cup for Spain in 2008 and nearly upset Rafael Nadal in the 2009 Australian Open semifinals. On the WTA side we have Jelena Jankovic, who blamed increased muscle for her slump in 2009 when she quickly lost the No. 1 ranking she held for three months.
I don’t anticipate any of this will happen with Murray, who clearly has a smart team around him. But it’s something to look out for through the early part of the season.