Vetting potential Andy Murray mentors
April, 4, 2011
By Sandra Harwitt | ESPN.com
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Andy Murray is quickly becoming a creature of habit, and that's not a good thing. For the second consecutive season Murray is experiencing an inexplicable post-Australian Open finals slump. He's now been dumped in all three matches he's played since Novak Djokovic showed him to the exit in Melbourne.
The Scotsman is starting to look dangerously like a talent who might never realize his potential, which most believe should be as a Grand Slam champion. In three Grand Slam finals played -- 2009 U.S. Open and 2010 Australian Open against Roger Federer and 2011 Australian Open against Novak Djokovic -- he never even won a set.
Murray, 23, is proving to be his own worst enemy, frequently becoming mentally frazzled when matches aren't going his way. He's also been known to embarrass himself by yelling at his team during matches, most notably his hands-on mother, Judy.
What Murray needs to do is mature. And acquiescing to a strong, competent coaching voice would be a step in the right direction. Murray has tried doing it his way, but as much as he thinks he knows best, he needs guidance.
The British media has already been bantering coaching names around now that Murray's relationship with former French Open finalist Alex Corretja has ended. Ivan Lendl has put his own name in the hat, claiming interest in the job. Tim Henman, the only person who can understand the microscope Murray lives under at home, says he isn't interested in the position at this time. Others mentioned include: Darren Cahill, Mats Wilander and Tony Roche.
Here are a few coaching prospects Murray should consider chatting with if he's ready to take that next step toward a Grand Slam title.
Boris Becker: Murray wants to win a Grand Slam title, and a victory at home at Wimbledon would be the crowning achievement. There's hardly a better brain to pick about Wimbledon than Becker's -- he won his first of three Wimbledon titles at 17, was a Wimbledon finalist four other times and won six Grand Slam trophies. Becker knew how to use his emotions in a constructive way. The best thing about this potential partnership is that Murray would be too intimidated to berate someone of Becker's stature. Becker can't play poker -- his newest career -- all the time, and he conveniently lives in Wimbledon Village. Maybe this relationship is meant to be.
Jimmy Connors: If you want to learn about mental toughness you go to the source -- Jimmy Connors. Whether Connors would want to give the coaching game another try after his stint with Andy Roddick is not known. But he certainly would read Murray the riot act if he tried that yelling-at-the-friend's-box routine on him. Connors, whose mother, Gloria, was a major presence in his life and career, could also impart invaluable information regarding relationships between sons and tough-as-nail mother-coaches.
Brian Gottfried: A former No. 3-ranked player, Gottfried was interested in working with Murray a few years ago when the Lawn Tennis Association hired Brad Gilbert for the job -- the Gilbert-Murray relationship didn't have much traction. Gottfried, a former French Open finalist, learned the discipline of the game as Nick Bollettieri's first pupil -- something of a surprise as Gottfired was a serve-and-volleyer. He's worked with many players through the years, including former Wimbledon finalist MaliVai Washington. Gottfried could keep Murray in line with his quiet, no-nonsense approach.
Todd Martin: Yes, Martin didn't mesh well with Novak Djokovic, but the Serbian was mostly looking for instruction on his serve. Martin thought tennis would end for him at the college level, but he made it on the pro tour, coupling the talent he had with an iron-clad mental fortitude. Murray would never get away with giving Martin any guff. And Martin won't hesitate to explain to Murray that there are behavior boundaries that even celebrity tennis players can't cross.