x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Murray’s diet switch hard to stomach

Wasn't the fact that a sportsperson must healthy obvious to a tennis star such as Andy Murray, who is accompanied by a coach, strength coach, conditioning coach, physiotherapist and a mother?

Andy Murray confessed about feeling terrible before switching to a healthier diet. That prompted our columnist to wonder how it took so long for one of the world’s top tennis players to realise that.
Andy Murray confessed about feeling terrible before switching to a healthier diet. That prompted our columnist to wonder how it took so long for one of the world’s top tennis players to realise that.

Tennis fans have long suspected that Andy Murray is run like a well-oiled machine.

Sadly, we only realised this week that the oil was chip fat.

Murray - a professional athlete for six years - appears to have just realised that his diet may have an outcome on his performance.

At the US Open this week, he explained how he has swapped his stodgy evening meals for fish and vegetables, while apples and bananas have replaced chocolate bars as daytime snacks.

Amazingly, this has made him feel better.

"It is something I wish I had been doing longer, now I know how I feel," he said. "I wake up at 7am now and feel great. Before I would wake up at 9.30 and feel terrible."

Andy, hush! Keep this discovery to yourself and you could really steal a march on the other top players. Roger Federer may rediscover his lost form if he stops gorging himself on those cheese fondues and Toblerone every night.

Oh no, too late, the cat is out of the bag. In fact, the cat emerged from the bag several decades ago and has since died, but not before raising a large and healthy family of feline ambassadors to spread the word: fresh salad good, deep-fried Mars bars bad.

The healthy eating message is so well established that it has even permeated the dense skull of football. Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, is regularly hailed as some kind of radical, freethinking genius because he stopped his players eating pie and mash two hours before kick off. And that was in 1996.

Perhaps Murray's ignorance would be understandable if he was raised in some bleak Soviet outpost, with an entourage comprising just one, slightly psychotic, father and a dumpling-mad grandmother.

But, despite Scotland's passing similarity to a bleak Soviet outpost, Murray is not one of those. He has Team Murray, a box-bursting cornucopia of tracksuited scientists: coach, strength coach, conditioning coach, physiotherapist, not to mention his fearsome mother.

How did a typical day pan out? "OK, Andy, we'll start by analysing your backhand grip with the guys from Adidas, then we'll work on your stride length, which is still a few millimetres out, followed by some video assessment back in the lab. But first, breakfast. McDonald's or a fry-up?"

I exaggerate, of course, but my incredulity is genuine.

Still, I do have one sneaking concern that Murray's conversion to healthy eating may have arrived at precisely the wrong moment.

The US Open has been plagued by a mystery stomach bug which is causing the players to drop like flies. There were 15 withdrawals, mainly stomach-related, by the end of day four, and poor Conor Niland, the Irishman, nearly vomited on court during his first round match against Novak Djokovic. If the trend continues, Flushing Meadows will be renamed Flushing Toilets and the Arthur Ashe Court will be the Ashen-faced Court.

Say what you like about a traditional Scottish diet of incinerated meat and refined sugar, but it is far less likely to give you a dicky tummy than fresh fruit and vegetables.

If Murray was felled by a lettuce leaf when a nicely fried haggis would have kept him upright for long enough to win a grand slam, it would be very hard to stomach.

Harder, even, than a deep fried Mars bar to a non-Scot.

Success – the girl England’s footballers are never going to win over

Gary Neville, the former Manchester United player, explained this week why his international career – he was capped for England 85 times – felt like “a massive waste of time”.

“You can liken it to a bloke who takes a woman out 85 times and she doesn’t end up being his girlfriend,” he said. “That’s pretty much a waste of time.”

In other words, his service with United yielded trophies. His service with England did not.

But surely this gloomy view depends on how you view the dating process: as a means to an end, or an end in itself.

Some would say the company of a beautiful woman over a pleasant dinner is, like international football, a reward in itself. Just go out there and enjoy yourself. Others, like Neville, are not happy unless they get their hands on the prize. To return with nothing to show for your efforts is a humiliating waste of time and money.

Well, here’s a news flash for romantically-inclined Englishmen: we are never going to get the girl.

Yes, she had a fling with us back in 1966, but she was probably just being polite because she was on our home turf. Besides, we were nicer back then. Easier to like.

Since then we have become arrogant and entitled, as she discovered when she invited us back for coffee in 1990 and 1996 – then swiftly called us a cab and thanked us for a pleasant evening. She has barely returned our telephone calls since.

Football has moved on. She has grown up, and developed more sophisticated tastes than we are able to satisfy, no matter how much we try to impress her with expensive overseas managers. She would really prefer it if we were just good friends.

On the plus side, her ugly mates, Rugby and Cricket, seem to really fancy us right now.

sports@thenational.ae