Can Andy Murray’s next coach tell him some home truths, please? That when he plays bold, attacking, aggressive, adventurous, assertive, forceful, risk taking, net-hugging tennis HE WINS. It is such a waste seeing the second best volleyer in tennis after Roger Federer stubbornly clinging to the baseline like a life raft and getting bogged down in endless, cautious pitter patter rallies against players with metronomic precision. It is equally frustrating seeing a player with one of the best first serves in the game deliver feeble, safety first second serves a junior girl could swot away. At least on that count the penny finally seems to have dropped, with Murray now daring to add more pace so that whilst still not much of a weapon, it is no longer as much of a liability.
However, the defensive cat and mousing Andy is so fond of is a bad habit that’s been hard to break. Under the great Ivan Lendl’s tutelage Andy was briefly diverted from his uber-conservative way of playing towards a more offensive attacking game. It is no coincidence that Andy won his only 2 Grand Slams, including the longed for Wimbledon title, during that forceful period. Since then, sadly, he has regressed to his default reactionary approach, and unsurprisingly, not won a Grand Slam again.
On Sunday though, at the final of the Italian Open Masters, Andy Murray defeated his nemesis Novak Djokovic in straight sets 6-3, 6-3, by playing precisely the kind of aggressive, attacking tennis behind hard, consistent serving that won him those two Grand Slams. Albeit that Novak Djokovic had played an epic, draining 3 hour match against the speedy Kei Nishikori the night before that hadn’t finished until 11.30pm, and was inevitably tired and irritable. Perhaps it had been a cunning ploy by the Italian Open organisers to inject some uncertainty into the outcome of the final. Maybe they wanted to give Andy a chance to cause an upset on his birthday by handicapping Novak and putting him on late against a potentially difficult opponent, whilst giving Andy the 2pm afternoon slot against lucky loser Lucas Pouille. If so, it certainly worked, since Andy had little trouble dispatching the Frenchman in under an hour, leaving him the remainder of the day to rest, relax and recuperate.
Difficult scheduling hasn’t stopped the indefatigable Novak Djokovic in the past, but what made the difference in this match was Andy’s aggressive mentality. He took it to Novak, and he won out.
If his new coach can convince Andy to keep taking it to his opponents and to abandon the safety net of the baseline in favour of the actual net of the tennis court, there is still time for Andy to win another Grand Slam or two. But he has to be brave and dare to take a chance – on himself.