Defeat should be spur for serial runner-up to reorganise team
Scot likes friends and family around him but working with a Grand Slam champion could bring victory he craves
Andy Murray grew up idolising Andre Agassi. As he now considers the implications of his third successive defeat in a Grand Slam final, the 23-year-old Scot could do far worse than recall how the American turned failure into success.
Agassi, too, lost his first three Grand Slam finals, but it did not stop him going on to become one of the great players of the modern era. He finished up with eight Grand Slam titles and is one of only seven men who have won all four of the game's biggest prizes.
Agassi is not alone. Ivan Lendl lost his first four major finals and also went on to win eight in total. Goran Ivanisevic lost his first three Grand Slam finals and won his fourth. Murray is only 23 and has always said that he did not expect to reach his peak until his mid-twenties.
Until now, the biggest problem facing the Scot has been the fact that he has played in an era dominated by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, two of the greatest players of all time. However, the Swiss appears to be on the wane and the Spaniard, regularly troubled by injuries, may not have a long career.
Novak Djokovic and Murray, friends since their early days as juniors, have had to be patient, but if you take Federer and Nadal out of the equation, the two 23-year-olds, born within a week of one another, are quite clearly the game's two outstanding players. Of the next generation, only Juan Martin del Potro has proved he has what it takes to succeed at the very top and the Argentinian has hardly played for a year because of a wrist injury.
Murray's instinctive reaction to disappointment is nearly always the same: he says he needs to improve and to work harder.
Now, however, may be the time to do more than once again head for the gymnasium and the practice court. Instead, he could take the opportunity to stand back and take a broader view of his situation.
The world No 5 has never been afraid to take tough decisions. He has made himself unavailable for Davis Cup matches if he felt they did not fit in with his schedule; he has changed management companies; and he has sacked coaches, including Mark Petchey, Brad Gilbert and Miles Maclagan.
Since parting company with Maclagan last summer, Murray has persevered with an ad hoc coaching arrangement. Alex Corretja, a former world No 2, remains a part-time member of his coaching team but was not with him here.
His mother, Judy, a former Scottish champion, has helped to scout future opponents, while Dani Vallverdu, his best friend and a former fellow student at the Sanchez-Casal academy in Barcelona, has overseen his practice sessions.
Murray is a sensitive soul who likes to have friends and family around him, but who is there to tell him harsh truths when criticism is needed? Who among his team knows what it takes to win a Grand Slam title, either as a player or a coach?
Murray said at the end of last year that he would continue with his present coaching arrangements for the time being, but now might be the time to reconsider.
Some of the best progress Murray made was during his 18 months with Gilbert. The fact their relationship eventually broke down on a personal level – with hindsight, the combination of a reserved young Scot and a fast-talking middle-aged American was always unlikely to last –may have put Murray off recruiting another high-profile coach, but even the very best players recognise the need for an experienced voice in their ear. Even Federer turned to Paul Annacone, the former coach of Pete Sampras and Tim Henman, after his disappointing summer last year.
Murray likes to have a large team around him, but might he also benefit from having a senior figure pulling the strings?
Djokovic tried working with two coaches when Todd Martin joined his team in 2009 but soon came to realise that the mixed messages were not working.
He parted company with the American, restored Marian Vajda to his position of sole authority and has never looked back.
In the immediate future Murray needs to decide when he will play next. After his experience last year, when he went into a decline that lasted the best part of five months following his defeat in the Australian Open final, he is wondering whether to take a six-week break before next month's Masters Series tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami.
The temptation to take a breather is understandable. It could give him time to sort out his coaching situation. Just as importantly, it might help to put the disappointment he has suffered here into perspective.
Since Fred Perry won the last of his Grand Slam titles in 1936, only three other British men – Bunny Austin, John Lloyd and Greg Rusedski – have played in Grand Slam singles finals. Each did so only once.
Murray, the best British player since Perry, has reached three already.
Time is still on his side.
Playing patience: longest waits for a first grand slam
Andy Murray has played 21 Grand Slam tournaments and has yet to win a major title. Seven other men have taken longer to win their first:
* Goran Ivanisevic 48 Grand Slams
* Petr Korda 34
* Andres Gomez 27
* Thomas Muster 27
* Albert Costa 26
* Thomas Johansson 25
* Richard Krajicek 22
Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl and Goran Ivanisevic are the only three players in the Open era who went on to win Grand Slams after losing their first three finals (four in Lendl's case)
* French Open 1981: lost to Borg in five sets
* US Open 1982: lost to Connors in four
* US Open 1983: lost to Connors in four
* Australian Open 1983: lost to Wilander in three
* French Open 1984: beat McEnroe in five
* French Open 1992: lost to Gomez in four
* US Open 1990: lost to Sampras in three
* French Open 1991: lost to Courier in five
* Wimbledon 1992: beat Ivanisevic in five
* Wimbledon 1992: lost to Agassi in five
* Wimbledon 1994: lost to Sampras in three
* Wimbledon 1998: lost to Sampras in five
* Wimbledon 2001: beat Rafter in five
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