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Friday, March 12, 2010
Updated: March 13, 2:14 PM ET
It's not easy being Andy Murray


When it comes to talent, Andy Murray is right up there. The Scot possesses great hands, returns fiercely and, well, can do just about anything with the ball.

The big one, a Grand Slam title, is all that's missing.

Murray came close to ending his -- and Great Britain's -- drought at this year's Australian Open, losing a second major final to Roger Federer. More than a few suggest the 22-year-old remains too passive.

Since the straight-sets defeat, the world No. 4 got into trouble for bailing from a tournament in Marseille, France, and saying he experimented with his game in a second-round loss to Janko Tipsarevic in Dubai.

In a phone interview with ESPN.com, a candid, as always, Murray discusses the Australian Open, his much-talked about style, dealing with a massive press corps, the Dubai brouhaha and his red Ferrari.

ESPN.com: How do you feel mentally after such an eventful start to the season?

Andy Murray: I feel good. Obviously the last two months were pretty tough. Australia was pretty demanding, and I trained really hard in December. I played a lot of matches at the Hopman Cup.

Australia went as well as it could have -- almost as well as it could have. My body was pretty beat up after that. Physically I really needed to take some time off. The last couple of weeks when I started to play again were a little stressful with things happening off the court. The last 10 days have been nice and calm. It's been nice.

ESPN.com: You've had more time to reflect on the Australian Open. Was it a case of happy to get the final or disappointed not to win it?

Murray: Disappointed not to win. I was really upset. You have to look at the tournament as a whole. It's the best I've played at a Slam so I can't be unhappy with that, but disappointed at not winning. I've loved winning since I was a kid and haven't been a very good loser. I was really, really disappointed but was proud of the effort I put in. I worked really hard to get ready for it, and I was a lot closer this time than the last time I got to the final of a Slam.

ESPN.com: You played a great, aggressive match against Rafael Nadal in Melbourne, but many continue to say that you're not consistently aggressive enough. How much do you agree with that?

Murray: Every single player plays differently. No player plays the same. There are obviously things I can improve on, and coming forward and taking chances is definitely one of them. I think I showed in Australia I'm definitely capable of it, but yeah, it's something I need to work on. But I think it's very easy to say, "Just play more aggressive." What does that actually mean? Is that just going for more winners, serving and volleying more, coming to the net more? It goes a lot deeper. If you want a player to serve and volley more, you need to teach them to do that more, how to move at the net. You really need to pick the right opportunities to come forward in today's game because the guys that played in the past, well, the game is totally different.

It's so hard now to play well going forward, because guys are so quick, they put so much spin on the ball and therefore put angles on the ball you can't really cover at the net. I know, because I play counterpunching tennis. I'm not saying I know how to pass people, but I'm happy when people come into the net because it's very difficult to control the balls because guys are putting so much spin on it and hitting it so hard.

Yeah, I want to play more aggressive, but I want to stay within my game style, which is, to play solid, consistent tennis and change the pace of the ball. Taking the right opportunities to go for the right shots, I did that well in Australia, against Rafa and [Marin] Cilic [in the semifinals]. Against Roger I tried to take more chances when I had set points in the third. I did take chances and did come to the net, but I didn't really execute.

ESPN.com: So we're talking about subtle changes?

Murray: Yeah. I'm not all of a sudden going to become a serve-and-volleyer or come to the net every point because the game I've played up to now has been successful. But I need to get better, and one of the things I can do is take more chances, hit the ball a bit harder and come to the net more, and that's something I've been working on. I'm not happy with being No. 4 in the world and getting to No. 2 last year and the final of a Slam. I want to win one. If people didn't see any changes in my game and didn't think I was taking more chances than in the past, I don't really agree.

ESPN.com: Paul Annacone [who works for Britain's LTA and used to coach Pete Sampras] has called you an "extreme perfectionist." You've also been described as stubborn. Is that a good thing?

Murray: I think you have to be. I want to learn and I've made decisions the last couple of years that have changed a lot in terms of the way I work with coaches, my fitness training, and how hard I've worked physically. I'm definitely open to change, but at the same time I am quite stubborn. You need to be assertive and know what you want to do. If you aren't, when you get to important situations in matches you crack because you're thinking about other things, you're doing what other people are telling you to do. You need to be careful not to get away from what makes you feel more comfortable.

I want to work on things and definitely in practice I'm serving and volleying a lot more and working on my net game and people don't see that. It's tough to take it seriously, people saying you need to take more chances and come to the net more. It's like, "Well, you haven't seen me practice, you don't know what I'm working on." I'm saying I work hours on my net game. I'm getting there.

ESPN.com: How much of a work in progress is the serve? The percentage isn't that high.

Murray: I want to improve my second serve and improve my first-serve percentage because it makes life a lot easier if you do, but again, I'm not perfect. I'm always gonna have slight weaknesses that aren't perfect, but I'll try my best to get them there. In terms of like the rest of my game, my return game is maybe the best in the world. I'm still trying to get better on that. I make very few mistakes.

ESPN.com: Reflecting on Dubai, any thoughts of becoming more guarded in the future?

Murray: It's a difficult one. The match I lost was a 2-hour, 45-minute, three-set match. It was a fun one to watch. I broke a racket at the end, so I was obviously trying my best and wanted to win. I didn't mean to offend or upset anyone with what I did, but it's like, there's so little time to practice nowadays that you have to sometimes try things in matches like we were just talking about. People are telling me every single day I need to serve and volley more and be more aggressive, and I do it in a match and then point it out in a press conference afterward, and then I'm the one getting slammed for supposedly not taking the tournament seriously. Maybe I have to not say as much in the future because you don't want to offend anybody.

ESPN.com: In terms of press, you're the most-followed player around, more than even Roger. How much, if any, does being under the microscope weigh you down?

Murray: It used to when I was younger. When I was younger I didn't enjoy it all. Maybe I wasn't sort of managed correctly. It was almost like everyone was saying to me, "The press is so bad, don't give them any time." And then I became a little bitter toward them. That's not the way forward. You have to be polite, respectful, and it's something that comes with playing at the highest level in sport. And honestly it doesn't affect how I play at all. In my opinion, the press are a lot fairer to me and respect me more than they did when I was younger, and therefore I feel a lot more comfortable with them. Before, I was defensive and not really that open and didn't like it if someone asked me a negative question. Now I'm more mature.

ESPN.com: Time for a few off-court questions. We know you're a big boxing fan. Which player would you not like to get into the ring with?

Murray: Nenad Zimonjic. He's a very, very big boy, and I've seen him get angry a couple of times. Yeah [laughing], he's just a big boy and you don't want to get on the wrong side of him. He's kind of like a big friendly giant normally when you see him, he's a really nice relaxed guy, but when he's angry. … I've seen him lifting weights in the gym and he's very, very strong.

ESPN.com: How many times have you broken the speed limit with your Ferrari?

Murray: The road outside my house I take in to work has five speed cameras in the space of four miles, so I haven't broken the speed limit very much.

ESPN.com: You've been single a few months now. Do more female fans approach you?

Murray: Not really, because I don't really go out and party. I chill and prefer to spend time with my friends. It's a bit boring.

I just try to take my tennis seriously.