Nick Bollettieri: Five reasons why this might just be Andy's turn to celebrate
Thursday 01 July 2010
1. He's mentally tough again
When Andy Murray lost the Australian Open final to Roger Federer in January, his game fell to pieces. The circumstances were clearly hard for him emotionally. The consequence? He simply couldn't buy a decent run of form.
The mental and physical drain clearly affected his game. This was, after all, the second time Murray had lost to Federer in a Grand Slam final, the first being at the US Open in 2008. And at the start of this year, there were upsets in his personal life to consider.
We don't and can't know how badly these things hurt him, but the point is this: the fall in form was a blip. On the evidence of the five matches he has played so far this fortnight, that blip is over. Murray did not become a bad player in a few short months, and we've seen in his performances – he's still the same tremendously talented player who reached those US Open and Aussie Open finals.
His serve is still getting better, he's the best returner in the world, he's strong and athletic and moves well, he's got soft hands and a creative brain and he's a fighter. Murray displayed all those assets in reaching that Australian Open final, and he's still got them. He suffered through that loss, but maybe, just maybe, with other areas of his life ticking along again smoothly, he's out of the slump and stronger.
2. He's still fresh
Let's just say that the draw Murray was handed probably couldn't have been any better for him. That is not meant as a statement to disrespect any of the five players he's beaten to reach the semi-finals, but judged on rankings and on history and, yes, natural talent, Murray always should have been confident of beating Jan Hajek, Jarkko Nieminen, Gilles Simon, Sam Querrey and
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. And he did, winning against the first four without dropping a set, and then winning in four – and eventually at a canter – against the physical force of Tsonga yesterday.
If he can beat Nadal – and that's an "if" – then there will be a Federer-less final ahead. He will know this is a great opportunity.
3. The World Cup bounce
The England football team has done Murray a favour, as the World Cup in general. The huge focus on South Africa has, to some extent, allowed Murray to fly under the radar. The weight of the nation's expectations has been on Fabio Capello and his players, and now the force of a nation's unfulfilled hopes are being sent in their direction.
Can that really affect the tennis world? In Murray's case, yes it can. But the salient point is that Andy Murray has not had the white-hot light of attention on him for the past month or so, as he might in a summer when there is no a major football tournament to deflect the burden of expectation. And while he's still had to deal with a lot of attention, of course, any less is good news. Less pressure. Less stress. These things matter. He should send Mr Capello a nice thank-you note.
4. The timing is right
Over the last six years, since Murray won the junior US Open, the expectations were incredibly high. Unrealistically high? Looking back, you'd say so. Now his natural progression as a player has caught up, and overtaken the expected level. Now Murray is charging ahead. Can he beat Nadal? Well, he can, though that doesn't mean he'll start as favourite. But this is a good time for Murray.
5. Federer is out
I don't want to bang this drum too much, but I did say on day one of this tournament that it was the most wide-open Wimbledon I've ever known. Roger Federer's exit yesterday proved the vulnerability was indeed there for a man who has been so incredibly strong for so long.
Rafa Nadal is a massive danger for Murray, of course. But there was never a clear-cut favourite for the men's title, and therefore neither was there any one player in the draw who Murray would really not want to face. Murray has to stay positive and remember that.
Nick Bollettieri is one of the world's leading tennis coaches as well as a regular 'Independent' columnist during Wimbledon
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