Thursday, April 28, 2011

Andy Murray’s Coaching Dilemma

By Luke Broadbent

Since Andy Murray reached the 2011 Australian Open final, he has been having a nightmare season. He was ousted from the three tournaments he played after the Australian Open in his first matches at each of them. This dismal run led to Murray parting ways with his coach, Alex Corretja, after the Masters 1000 event in Miami. Now the 23-year-old Scotsman is searching for a new coach.

In the meantime, Murray has been working with the well-respected coaches Darren Cahill and Sven Groeneveld. It's hard to gauge whether Cahill and Groeneveld have had an effect on Murray, or whether it was just the fresh start on a new surface, but Murray regained the kind of form he has become known for during the Masters 1000 event in Monte Carlo. The Scot went as far as one would expect him to get given that he came up against the clay-court master, Rafael Nadal, in the semifinals. Nadal reached the final, but not before Murray gave him a scare by taking the first set.

Ideally, given the reputation of Cahill and Groeneveld and the immediate impact they have had on Murray, he would probably like to keep hold of them, but given other engagements, it is only a temporary measure.

The likes of Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors have expressed their interest in coaching the world No. 4. Murray, however, has stated that he isn't just looking for a big name. Having visited WBA heavyweight boxing champion David Haye at his training camp, he realized that it is all about having a coach that he feels comfortable with and a relationship exists where ideas can be freely traded. Haye's trainer is Adam Booth, who had never trained anyone before Haye, so it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Murray will opt for a complete unknown.

The big problem for Murray, however, isn't so much about improving his play (though after watching some footage of himself he has admitted that he can't believe some of the mistakes he makes) as it is about being mentally prepared. Having reached three major finals, his ability isn't in question, but the fact that he has failed to win a set in any of the major finals is somewhat alarming. And perhaps more alarming is that he played below-par tennis in all of the finals.

How can someone play so well in the lead up to the final and then crumble in the final? Surely it is a problem between the ears. Maybe Murray has already been to see a sports psychologist, but if not, then I suggest that it is time to do so.

The same could be said of women's world No. 1, Caroline Wozniacki, who recently lost to Julia Görges in Stuttgart. On paper, the final should have been a breeze for Wozniacki, but was way below-par. Wozniacki has reached one major finals and though she put up a brave fight, she succumbed to the vastly experienced Clijsters. There, quite possibly, is the secret to success. Experience.

Wozniacki is reportedly after Martina Navratilova to consult with her, whilst still keeping her father as her coach. Listening to multiple slam winners like Navratilova, Jimmy Connors, or Ivan Lendl will almost certainly be beneficial. They have been there and done it, but sometimes it can be a bit easy to rely on coaches and blame them when things start to go awry. When it comes time to play, it is the player that matters and they can only reach the top and win major titles by learning from past experiences. Very few are good enough or mature enough to win slams at the start of their careers.

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