Andy Murray: Back home to feast on bickering

IN RETROSPECT, the pink shorts might not have been such a good idea but other than that, the past few weeks have been almost perfect for Andy Murray. Scotland's finest has been hard at work at the University of Miami and if he has not been lifting it, racing it or jumping it, he has been eating it as part of his winter training programme.

In the warm sunshine of south Florida, Murray has spent the past three weeks working himself into a grease spot as part of his preparations for the coming season. His aim was to gain eight or nine pounds of muscle and to push himself harder than he has ever done before. And by gulping down around 6,000 calories a day – many of them in the form of sushi – to fuel the hours of slog on the running track and in the gym, he has achieved his goal.

He has run faster than ever before, he has lifted bigger weights – and more often – and he has even raised money for charity while he has been at it.

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As boys do, Murray and his team set each other challenges to counteract the tedium of training and a few months ago the world No.4 threw down the gauntlet to Matt Little, one of his fitness trainers. If Little could set a new personal best over 400m then Murray would wear a pink training kit and if Murray won a Masters Series title, then Little would do likewise. With both targets met over the course of the season, Little and Murray duly donned their pink garb and headed to the practice courts, although Murray's pink velour micro-shorts raised more than a few eyebrows around the university training grounds that day. The outfits were then signed by both men and will be auctioned to raise money for breast cancer research, a charity supported by Murray's mother, Judy.

But now Murray is coming home and he cannot wait for his Christmas break. Tomorrow he lands in London and after a day spent visiting his girlfriend's family, he will head for Dunblane to spend the festive season with his own family.

While most people who travel for a living miss sleeping in their own bed when they are away, or have secret longings for a decent cup of tea and an evening in watching Coronation Street, Murray misses the general hubbub of family life, rows and all.

"I guess I miss just being around family," Murray said. "I spend a lot of time with my brother, my mum, my dad sometimes, but I don't see my grandparents or my auntie and uncle as much as I used to. But even after a few days of being around them, we always start the bickering, the arguing and stuff, so that's probably the best bit about going back."

But if Little and fellow fitness trainer Jez Green had planned every mouthful to be consumed by Murray while he was in Miami, their diet will be forgotten in the coming days. It is tradition in the family that Murray's grandmother, Shirley Erskine, cooks the lunch – "she's the best," her grandson said with a slightly wistful look – but there is little danger of Scotland's premier sportsman piling on the pounds over Christmas.

"We always have a go at my gran for her portions," Murray said, "because she always gives like no food at all, never cooks enough. Those little chipolata things, those mini-sausages, each person gets like two of them and it's never, never enough."

As for any exotic variations on the turkey and sprouts menu, there will no chance of that. Mrs Erskine may be a marvellous, if minimalist, cook but her meal plans are steeped in tradition.

"We went on my birthday to a sushi place and Gran refused to touch it," Murray said. "Refuses to go near anything raw. And my grandpa went into an Italian restaurant with my brother a year or so ago – and he never goes out, he just has my gran's cooking or eats at the golf club next to their house. He asked my brother what spaghetti bolognese was – and he was about 70 years old. So that gives you an idea about my gran and grandpa there."

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It is a year since Murray was last in Scotland, 12 months in which much has changed for the nation's best player. Last Christmas he was hoping to become one of the world's best players – this year he is established as one of the main threats to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the top of the rankings and at the major tournaments. But if Murray is living the professional high life, nothing beats coming home to where he first picked up a tennis racket. And for all his news of beating the biggest names in the sport, it pales besides the local gossip in Dunblane.

"Each time I go back there's always something that's changed," he said. "You know, the garage, the petrol station, is gone and it's like the huge, huge news. That's the stuff that my gran and grandpa talk about and they're always like: 'do you remember Mary from down here? She's moved over here...' Everyone knows everyone. It's just completely different to any of the other places I go to.

"There's not one thing in particular I miss about Scotland but the people have always been unbelievably nice to me and supportive and have always said 'we're very proud of everything you've done'. They're very, very friendly. I love Scotland; there's not a whole lot to do where I used to live but I do really like going back for a few days."

His stay will be all too short as Murray will be off to the Middle East before New Year. He will play in an exhibition event with Federer and Nadal in Abu Dhabi before moving on to Qatar to defend his Doha title. From there he will make his way down to Melbourne for the start of the Australian Open on January 19.

It leaves little time to enjoy his grandmother's cooking (note to Mrs Erskine: best buy in some extra chipolatas this year) before he will have to pack his bags again. Still, at least the pink shorts will not be going with him to Australia and, bolstered by his newly acquired muscle and his weeks of graft in Miami, he may have more than a runner-up spot in a grand slam to celebrate when he returns to Dunblane next year.