Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Murray’s Road to Grand Slam Glory

By Angus Saul

Okay, so Andy Murray hasn't won a slam quite yet, but as top players, retired legends, and the world's top coaches resolutely insist, it is only a matter of time. With Ivan Lendl taking the helm as the captain of Murray's entourage, and with instant improvements, surely a grand slam title is on its way. It's been delayed in the post for quite a while, and Murray just needs to collect it from the sorting office.

So why not look back at Murray's long list of coaches: the people who have shaped him into the player he is today?

Judy Murray

Andy's mum, Judy, was the national coach in Scotland when Andy was very young, and so she was the one to teach him the basics and made him an exceptional youngster. She's still present at all his big matches to this day, cheering from the player's box. Perhaps her biggest contribution to Murray's career is flying from Scotland to Madrid at a moment's notice to bring him his trainers for the final of the Madrid Open, when his split and he couldn't find a replacement pair in time. He went on to beat Gilles Simon in the final.

Leon Smith

Leon Smith, current captain of the Great Britain Davis Cup Team, was Andy's first official coach. They toured around, going to all the junior tournaments in the country, and although there was a bit of an age gap, became best friends. He coached Andy from age 11 to age 17. He also coached Murray for a brief period in 2006 when Murray was between coaches.

Mark Petchey

Petchey was the man who took Murray from Junior tennis to Senior tennis. He only coached Murray for two years, but he took Murray from relative anonymity to a top-100 player. He was also the coach who brought Andy his first taste of grand slam glory, as he took him to the junior U.S. Open final and watched as the 17-year-old dispatched of Sergei Stakhovsky to take the title. Petchey also coached Murray to his first ATP final, where he lost to then-No. 1 Roger Federer. When Murray and Petchey first met, they were playing in a tournament. The 15-year-old Murray beat Petchey, 6-0, 6-0.

Brad Gilbert

Gilbert was the first non-British coach to take on Murray as a protégé. He took Murray to his first title, at the SAP Open in San Jose, California. Murray and Gilbert did not have a good working relationship and frequently had fallings out with one another. Nevertheless, Gilbert helped Murray to No. 11 in the world, and two more titles in the year or so they worked together.

Miles Maclagan

Miles Maclagan took over from Brad Gilbert on November 30, 2007, bringing with him a team of experts: physiotherapist Andy Ireland and two strength and conditioning coaches, Matt Little and Jeremy "Jez" Green. The four became "Team Murray," and took Andy to his career high ranking of No. 2 in the world, and, under Miles Maclagan, reached two grand slam finals, at the 2008 U.S. Open and the 2010 Australian Open.

Alex Corretja

The former world No. 2 and twice French Open runner-up — Alex Corretja — joined Team Murray in 2008 for the clay season, where he provided a much needed boost to Murray's clay game. He left after the French Open, and then resumed his role as clay-court consultant to Miles Maclagan the following year, where Murray went on to reach the French Open quarterfinals for the first time. He joined the team full-time after that and was kept on after Maclagan's departure in late 2010. Corretja helped Murray reach a third grand slam final at the Australian Open, where he was beaten by Novak Djokovic in straight sets, just as the Serbian hit his hot streak. Murray and Corretja departed ways on good terms in early 2011.

Daniel Vallverdu

Venezuelan tennis pro "Dani" Vallverdu joined Team Murray originally as a hitting partner in 2010. On no official date, he slowly became more of a coach to Murray, and when Corretja left, Vallverdu was kept on. He helped Murray to some blinding form in the clay court season, where he reached the semifinals in Monte Carlo, Rome, and at Rolland Garros. The most impressive of these was in Monte Carlo, where he took a set from reigning champion Nadal whilst nursing an injured elbow.

Darren Cahill

It would be easy to forget Darren Cahill as a Murray coach, primarily because he was never one of Team Murray. Working as an Adidas coach, Cahill could never coach Murray full-time, but assisted when and where he could, which was usually towards the end of tournaments, when most of the other Adidas players had been knocked out. Another major problem was that if Murray played another Adidas player, Cahill was not allowed to give direction or advice, as it would be a conflict of interests. Murray did well without having a full-time coach, and won four tournaments out of five, taking two Masters 1000 titles in the process, and compiling an impressive win-loss record towards the end of the season.

Ivan Lendl

Murray announced on January 1, 2012 that he had hired Ivan Lendl as his new coach. Parallels between the pair are significant. They both have a very defensive, counter-punching baseline game, and both experienced numerous losses in grand slam finals. Lendl has already helped Murray towards a first title of the year at the Brisbane International in Australia, and Murray will be hoping to improve on this good form, and go one step further than he did last year at the Australian Open and finally take home the title.

If anyone can take Murray to grand slam glory, it's Ivan Lendl. And he believes Murray can overcome the odds to win as many as he did, too.

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