Monday, 06 August 2012 21:28

Andy Murray | Gold Medalist Likens Tennis to Boxing, Himself to "Money"

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British tennis sensation Andy Murray exacted a bit of revenge from his Wimbledon loss last month to Roger Federer to defeat his foe this past weekend, winning an Olympic Gold Medal in the process and denying Federer a Career Golden Slam.

Runner-up in four singles Grand Slam finals, the tennis superstar became the seventh player in the Open Era to reach the semi-finals of all four Grand Slam tournaments in one year.

Murray, arguably the greatest male British tennis player of all time, is also the only British player to reach the Wimbledon men's singles final in the Open Era, as well as the first British player in a hundred years to win the Olympics.

But Andy Murray's intrinsic knowledge of sports extends beyond tennis.

What asked to compare the top four tennis players to top boxers, Murray responded in his BBC column:

"I'd say Roger Federer would be like Sugar Ray Leonard, renowned for his style. Rafael Nadal would be like Manny Pacquiao; ferocious, powerful and relentless. Novak Djokovic would be like Roberto Duran; as tough and versatile as they come. I'll pick Floyd Mayweather for myself; he's my favourite boxer to watch."

Insightful pugilistic comparisons for a tennis player?


But Britain's top tennis player wasn't kidding. Earlier this summer he compared his preparation to that of a sparring partner in boxing and announced former cruiserweight world champion Johnny Nelson had joined his camp.

Murray, a fan of top pound-for-pound boxer Floyd "Money" Mayweather, insists that both boxers and tennis players must closley study their opponent before facing them, telling BBC, "I like talking to other athletes, especially individual athletes, because the mindset is similar to that of a tennis player. I know quite a few boxers and I've spoken to them at length."

"It's a bit different because they prepare for three months to fight one opponent, watching videos of the guy and training specifically for that bout.

"But there are certain things you can take from that sport. Above all else, they (boxers) leave no stone unturned in their preparation. You can't necessarily do it to the same extent in tennis, but I try."

Ironically, boxing and tennis have more similarities than some might think.

Footwork and Balance: Both sports require these traits. A boxer cannot effectively punch without balance nor elude shots and appropriately position himself to fire back without without decent footwork. The same is true for tennis. Great players have great feet and are able to get from Point A to B very quickly.

Stamina/Conditioning: Both sports can be won or lost on conditioning or lack thereof. Anyone who has sparred a full three minute round with a well-conditioned opponent will tell you it was the longest three minutes of their life. One must also have superb conditioning for long points and long matches in tennis.

Moving on the balls of the feet: Being light on your feet and being able to 'spring-up' quickly and effectively can be an asset in both sports and is especially useful whether returning serves or running down balls, or popping in and out to land shots while avoiding an opponent's.

Timing/Anticipation: Ever wondered how a slower fighter can often beat his much faster opponent to the punch, a la Juan Manuel Marquez vs Manny Pacquiao? Unlike track and many other sports where there's often no answer for speed, quickness can be neutralized by superior timing in boxing and tennis.  Moreover, some say mastering the speed bag can even improve a tennis player's volley and reaction time at the net.

Also, a good tennis player, like a good boxer, is skilled at reading an opponent's body language and anticipating what he/she will do next. Boxers are often instructed to watch their opponent's feet as this kind of anticipation is vital in both sports. 

Counter-puncher/Brawler: A brawler in boxing is a big puncher, not unlike a powerful server in tennis. A tennis player who bases his/her game-plan solely on "reacting" to what an opponent does (as opposed to dictating the pace) is much like a counter puncher in boxing.

Boxers and tennis players can strategically benefit from adopting a style of play based on what's most natural for them and better suited to their strengths. And, if need be, they can modify an adopted style to better match-up with or gain a strategic advantage over an opponent.

Next time you're watching a tennis match or highlights, keep in the mind the level of dexterity it requires. The sport is much like boxing, just a lot less violent. 

Lee Cleveland

Lee is Managing Editor of, a student of the Sweet Science and longtime boxing fan.