World number one Andy Murray says he may only have “a couple of years” left at the top of tennis but insists he will “make the most of every tournament”.
Now 30 years old, Murray will be aiming to win Wimbledon for the third time and equal Fred Perry’s record when the tournament starts next month.
In a wide-ranging interview with BBC Sport, the Briton discussed being the world’s top player, his love of Wimbledon, “making mistakes” and life after retirement.
The Scot, who was knighted in the New Year Honours, turned 30 in May and all of the top five players on the men’s tour are in their 30s. Spaniard Rafael Nadal is 31, Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland is 32, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic is 30 and Swiss Roger Federer 35.
But Murray said that despite players continuing to compete at the highest level into their 30s he accepts that he may not have long left at the top.
“My coach, Ivan Lendl, was still competitive at the top until he was about 32 but, generally, over the past 20 to 30 years, normally by early 30s is when players have struggled to stay at the top.
“I know some of the players have been doing really well until their mid-30s recently, but that might not be the case with me. Maybe the next couple of years are the last few where I have a chance to compete for the majors and the biggest tournaments.
“Most of the players are travelling with physios now, spending a lot more time working in the gym to protect their bodies from the kind of pounding you give it on the court as well. I think some of that explains it.
“I don’t know how long I’m going to be playing for any more. I want to make the most of every tournament I compete in. If I’m going to be away from my family, I’m not going to do that and not do my best, be totally professional and take every tournament as seriously as I can.
“I’ll continue to play and so long as my body is fine. I would like to hope that I would continue to do that whilst I’m still enjoying it.
“I enjoy being away from the court. I have a family now – I have more interests away from the court than I did in my early 20s or mid 20s – so obviously it will be sad to stop. But I think I’ll be all right.”
Murray is aiming to equal Fred Perry’s three Wimbledon titles
Wimbledon, which Murray won in 2013 and 2016, begins on 3 July and the defending champion says expectations will be high that he can repeat his previous successes.
“For me, it is obviously always going to be the biggest tournament during the year,” said Murray, who begins his grass-court season at next week’s Aegon Championships at Queen’s.
“A lot of pressure comes with it as well. There’s a lot of expectation during this period, so it can be a bit stressful – but I’m able to get away from that as well because I’m at home, I’m sleeping in my own bed and I have all my family around me.
“I’m older and more experienced in dealing with it. The pressure and stress that goes with it maybe doesn’t affect me quite as much when I was younger.
On the possibility of equalling fellow Briton Perry’s Wimbledon record of three wins, he added: “It would be amazing, I never expected to win it once, never mind twice. It had been such a long time since any British man had won that.
“I’ll give it my best shot for sure. I’ll prepare as best I can and if I play well then I definitely have a chance of winning.”
Being world number one
Since becoming world number one in November last year he has struggled with injuries and for form. So has the pressure of being top of the rankings taken its toll?
“It hasn’t for me,” he said.
“I mean, I’ve been asked that question lots over the past few months. I didn’t play particularly well from February through to the French Open, but at the French [where he was knocked out in the semi-finals by Wawrinka] I felt I played quite well.
“It [the world ranking] isn’t something I think about when I’m on the court or when I’m preparing for matches.
“Obviously when you get asked about it, you spend a little bit of time thinking: ‘Maybe, could it be because of that?’ But I really don’t think it has been the reason why I struggled for a few months – but everyone will have their own opinion on that.
“It’s been a frustrating few months because I picked up a couple of injuries, including one to my elbow, and a couple of illnesses.
“I was still pretty nervous going into the French because I’d hardly won any matches for a while, but with each match that I got through, I started to build confidence, started to play a little bit better and was very close to reaching the final by the end.
“Form can turn around very quickly providing you’re mentally in the right place and you’re doing the right things and training. And I feel I’m in a good place now to go on a good run during the grass.”
After reaching the quarter-finals at the French Open, Murray paid tribute to the victims of the recent attacks in Manchester and London.
Wimbledon organisers are preparing for the biggest security operation in the Championships’ 140-year history, and Murray admits safety is now a concern.
“I do think about it – when you’re playing in front of huge crowds, or you’re in walking around the grounds and there’s huge, huge amounts of people.
“But we do also see the security that goes into sporting events now and it’s been fine throughout my career -but it is something that is a concern from time to time.”
Life after tennis
Murray is already starting to think about what to do when he steps away from the court and advising young players, possibly in a sports management capacity, is something he is considering.
“I wish I’d enjoyed my career more when I was younger. I enjoy it a lot more now than I did when I was 19, 20, 21,” added the three-time Grand Slam champion.
“I certainly wasn’t prepared for the attention that came with becoming a professional athlete or a top tennis player.
“I didn’t feel ready for that. I really struggled with the attention that came with that, and I think throughout my career I’ve made lots of mistakes – maybe some that could have been avoided.
“That’s something I would like to pass on to young British athletes, how to avoid [mistakes] because so many athletes go through the same thing.
“It’s about surrounding yourself with people who have been down that road before, people who can give you the best advice possible.”