As he prepares for what is likely to be another epic match against Novak Djokovic on Wednesday afternoon, Andy Murray has revealed an unexpected source of inspiration: an Olympic volunteer who ran 30 marathons in 35 days, despite suffering from the threat of epileptic seizures at any moment.
Last weekend the TV programme Surprise, Surprise organised for him to meet his biggest sporting hero. And once Arday had spent 40 minutes chatting to Murray, the admiration clearly flowed both ways.
“I met a guy a couple of days ago who I spent a bit of time with,” said Murray. “I was speaking to him about his marathons and he told me on the 20th day he fell – he had a fit, a seizure – and he got a hairline fracture in his leg and continued to do it. That was pretty cool speaking to someone like that.”
Arday admits that he might have given up if it had not been for the publicity he had received before he set off, especially in London’s Metronewspaper, which prompted a wave of pledges from members of the public.
“When I fell over,” he explained, “I didn’t want to have to pay back thousands of pounds.”
The hiring of Ivan Lendl at the start of this season was a sign that Murray was prepared to endure plenty more agony, both in the form of intense training sessions and match-day battles on the court. His ongoing rivalry with Djokovic this season is a good example. After six meetings, they have three wins apiece, with a total court time of 18 hours and 46 minutes.
There are some hard cases in tennis at the moment. Djokovic has rarely looked as crushed as he did after losing the Olympic semi-final to Murray two months ago. Yet the Serbian, too, has bounced back by reclaiming the top spot on the rankings ladder. Both men will be ready to spill blood if it brings them victory on Wednesday.