Earlier this year men’s world number two Andy Murray lost yet another Grand Slam final in the French Open to his chief nemesis Novak Djokovic – this was becoming a familiar feeling for him.
Of course there is no shame in losing to a great champion like Djokovic or in reaching the French Open final for the first time. However, Andy Murray is a perfectionist and never settles for second best.
After three years without a Grand Slam the 29-year-old Scot felt it was time for a change and that change arrived a week after the French Open with Murray linking up for the second time with Ivan Lendl. What has followed has been an extraordinary period of success for the British number one, winning Queen’s for a record fifth time, Wimbledon for a second time and defending his Olympic gold medal in the men’s singles.
It is hard to say how much of Murray’s success this summer is down to Lendl. He undoubtedly makes Murray play a more aggressive brand of tennis and helps him prepare mentally for the big matches. Furthermore, his stone-faced presence on court helps calm Murray down.
Nevertheless, one could also argue that Murray would have won Wimbledon anyway, after all he didn’t have to play Djokovic (the man he’s lost five Grand Slam finals to) and therefore was the clear favourite for the title when the Serb exited the competition in the third round.
The impact of coach Lendl will be most evident when Andy Murray plays the Serbian Djokovic or indeed Federer in a Grand Slam. However, it was hard not to notice the ease with which Murray went through the rounds at Wimbledon in comparison to the French Open. The world number two looked focused and comfortable throughout Wimbledon apart from a tough test in his quarter-final encounter with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
On the other hand at the French Open the British number one struggled greatly in the early rounds, finding himself two sets to love down against the veteran Radek Stepanek and two sets to one down against the unknown French wildcard Mathias Bourge. Murray just seems a much more calm and ruthless player under Lendl.
The Scotsman’s success at Wimbledon was replicated in Rio as Murray defeated Juan Martin del Potro in four sets to claim the gold medal in the men’s singles.
To the surprise of many, Murray recently bowed out of the US Open at the quarter finals stage to Japanese Kei Nishikori, allowing his two-sets-to-one lead slip against his opponent.
Just how fast is 141 mph? pic.twitter.com/QPhVYKCL1k
— BBC Sport Scotland (@BBCSportScot) September 6, 2016
Regardless of this minor blip and of how much of Murray’s progression can be credited to his coach, we must first and foremost commend Murray himself for his success this summer.
Not many players win Wimbledon twice and Murray is the first male player to win Olympic Gold on more than one occasion. He keeps improving year upon year and refuses to get downhearted by losing Grand Slam finals.
Gruelling defeats in these finals will have hurt the Scotsman and provided him with the mental strength necessary to come back stronger. With Ivan Lendl also re-emerging, these two factors have allowed Murray to go onto achieve British sporting greatness this year.
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