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Fatherhood breathes new life into Murray's career

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Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 10/7/16 Great Britain's Andy Murray celebrates winning the mens singles final against Canada's Milos Raonic with the trophy REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 10/7/16 Great Britain's Andy Murray celebrates winning the mens singles final against Canada's Milos Raonic with the trophy REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge

By Pritha Sarkar

LONDON (Reuters) - Rather than being distracted by the sleepless nights or the regular nappy changing duties that have fallen his way, the arrival of baby daughter Sophia in February has breathed new life into Andy Murray's career.

Whereas top players used to once put off having families till their careers were in decline or over so that they did not lose focus, on Sunday, Murray joined the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic by becoming the latest father to win a grand slam title when he beat Milos Raonic 6-4 7-6(3) 7-6(2) to capture a second Wimbledon title.

"Having a child has given me a little bit of extra motivation to work hard, train hard, and do all of the right things to give myself a chance to win these events," the 29-year-old Scot said after ending a three-year barren run at the slams.

"A lot of people have said, like, when Roger had kids, he started playing some of his best tennis. Novak, the same thing. But the reality is you still have to put the work in. You still have to have the drive and the dedication to train hard.

"I feel more motivated than ever just now."

Following the birth of his son Stefan in October 2014, Djokovic turned into an indestructible force, winning five of the next seven grand slam events.

That winning mentality also seems to have rubbed off on Murray as he has now contested the final of his last five tournaments, winning in Rome and Queen's Club before landing the one that really counted at the All England Club.

"The last three months have been some of the best I've played in terms of consistency," said Murray, who celebrated Sunday's triumph by hugging the pineapple-topped Challenge Cup while taking a dip in an ice bath in the players' locker room. 

"I made the finals of the last five tournaments, here, Queen's, French (Open), Madrid and Rome. I don't think I'd done that before in my career. 

"I had my best claycourt season. I was fairly close there," added Murray, whose hopes of becoming the first British man to win the Roland Garros title since Fred Perry in 1935 were thwarted by Djokovic.

"The last few months have been some of the best in my career, for sure."

NO FEAR OF FAILURE

The reason he is able to put himself into these situations is because he no longer fears failure.

Whereas in 2010 and 2011 his form and results went into freefall after he lost the Australian Open finals to Roger Federer and Djokovic respectively, he now knows how to compartmentalise these disappointments so that he is able to switch focus to the next target more quickly.

"I don't mind failing. Failing's okay, providing that you've given your best and put everything into it," said Murray, who was also beaten by Djokovic in January's Australian Open final.

"Failing's not terrible. I put myself in a position all of the time in these events to win them. I've lost a lot of close ones against great players most of the time.

"I'm not afraid of failing. I'm learning from all of my losses."

Playing in an era when Djokovic, Federer and Rafael Nadal have captured 43 grand slam titles between them, three-times major winner Murray knows that he has his work cut out if he wants to add to his haul.

Before Sunday, every one of Murray's previous 10 slam finals had been against Federer or Djokovic.

While this fortnight's Wimbledon offered him a rare reprieve as Nadal was out injured, Djokovic was knocked out in the third round and Federer fell by the wayside in the semis, Murray knows that such occurrences are not likely to occur too often.

"If I want to add to three slams, I'm going to have to find ways to win against them," said Murray.

"It's very rare that you get through a slam without playing Novak, Roger or Rafa. But I still feel like my best tennis is ahead of me, that I have an opportunity to win more."

(See factbox)

(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Rex Gowar)


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