March 4, 2021
Andy Murray has demonstrated a quality that all the greatest champions possess.
And it’s just the sort of hunger you want to see from a Wimbledon champion on the comeback trail.
He was able to analyse his 5-7, 2-6 defeat to Andrey Rublev objectively. He identified exactly where he can improve in the near future.
The process sounds simple, but not all the famous players have this ability. Some stars tend to kid themselves that all is well, even after defeats. The truth hurts and they run from it.
That’s why they remain close to the top, but they never quite reach the summit.
Andy Murray isn’t like that. He knows exactly what he has done well and what he should be doing better. He is only too willing to face the truth.
That’s why Murray has a great chance to perform well at Wimbledon 2021.
The situation is genuinely encouraging. Andy was fantastic for most of the first set against Rublev.
He went toe-to-toe with the Russian and often outplayed him. Long rallies were not a problem because Murray showed the outstanding defensive qualities.
Often he succeeded in grinding Rublev down and then stepped up the pace at just the right time.
Andy’s serve worked beautifully for most of that first set.
The low ball toss and flat serve we often saw last year appear to have been consigned to history. Perhaps they were temporary measures he introduced to protect his hip.
Now his service action looks more natural. Andy will know his second-serve success rate still isn’t high enough. But he is moving in the right direction.
So what went wrong?
Murray double-faulted twice at 5-5 to surrender his most vital service game. He smashed his racquet in sheer frustration.
It was the first time he’d had a problem all match.
Indeed it was Andy who could have broken to go 4-2 ahead in the first. Just as he could have broken back to force a tie-break.
Murray should have won the first set because here were so many positives to see in his game.
Everything was pretty much on point technically. It was the same encouraging story athletically.
But the scoreboard doesn’t lie. On the big points Andy didn’t show his customary psychological strength.
He observed: ‘Just when it mattered, I wasn’t good enough. I will need to improve. I lost my serve from 30-0. I hit two double faults and a bad forehand.
‘I felt in that moment at the end of the first set I blew it a bit. I had 15-40 in the next game to break back and I think I messed up a little bit there as well.
‘I’m not used to making those errors in those moments. I’m finding that quite frustrating and I’m finding myself mentally looking back on those moments a little bit too much.
‘Maybe that affected me a bit in the second set.’
Murray believes the answer lies in playing more big matches at this level.
But it wouldn’t hurt to have a conversation with French Open champion Iga Swiatek’s excellent psychologist, Daria Abramowicz.
Tennis is most psychological of sports. Yet surprisingly few players talk to sports psychologists.
Abramowicz thinks she understands why. ‘Stigma. Low awareness level. A lot of stereotypes. But we’re getting there and we understand more.’
A chat with Daria could do Andy Murray a power of good before Wimbledon 2021.
Whatever the path Murray chooses, you wouldn’t bet against him returning to his best for the big one. He isn’t as far away as some people seem to think.
The All England Club. The rapturous cheers for the home hero. The sheer love for Britain’s favourite sports personality.
Who would want to miss it?