It’s the week before the Australian Open. And Andy Murray is happy. As well as securing the Brisbane Invitational title, he has a new coach. Eight times Grand Slam winner Ivan Lendl is now in Murray’s corner.
Murray has brought Lendl in for one thing. To help him win match-defining points in Grand Slam semis and finals. And thus major titles.
Lendl is an interesting choice. He runs a junior tennis academy. Yet no portfolio of successful stars to show his coaching credentials to Murray. But he has know-how. Insight. And most importantly, very cool ‘robotic’ emotions.
Andy Murray has seemed to fail in the big matches, when his game is put under the severest examination. Not technically. But mentally. And emotionally.
Lendl is hired, to help Murray tap into the mental and emotional development comensurate of champions.
Murray has been close before. But something in his psychology seems to prevent him from being able to take the final steps. Of course he’s come against great players in Nadal, Federer and Djokovic. But Murray hasn’t seemed quite ready to become a Grand Slam winner.
It’s as if when the big points come along, he drifts out of his ‘bubble’ of calm and surety. Subtle self-doubts hold sway. The points seems to become bigger than his ability to play them, as if he attaches too much significance to them. Wanting it too much. Or expecting too much from himself.
It leads to poor decisions, which then causes Murray to come down hard on himself. A trait that perfectionists will recognise all too well.
Having Lendl to champion his cause will take a lot of pressure off Murray. Previously, he’s tried to do it all himself, Yes he’s had a supportive team. But they are not Grand Slam winners.
Now, with the presence of Lendl in his corner, Murray will both have someone to look up to, and absorb some of the champion essence that Lendl has cultivated. Instead of having to battle the forces of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic, Murray will feel that it is him and Lendl combining strengths.
Should the chemistry work, he should feel unbeatable. It’s dependent on Lendl being able to help Murray channel his strong emotions. Tennis requires some emotional energy. But not lots. Too often Murray has seemed to be directing his emotional energy inward, towards himself. A strategy that doesn’t solve tennis problems.
If Lendl can explain to Murray why choking occurs on the big points, and show the Scotsman how to prevent it, then a Grand Slam breakthrough is likely.