Andy Murray must get ruthless to win Grand Slams
He never threw in the towel but Andy Murray fell short in an epic Australian Open semi-final AAP Image/Barbara Walton
There is an episode of American comedy show ‘How I met you Mother’ where Marshall, who wishes to jump from his dreary apartment roof to the fancy roof 100m away, cannot make the jump because his mentality is holding him back.
The premise of the episode is a perfect analogy to explain Andy Murray’s tennis career.
Last week I wrote about how Sam Stosur struggles with the pressure of playing in Australia and being our best hope at a Grand Slam.
For Andy Murray, he lives in a sarcophagus of pressure as he is generally Britain’s only hope of ending a 76-year Grand Slam drought (Murray was the only Brit to win a set at the Australian Open).
There is no doubt about the quality of Andy Murray and his top five ranking. A brilliant natural player of the game, Murray has all the goods in at his disposal to be a world number one.
Against Djokovic on Friday, he showed his ability to mix it with the best players in tennis as he worked the world number one around the court.
But looking deeper into Murray’s tennis career, his record against the players he needs to beat to win Grand Slams is patchy.
He holds an 8-6 lead over Federer but is 5-13 against Rafael Nadal and 4-6 against Djokovic, who he is going to play more Grand Slam semis and finals against in the next 6-8 years.
More tellingly, he has failed to win a set in the three Grand Slam finals he has played (2008 US Open 2010-2011 Australian Open) and is three from eight in converting Grand Slam semis into finals.
So while he has all the technical side of the game down pat, Andy Murray lacks the crucial thing needed to be a champion: the killer instinct.
Like Marshall and his roof jump, Murray tells us he is going to make the next step yet he just cannot without that mental ruthlessness.
It was evident in the fourth and fifth sets of the massive semi on Friday night. After winning an epic third, Murray fell away and lost 6-1.
In the fifth, Murray twice led 30-0 in his service game before being taken to deuce. The first time he saved three break points but the second time he was broken for the ‘Djoker’ to go 4-2 up.
At those crucial times when Murray needed to step up, he went mentally missing. Federer Nadal and Djokovic have all have the killer instinct and the result is that they have won multiple Grand Slam titles.
In many ways it explains why Murray has hired Ivan Lendl as his new coach. Lendl doesn’t need to teach him how to play tennis or where to better his court coverage because we know Murray has mastered that.
Lendl has been hired to install a ruthless edge in Murray so when he is in the fifth set of a Grand Slam semi or final, he can power on.
Murray needs to make the move from a top five player to the world No. 1 by being ruthless against his biggest opponents.
Whether Lendl can instil and sense of ruthlessness is still up for debate but if he can do it, Murray will certainly be a Grand Slam champion.
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