Brad Gilbert, Andy Murray’s former coach, expects the Scot to be back in the world’s top four by next year.
Murray, who has not won a title for more than 13 months, has slipped to No 9 in the world rankings since beginning his comeback after back surgery but Gilbert believes he will turn his fortunes around in the near future.
Murray has the chance to improve his ranking over the next fortnight here at the US Open, though his recent form does not give great encouragement, especially given the difficulty of his draw. Murray could face seasoned campaigners all the way through the tournament. He opens with a match against the Dutchman, Robin Haase, who led the Scot by two sets before losing in five in the second round here three years ago.
If results go according to rankings and seedings, Murray will play Haase, Radek Stepanek, Fernando Verdasco and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before a quarter-final showdown with Novak Djokovic. If Murray were to beat the world No 1 he could then face Stan Wawrinka in the semi-finals and Roger Federer in the final.
However, Murray (pictured) has not beaten a top 10 opponent since his victory over Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon final. He missed the last two months of last season following back surgery and has struggled to find his best form since beginning his comeback. He has also changed coaches, Amelie Mauresmo having replaced Ivan Lendl, who wanted to spend more time on other interests.
Although Murray’s Grand Slam performances have been good – he made the semi-finals of the French Open and the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon – he has failed to rediscover his former consistency.
Gilbert, who will be part of the ESPN commentary team here, said: “I’m sure Andy would be the first to tell you that he’s had a disappointing year and he hasn’t come back as quickly from the back surgery as he would like. Albeit, he’s 27, I expect soon he will turn around what’s happened. I think more than anything, since Wimbledon last year he’s really struggled against top-10 opponents. Besides the injury, he changed coaches, with Lendl leaving after Miami, now bringing on Mauresmo.
“I don’t think anyone could have slotted him a more difficult draw. He plays Robin Haase first round. A couple of years ago he had a tough five-setter with him. Then he plays Stepanek. But he’ll still be looking one round at a time.
“I think more than anything he works unbelievably hard. As long as he has his health, at some point he’s going to figure out how to turn around his recent losses versus the top 10. Once he does that, I expect for sure by 2015 that he will be back in the top four in the world.”
Roger Federer, meanwhile, will be competing in his 60th successive Grand Slam tournament. Gilbert said that the 33-year-old Swiss had “done an amazing job of taking care of his body”. He pointed out that Federer benefited from having the same trainer and physiotherapist for a long time
“What’s amazing about him is in 15 years he’s had no surgeries, no major injuries,” Gilbert said. “He seems to be able to play without barely even sweating. He’s about one of the only guys that plays on clay and doesn’t have any dirt on his socks. That blows me away more than anything: his socks never get dirty.
“Another thing that he’s really done smartly probably over the last seven or eight years, he plays an incredibly wise schedule. He doesn’t overplay. He seems to plan his schedule for the entire year and sticks to his schedule and listens to his body.”
James Ward, the British No 2, will not be joining Murray in the main draw after suffering a disappointing defeat in the final round of qualifying. The 27-year-old Londoner, who is at a career-high No 131 in the world rankings, looked to have a good chance of completing his set of appearances in the main draw of Grand Slam events but was beaten 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 by Moldova’s Radu Albot, the world No 205.
Ward had recovered from a slow start to win the second set, only for a rain break to keep the players off court for two hours. Albot was more quickly into his stride on the resumption and made the crucial break in the deciding set to lead 3-1.
Meanwhile the Lawn Tennis Association confirmed yesterday that the National Tennis Centre at Roehampton, which opened seven years ago, will no longer be a base for elite players, who will instead relocate to high performance centres in different parts of the country.
The Roehampton centre, which is also the LTA’s administrative headquarters, will continue to be a base for the country’s Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams as well as a “drop-in centre” for top players, but for most of the time its facilities will be used by juniors.