Andy Murray and Roger Federer are at opposite ends of the tennis spectrum right now but both players took important steps in their respective careers yesterday.
Murray confirmed that he had got himself the full-time coach that he wanted, Mark Petchey, which we'll come back to. And Federer moved past Lleyton Hewitt, despite a problem with his serve in the first set, to stay on course for three successive Wimbledon titles. A third championship in a row would elevate Federer closer to Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg, the American and the Swede respectively being the only other men since the 1930s to have won three consecutive singles titles at The All England Club.
The story of Federer's victory yesterday was simple enough. Too good. Too good for Hewitt for the eighth time in a row. Too good on the big points. Too good at reaching balls that other players struggle to get. Too good hitting wonderful winners that just left Hewitt staring at him, or the ground.
The statistic that underlines the "too good" in all departments was that in the first set Federer hit only 37 per cent of his first serves in - and he still won the set 6-3. Hitting only 37 per cent of your first serves in is not great for anyone. For Federer, he would be looking to be in the 60s and upwards as a percentage. But the fact that his serve was off and yet he still had enough quality in the rest of his game tells us quite how good he is. If one area falters, the Swiss has other weapons to compensate.
Murray's announcement is a positive move. He said that he had a "great deal" of respect for Petchey, and that is crucial in a coach-player relationship. Because if you don't get on, and the player is not going to take on board the advice of the coach, it isn't going to work.
Petchey was quoted as saying that "more than anything it will be about motivating him for the training", and "you can't create a champion overnight and you can't go out and buy them".
I believe he's right on both counts. Murray has the basis of an excellent game. He is still growing. He needs to work on his conditioning and stamina. That is normal enough for players of his age. But the real work - the work that will make the difference in realising his potential - is the hours and days and months and years of training. Having a full-time coach to make sure he is doing it can only help.
I also think it's a positive that the Lawn Tennis Association is backing this partnership, which officially starts when Murray plays in Newport, Rhode Island, next week, in the only professional grass-court tournament in the United States.
It's a long way from there to where Federer is at, but Murray is going in the right direction. It will take time. In a year we will be better placed to see what he's really made of.Reuse content