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Will 2012 be a Breakout Year for Murray?
David W. Smith, Senior Editor TennisOne
Having lost the last two Aussie finals in addition to his 2007 loss at the U.S. Open Final against Roger Federer, Andy Murray has much still to show for his number four world-ranking. Considered one of the better athletes among the elite ATP field, Murray has yet to break through with a “W” on any of the Big Stages.
It might appear on paper and in subjective stats that Murray may not have the mental fortitude to win a major …at least when he is facing one of the premier stars named either Djokovic or Federer. (Murray lost to Djokovic in last year’s Australian Open, Federer the year before, and back in 2007, he lost to Federer in the final of that year’s U.S. Open.) And therein may lie the problem — in order to win a major, Murray has the unfortunate task of getting by three of the greatest players in the open era.
Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer have one every slam but one since Gaston Gaudio won the 2005 French Open.
Like another “Andy,” (Roddick), Murray seems to always be just a point here or a shot there away from big wins. Murray, on the other hand, is in my opinion a far better athlete, a much more complete player, and perhaps mentally more stable and balanced than Roddick. But then again, there are those three names to get by.
Perhaps, like Djokovic, he just needs that one big win and the floodgates will open? Or, maybe he just needs to believe more? Or maybe he was just born in the wrong era? Maybe?
Starting the Year Off Right
Murray has started 2012 with a comfortable win in the finals of the Brisbane over third seed, Alexandr Dolgopolov. Of course, the Brisbane International, a tune-up tournament for the Australian Open, didn’t have Djokovic, Federer, or Nadal in the 32-player draw.
But I’ve always liked Murray. While I believe his on-court demeanor is still a major issue, (brooding, negative, and often unsatisfied), his strokes are money. Like Djokovic, Murray has what it takes in the swing department. Whereas Federer has arguably a weakness on the backhand wing (and I do mean arguably…his backhand has been—and still is—a weapon, don’t get me wrong here!), and Nadal has real problems with maintaining depth with his massive topspin ground game, Murray can tag a ball off either wing with pace, spin, and depth, and do it from nearly any position on the court. Murray has wheels and touch, a complete net game, and a dominating serve.
Ivan Lendl won his first Major at the age of 24, he went on to claim 8. Can he help Murray do the same?
It will be interesting to examine the effect Murray’s new coach, former world number one, Ivan Lendl has on the Scotsman. Like Murray, Lendl lost a number of Grand Slam finals early on before establishing himself as the player to beat, eventually winning eight Grand Slam events.
Ironically, Lendl won his first Major at the age of 24, the same age that Murray is now. Lendl, a true innovator in the men’s game in terms of pushing physical conditioning to new levels, is already showing signs of success with Murray’s win in Brisbane and in the early rounds of the Australian Open. But then again, he's still along way from hoisting that trophy.
There is no guarantee that a successful player such as Lendl can transition into a successful coach. There have been many examples of top-level players who simply were not destined in any way to move into the role of coaching! However, it is obviously an important attribute to have a coach who has indeed “been there” as a player, as a world-ranked competitor, and especially as a player who has experienced the many issues that it takes to become number one in the world.
Ivan Lendl certainly has those qualifications. However, the ability of a coach to meld with a player, to establish a condition of belief, confidence, and mutual respect, while at the same time pushing that player upward is a complicated task and can only be evaluated over time and with results.
The Australian Open is a sprint, an early test for players to establish themselves. However, while doing well in the first Major is helpful in terms of building upon the preparation each player put in during the off-season, it by no means guarantees a successful year. There are too many variables for any player to assume that this one event will define the year…good or bad.
Click photo: Murray has all the stokes to win a major, including one of the sweetest backhands on the tour.
Through to the quarters, Andy Murray has not been pushed yet, and certainly has not faced a real threat. Next he faces rising Japanese star, Kei Nishikori, who upset Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in five grueling sets. This could be a real test. And if he gets by Nishikori, it only get harder. He would potentially face the hottest player on tour, Novak Djokovic, a formidable test for the Scotsman or anyone else for sure.
And let's not forget, Andy Murray, like Tim Henman before him, has that seemingly added weight of carrying the pride and hopes of an entire nation on his shoulders. Obviously, a win at the Aussie Open will make that weight seem a bit lighter, especially going into the third Major, Wimbledon.
So can Murray break through with a win at one of the slams? Will this be the year he sheds the title of "best player never to have won a major?" There is no doubt he has the physical tools to get there and brush that heavy weight off his broad shoulders. Or, will he continue to be the player who ‘could of, should of, would of,’ but for the likes of Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal?
Only time will tell!
As always, we would love to hear from you! Questions, comments, personal experiences all create helpful dialogue for everyone! Please click here to send us your email.
Former touring pro, Jeff Salzenstein, has designed a five minute, high intensity workout for tennis that you can do on the court after a match or in your home. Tennis is a game of bursts with points lasting no more than 30 seconds so long slow cardio workouts are not going to get there. So forget those slow jogs around the park and start concentrating on high intensity training intervals. With Jeff's system, you'll spend less time in the gym and more time doing what you want to do, playing tennis.
It's Tough to Hit the Ball with Your Hands Around Your Throat
Be it a social doubles game, a league match or a pro final, whenever the score is being kept, the opportunity to “choke” is always there and even the best players in the world can choke under pressure when the stakes are great enough. Fear is the culprit, and and it can stem from many things: we're afraid to lose. We're afraid of looking bad in front of our friends. We're afraid of letting our parents down. The list is endless but the fact is that fear has kept many a player from reaching their potential. Greg Moran
Club players are especially in need of learning the subtle tactics and strategies that give them the best chance for success.One simple example is using what I call using advanced overhead strategy. Specifically, when one partner is back hitting the overhead, the other partner should release and move toward the net so they can put away an easy returns that might come back. But that is only part of the strategy. Jorge Capestany and Luke Jensen explain.
ProStrokes 2.0 — Petra Kvitova, Serve & Net Game
2011 was a breakout year for Petra Kvitova, she reached a career high of #2 in the world, chalking up wins at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships as well as the 2011 WTA Tour Championships and was named player of the year on the WTA tour. Kvitova is best known for her powerful left-handed serve. While not considered one of the quickest players, Kvitova crowds the baseline, ala Monica Seles, and hits with considerable pace and spin with her big forehand and two-handed backhand. Barring injuries, she should remain a force on the women's tour and she has enough game to challenge for the number one spot in 2012. New this issue, Kvitova's Serve and Net Game.
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