If ever there was a bad time for Andy Murray to lose focus at the start of a grand slam tournament it surely arrives on Centre Court on Tuesday when, in front of his returning coach, Ivan Lendl, he plays Liam Broady, one of four British wild cards in the men’s draw and ranked 235 in the world. Murray would probably have to emigrate – to Scotland.
But in the real world it will not happen. Lendl has been quick to remind him that meandering into the first week of a major tournament – as he did in Paris last month – is not a good idea, whatever the level of the opposition. At the French Open Murray had to fight through 10 sets to beat Radek Stepanek and Mathias Bourgue, both ranked outside the top 100, just to get into the third round. By the time he reached the final against Novak Djokovic his legs were telling him what a mistake he had made and he lost in four sets when he might have done better.
Yet Murray insists, “Look, there was more to the final than just the five hours extra that I spent on the court,” – before seeming to contradict himself. “The year before with Novak, when he lost in the final to Stan [Wawrinka], he played the five sets with me in the semis. Even the match in the quarters against Rafa [Nadal], psychologically that was also a big match. It can take a lot out of you.
“There is no guarantees that, even if I was fresh, I would have won the match. The last few sets he did play unbelievably well. My job is to learn from the French Open and one of the things I could have done better there is start the tournament quicker.”
Bottom line: Broady will get no favours.
The last time Lendl and Murray were together at Wimbledon, three years ago, he won the title in three sets against Djokovic. The following March they split. Since then he has matured, married, become a father and risen to No2 in the world but he has not won another grand slam title.
“I’ve improved things since then,” he said. “The game always gets a little bit better and, if you aren’t improving yourself, you get left behind. I do think I’m serving better than I was then. My second serve has improved since then – the speed of it certainly has for sure. I am a little bit better up at the net than I was then but the basics and fundamentals of my game are still the same as they were. My back is definitely way better than it was because I am not playing in pain like I was for 18 months to two years, which is really the kind of peak physical years of my career. They weren’t easy for me. But now I am in good shape.
“A few of the matches that I played at the French would suggest that my record over five sets has been strong for the last few years, so I am not concerned about that.”
However, a quick kill is always better than a slow death.
Also playing on Tuesday is Aljaz Bedene, Britain’s second best player but still not British enough after eight years in Welwyn Garden City to qualify for the Great Britain Davis Cup team. Nevertheless he is in good touch and fancies his chances against the No7 seed Richard Gasquet, who reached the semi-finals last year but generally does not get past the fourth round. Still, Bedene will do well to test the Frenchman over five sets.
He had some interesting things to say about Murray and Djokovic, however, having played the Serb on clay in Paris and the Scot on grass at Queen’s this summer.
“It is tough to say because they are totally different surfaces. This might sound harsh but against Djokovic I felt I was playing against a wall. When I was playing Andy, the circumstances and conditions were different so sometimes, especially on my service games, I had more time.
“My serve was better [on grass] and I had more time moving him around. When I was playing Djokovic I didn’t have much time to play my game. They are both great players, though. Djokovic is playing aggressive tennis. Andy never gives up, Djokovic never gives up. However, with Andy, you think he gives you more time but he is there every time on the ball. I played him last week and I lost in two sets, so …”
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