'Andy knows he can win the US Open by attacking'

The British No1's former coach advocates a more 'economical' path to major glory
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The Independent Online

Brad Gilbert is seen as often these days with a microphone in his hand as a racket, but you would still expect the American to talk up his coaching profession. However, when it comes to assessing the US Open chances of his former charge, Andy Murray, Gilbert believes that the world No 4's recent parting of the ways with Miles Maclagan will not make a dime of difference over the next fortnight.

Murray, who has been joined at Flushing Meadows by Alex Corretja, a part-time member of his coaching team for the last two years, has not been short of support since the split with Maclagan just before the start of the American hard-court season. His mother, Judy, has been touring with him, while Daniel Vallverdu, a friend from their time together at the Sanchez-Casal academy in Barcelona, has been his hitting partner.

Gilbert, who is working here as part of the ESPN television commentary team, said: "I would definitely say that he is not 'coachless'. Danny Vallverdu was a really good tennis player at the University of Miami who plays Davis Cup for Venezuela. I'm sure he's adding a little bit of input. But I really believe that the person he trusts most is his mum, who is a coach as well.

"He even said in Toronto that she's doing the scouting and they're discussing matches. Andy does a lot of scouting himself. In my time coaching him I've never seen a player study more videos and study matches more – videos which his mum would send him. He had, like, 10,000 matches on his computer."

Gilbert added: "I get the feeling that he'll be really happy with his situation and I don't think the reason why he wins or loses will be because he doesn't have a coach. His mum obviously knows him as well as anybody and he's going to want to prove to everybody that he can win it with his team."

Murray, who meets Slovakia's Lukas Lacko in his opening match tomorrow, went through a difficult spell in the spring, but claimed his first title since November when he won the Toronto Masters earlier this month. Hitting the ball more freely than he had during the spring and early summer, the 23-year-old Scot played his best tennis since reaching the final of the Australian Open at the beginning of the year.

Was that more aggressive style the way Gilbert had encouraged Murray to play during their 16 months together? "Absolutely – that's why I went from greying to balding in a heartbeat," Gilbert joked. "He is naturally contrary. If anyone says to play offense then maybe his nature is to play defence. If someone says to play defence then he likes to try to go offense. But I think seeing his success at Toronto, he knows he can win playing that way.

"I think it's a lot more economical for Andy, especially at the start of a tournament, playing more offensive. As you saw in Toronto, he's totally capable of playing offense. Watching how he played there was a thing of beauty. He was playing really aggressive and beating guys with offense."

Gilbert believes Murray will have grown in confidence through beating both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the same tournament for the first time. Toronto also saw Murray beat Federer in a final for the first time, having fallen to the Swiss at the last hurdle on three previous occasions. Federer, who was playing his opening match here last night against Argentina's Brian Dabul, beat Murray in a final in Bangkok in their first meeting five years ago and has since got the better of him in finals at the 2008 US Open and the 2010 Australian Open.

While Gilbert believes that only "a maximum of four or five players" are capable of winning here, he pointed out that the luck of the draw can be a significant factor. "For me the greatest thing about a major is you don't beat the whole field," he said. "You just play every other day and you have to find a way to win three sets. As a coach, as a player, you always count the sets backwards. You start at 21 and you just try to get down to zero. He's gotten to 18 sets, he just hasn't been able to get those last three."

Murray is seeded to meet Nadal in the semi-finals. Although he lost to the world No 1 at the same stage at Wimbledon this summer, Murray will be encouraged both by his victory over him in the semi-finals here two years ago and by the fact that the fast conditions do not suit Nadal. The Spaniard has won the three other Grand Slam titles but has never gone beyond the semi-finals here, having also lost at that stage 12 months ago to Juan Martin del Potro.

"He got absolutely buried last year by Delpo, who was playing phenomenal, but I actually thought in 2008 that he was playing the best I'd seen him play on a hard court," Gilbert said. "I think he came in a little bit tired after the Olympics in Beijing. He lost that two-day match to Murray.

"It's not like Nadal's really bombed here. He's lost in the semis for the last two years. I think the thing that gives him the most trouble on hard courts is his return of serve. He really struggles with that part of his game and he is susceptible to the big serve."

Scot's record in US open

*2005: Second round

The 18-year-old was beaten by Frenchman Arnaud Clément in four sets.

*2006: Fourth round

Entered the event as the 17th seed but lost to Nikolay Davydenko.

*2007: Third round

Threw his racket to the ground in disgust during defeat to the unseeded South Korean Lee Hyung-taik.

*2008: Final

Became the first Briton since Greg Rusedski in 1997 to reach a Grand Slam final, beating Rafael Nadal in a rain interrupted semi-final but lost in straight sets to Roger Federer in the final, who won his fifth US Open title in a row.

*2009: Fourth round

Struggled with a wrist injury, and lost in straight sets to the Croatian Marin Cilic.