Andy Murray enters this year’s Australian Open ranked 4th (as usual), coming off a strong head of stream with a 5-0 record in 2012, at last years Oz Open he was the presumed favorite – but something is different this year. Or so it may seem.
Murray has won over $19 million in prize money, has yet to capture the elusive Grand Slam title, but has come close a few times. He lost in the finals at last years Australian Open to Djokovic 46 26 36, but in that same year he reached the semifinals of the French, Wimbledon and the US Open (each time losing to Nadal). Further, Andy reached the finals of the Australian Open in 2010 losing to Federer 36 46 67, and the finals of the US Open in 2008 again losing to Federer 26 57 26.
It has been his court demeanor, particularly when losing, that so many find “galling.” Complaining, moping, deploring those in his box with his seeming “bad luck,” those are more often the actions of a petulant junior rather than a leading world class player.
Enter his new coach, Ivan Lendl, and a rather unusual quote from the Scot, “You win like a man, you lose like a man.” As many wonder whether this coach player pairing will work, Lendl must either improve or remove the notion that Murray’s head and on court temperament has been the issue.
There may be something to this partnership, and though not readily remembered, Lendl secured his Grand Slam title run with the benefit of a particularly keen “logotherapist.” In 1985, Alexis Castorri made the tennis player an offer he couldn’t refuse:
“I’ll bet you $1,000 I can design a physical and mental program for you and, if you follow it honestly, by the end of the U.S. Open, you will be the No. 1 player in the world. And if you win, you don’t have to pay.”
Seven months Lendl won the US Open.
Castorri devised a program for Lendl based on logotherapy, which posits that man’s only freedom is the attitude they choose. Meaning, players must face the possibility of losing before walking on court, face that fear, and then put it behind them – perhaps this is what Murray meant when he mentioned “winning and losing like a man.”
For interesting reading, check out Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
Murray has yet one more hurdle to face. In 2011 he was ranked 93rd in percentage of points won on his second serve, and Djokovic was ranked first in points won returning the second serve. This year Murray has improved a little, now ranked 66th in this important points won on the second serve category. But to my mind, this is still Murray’s Achilles heel. In many matches his first serve reaches 130 mph, but in those same matches some second serves are 80mph or less. And as I continue to study nuances of the serve, and what Pete Roger and Pancho (Gonzalez) have in common, Andy’s serve appears different. My hunch is that he strokes it, you see way too much hand and arm speed in the follow thru, and far less snap or whip at the top of the swing. Sampras once credited his seven Wimbledon titles to having the “best second serve in the game.” For Andy to take the next steps, that I believe is his real project, along with (of course) playing like a “man.”