We’ve been meaning to admonish Andy Murray a little. Perhaps it was good we waited, in light of the news that he was banged up in Miami. We’re still gonna admonish him, but if he was nursing a hip injury it would explain why he didn’t execute on his game plan in Sunday’s Miami final against Djokovic.
We didn’t see much from Murray there who was extremely lucky to be in that final. We know Murray likes playing on this surface, theoretically. But he hasn’t played nearly as well in Miami on the Defensepro surface as he has on Plexicushion, where he has made 2 Australian finals and in one of the semis dominated Rafael Nadal. Defensepro is the slowest hard surface at any of the stops on the tour. Floridians like their hardcourts to be gritty and sandy. All of their players seem to be In the mold of their matriarch, Chris Evert. Pushers until the end. Though Evert did it all on the court as well as anyone and these little girls and boys just seem to embody the pukey pusher stuff.
Theoretically, Murray is ideal at pukey pusher. In actuality, he does better when he dictates and goes for his ground strokes. He doesn’t get any free points at all on that slow of a court and that’s too few for anyone. So a guy like Tipsarevic, who takes some initiative, can do damage. But Murray goes classic grinder, letting it get to where he was a set and a break down before really grinding it out. And in doing so, he comes up a little lame on what looked to be his left side, probably off another back footed forehand. He seemed to tweak his left hip. Still he pulled out that match and won his next on a Nadal retirement. Who is surprised by that (but that’s another story)?
So Murray, we thought looked good in that match based on Nadal’s gimped out knee. After looking at how Djokovic dismantled Murray in that final, we’d like to reconsider. Murray might have been hampered in that match. Could Djokovic have dominated like that for so long if Murray was right? Probably. But the last few matchups have been very close. Djokovic is the king of slow hardcourts after all though. His winning in a route over anyone could not come as all that surprising.
But Murray seemed abnormally frustrated in that match to us. We are thinking he was not right. Even so, he’s had a healthy year so far and he has made the final of the year’s only major. The Lendl philosophy has been omitted from certain matches, like his loss to Guillermo Garcia Lopez at Indian Wells. He played classic pusher tennis, thinking his gameplan could be simple enough to just direct toward the Lopez backhand. Too simple indeed, and though it worked against Tipsarevic in South Beach, the effect of the grind left Murray too lame for Djokovic.
Lendl is there to remake the Murray forehand and embolden the kid to do more than push. Though he’s not really there there to the point were Cahill is sub coaching a bunch. Cahill and Lendl have very different philosophies. Lendl is also there to improve the gameplanning. Just directing to a guy’s backhand seemed to be the Cahill strategy, and that’s about the speed of a Cahill blueprint. That style will however suit him well on clay where, in our minds, he has improved a great deal. Murray seemed to play all his matches on clay with confidence. He made the semis at Roland Garros. He looked to have a real shot against Djokovic in Rome where he took the 1st set 6-1. That was one of the best sets he played all last year and one of the best anyone played all year.
So hard to predict how he’ll come into the clay season. He seemed last year to really find his footing on clay, but he did get in a nice rhythm with matches. We think that this year his success on clay will be tied to Lendl. Lendl was an excellent clay courter, winning 3 FO titles. If Lendl is there running the show then Murray can do a lot of damage.
That’s a far cry from where we are usually at with him. At one point we were convinced he’d never pan out on clay. But now he is probably 4th or 5th best on clay with a much more realistic shot at taking out a Titan in the big spot. Lendl is perhaps the biggest winner in coaching right now with 8 majors. Lendl gets Murray so well because he also liked to ground stroke people to death once upon a time. Lendl was one of the first players to start passing up volleys in favor of big forehands. Bad tennis. We hate to see that. Happens every few seconds in the women’s game, and almost that frequently in the men’s game.
To be very honest though, while Murray is a fine talent, he is not the Lendl doomsday stroking machine. Lendl’s poor short game and shaky transition skills prevented him from ever winning Wimbledon, which served him right for essentially starting the trend away from complete tennis. Murray, a pretty good doubles player, actually does have great hands at net. But as we’ve said of Murray’s hands at net, they are more like the tree falling in the forest. How would anyone know about them if he never actually uses them?
Hopefully Lendl will give the kid an honest appraisal of what it takes to win Wimbledon, a sort of ‘the error in my ways’ speech. The irony is rich. Wimbledon being so big for Murray, as it was for Lendl, who won everything but. But first, Lendl has to get the kid primed for clay season, a far easier task with Murray’s skills seeming to really click on clay last year, but hard enough via cell phone or skype.
So we’d really like Murray on clay, a bit more than on grass anyway, if we knew that Lendl was actually going to be there. After Murray spent a month with Lendl prior to Australia, his forehand looked cleaner than ever. the last few weeks though, his forehand looks more like another Adidas star, Caroline Wozniacki. While we said recently that we’d be happy to take zero for our over/under on Murray career majors, we could also see him winning big on every surface. It’s that close.
We know Lendl sees it too. He wouldn’t roll out of bed for just anyone. He was after all completely absent from the tour almost all of these years since retiring. But if he still has that yen to be away from the game as much as he has been since taking Murray’s reins, then he is the wrong man for Murray, who’s youth is fading fast.