Saturday, August 14, 2010

Murray the Aggresor

Andy Murray has successfully defended his final points in Canada, but one more huge challenge awaits.

Speculate on who Andy Murray's next coach will be all you want, but he's doing just fine with his mom Judy, fitness trainer Jez Green, physio Andy Ireland, and his hitting partner Danny Vallverdu in his box, thank you.

And if today's breathtaking, expectation-changing 6-3, 6-4 decision over Rafael Nadal is any indication, things might not change anytime soon.

Murray was downright nasty in victory today, and he displayed the aggressive quality that many a pundit and coach has been calling for, by taking the play to Nadal consistently over the course of the 1-hour and 44-minute men's semifinal.

When Murray takes the court tomorrow against Roger Federer, he'll be vying to become the first player to win back-to-back Canadian titles since Andre Agassi accomplished the feat in 1994-95.

All of this good news begs the question: Should Murray look for a coach or should he assert his independence and draw upon the wisdom of his mother Judy, who is a terrific coach in her own right, and obviously knows her son as well as anyone else in the game.

And why not Judy, after all? Tennis coaches are part psychologists, and as Andy's mother, she's more than likely got the inside track over any other person on the planet when it comes to knowing what to say to inspire her son—or when to lay off and let him use his own problem solving skills.

And the fact that she is not currently Andy's "official" coach will give Andy the ultimate responsibility for his own game. Perhaps that is something he's been craving.

"Certain things you do differently when you are on your own," said Murray, after he handed David Nalbandian his first loss in twelve matches on Friday. "You are a bit more responsible, a bit more's the best I've played in a long time, maybe since Australia."

Is it really a coincidence that Murray has turned in his most commanding performance of the year just two weeks after parting ways with Miles Maclagan, or is this the beginning of another period of maturation for the 23-year-old?

Whether it's Judy's influence or Andy's freedom that has inspired his game (Brad Gilbert made the point that the new setup might be great for Andy because he enjoys proving people wrong), at this point it would make complete sense for Murray to leave things as they are through the U.S. Open and beyond.

Of course, all that could change with a sheepish performance against the guy that sent Murray reeling after a solid thrashing in the 2010 Australian Open final—Roger Federer.

And while Murray has gone the independent route, Federer has made headlines of his own in the past two weeks by hiring on Pete Sampras' former coach, legendary Paul Annacone.

In the same way tennis matches can turn on a dime, perhaps sentiment regarding Murray's current coaching status will turn on a dime tomorrow if he flops in the final.

Such is life in the high-pressure world of men's tennis. One minute you are the shark, the next you are the bloody seal. One minute the pundits are putting your name at the top of the list of possible U.S. Open champions, the next, well, you know what comes next.

You are only as good as your last match, and Murray's decision to veer sharply away from the typical player-coach relationship will look brilliant until his play on court forces us to think otherwise.

Change can be a breath of fresh air for a player. If Murray's stellar play this week in Toronto is any indication, going coachless is one change he just may want to make permanent.


  1. It seems Murray is really liking the coachless route, it's working for him quite well at the moment. I think more than anything, players need someone to confide in, someone to gain inspiration, positivity and assurance from. That doesn't need to come from a coach necessarily. If Murray gets that from his mom and/or hitting partner, so be it.

  2. Completely agree. Murray seems to be doing just fine right now, so there's no need for him to rush into things and get a coach just so that he has one. If his mom and hitting partners can provide him the support he needs right now then that's great. If not, then he can take some time after the US Open to find someone who fits into his team.

  3. It was a tough day for Rafa. But he will bounce back.

  4. Murray can do this. And he can win the U.S. Open. But then again, so can Fed.

  5. 24 winners in two sets against Federer in the final...not bad at all. Something seems to be clicking with the great Scot.

  6. I agree that being "coachless" is working for Murray right now. He has a great team around him as you stated and that can make or break a player that depends on the inspiration of others so much. However, what worries me is that his success in Toronto may have come too quickly after his coaching change. If he does well at the US Open he may be inclined to get a bit too cocky and claim he doesn't need a coach at all. This is tricky for such a stubborn player like him and hopefully his team keeps him focused on attaining a coach post-USO. However, if he doesn't stick to this plan and his results start to falter come January, he may not admit that it's a lack in his game in fear of seeming vulnerable. I simply hope he sticks to his word. He needs someone to smooth-out his aggressive, but statistically and mentally inconsistent game at this point and he will be a nightmare to play by any standard. He was a lot of fun to watch as a counter-puncher chasing down every ball, but I can only imagine how intense it may be if he begins dictating rallies more and more. His personality has the fire, but does his game as well? I think so!


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