Mats Wilander says Andy Murray is now "at least as good a player" as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, and last night lent his voice to the gathering support in the upper echelons of tennis for the Scot to win the US Open, which starts this weekend.
"My prediction is Murray winning," said Wilander, who numbered a US championship among his seven majors and who was mentioned as a candidate to coach the Scot before Ivan Lendl got the job in January. "I'm not saying that because he won the Olympics [beating Federer in three sets, after beating Djokovic in the semi-finals]. It's because I think that he's a different man. Lendl has helped him tremendously. He's becoming better physically all the time, he hits his forehand better, but the biggest difference is emotionally. He's more even-keeled, he's more positive, and there's not as much pressure for him at the US Open as there is at Wimbledon.
"Murray is one-up against Federer and Djokovic after the Olympics – he knows that he can beat them back to back now. Five-set matches, with the attitude he has now, are going to favour him and, when he plays well with a good attitude, he is at least as good a player as the other top three.
"Taking out Nadal [who withdrew to rest his injured knees], that might mean that he only has to beat one of Djokovic and Federer along the way, and that's going to make it easier."
He expects either Federer, the world No1, or world No2 Djokovic, who lost to the Swiss in a curiously lop-sided final of the Cincinnati Masters at the weekend, to be on the other side of the net on the last Sunday in New York. But he reckons the surface will be a key factor in Murray's favour.
"The hard courts in New York are a little quicker than in Australia, which suit him," the Swede added.
Goran Ivanisevic – who, along with Wilander, is entered in the Statoil Masters at the Royal Albert Hall from 5 December – sees it that way, too.
"I would really like to see him win it," the 2001 Wimbledon champion said. "He deserves it. He played a really great Olympic Games and I think this will give him extra motivation and confidence. The US Open is his best surface. I don't think it matters that Nadal has pulled out – I think Andy is ready, with or without him. He has beaten Rafa before anyway."
John McEnroe has been Murray's most prominent cheerleader in his home town of New York, a conviction no doubt strengthened after the withdrawal of Nadal, whose lingering knee problems are now beginning to look even more worrying for him than when he was out for seven straight weeks in 2009.
Murray also has had a minor twinge in a knee, pulling out of the Rogers Cup in Canada as a precautionary measure after winning his first-round match. He said it did not inconvenience him when he lost in straight sets to Jérémy Chardy in Cincinnati.
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