TENNIS ace Andy Murray was helped to his latest victory by cupping treatment – the alternative therapy made famous by Hollywood A-lister Gwyneth Paltrow.
The 21-year-old Scot revealed yesterday that he used the ancient form of acupuncture, which involves heated glass jars being placed on the skin, in the run up to successfully defending his Qatar Open title on Saturday.
But the unusual treatment, which leaves circular marks on the back, didn’t go down so well with girlfriend Kim Sears.
Murray claimed she described it as making him “look like a reptile”.
The British No1 also said he believes he is still a year away from peak form, despite an impressive start to his season which has seen him installed as favourite for the forthcoming Australian Open. He said: “There are still things in my game I can improve and that’s what is exciting.
“I just need to keep working on them when I get my practice weeks throughout the year.
“When I go on tour I need to make sure I keep fighting and even when I am not playing my best, try to find a way to win.”
The Dunblane-born player suffered a back injury during the semi-final in Doha which had threatened his participation in the final. He had to receive treatment, including cupping, for the problem, which he attributed to stiffness after a busy schedule in recent days.
But it didn’t prevent him from beating American Andy Roddick to retain his Qatar Open title.
Cupping, which originated in China, is said to increase blood circulation and detoxification and help stress and back pain.
The therapy shot to prominence in 2004 after Gwyneth Paltrow appeared at a New York film premiere in a low-cut top that revealed the circular bruises on her back.
It’s not the first time Murray has turned to celebrity-inspired treatments.
Last year he credited a breakthrough victory over Swiss ace Roger Federer to Hot Yoga, a bizarre form of exercise used by his hero John McEnroe, Madonna, Goldie Hawn and Julia Roberts.
Also known as Bikram Yoga, it involves completing exercises and breathing techniques in a room heated to 42ºC.
It is designed to increase flexibility and strength and Murray said it had given him the mental strength to win the match at the Dubai International last March.
Following his victory at Qatar, Murray is now 2/1 favourite to win the 2009 BBC Sports Personality of the Year title. Ladbrokes say he is also 5/2 joint favourite to win the upcoming Australian Open and 4/1 to emerge victorious at Wimbledon.