With Andy Murray establishing a 10-2 record playing without a coach since the parting of the ways with Miles Maclagan, the immediate build up to the US Open sees opinion split in Britain whether the 23 year-old world no.4, who is a distinct contender for success in New York, actually needs to fill the current vacancy.
Mark Petchey, who filled the coaching role for ten months during the Scot’s rise to prominence four years ago, believes the time could be right for his former charge to consider going solo on a permanent basis.
“To be honest, I don’t think Andy needs a coach anymore because in reality he is his own best coach,” said Petchey who can line up alongside Maclagan, Brad Gilbert, Pato Alvarez and Britain’s current Davis Cup captain Leon Smith as Murray’s ex-coaches. “He’s always been very keen on learning about the game and picking up on opponent’s strategy. He’s long had a deep understanding of his own game and how it matches up against others. And he’s learned from a variety of people he has worked with.
“Putting things in the most simplistic way, there are some players on the tour that need a coach to tell them everything; from how to play, what time to get up in the morning to what color shirt to wear and what time to go to bed at night. Others don’t because they are more than confident and equipped to make their own decisions on everything. Andy certainly falls into the second category.”
Plus, of course, there is Murray’s much debated nature. Disagreements on tactics and strategy seem to figure prominently in each of Murray’s coaching splits and he has also had strained relationships with Britain’s two most recent former Davis Cup captains, Jeremy Bates and John Lloyd. “Let’s just say that Andy playing without a permanent coach removes a potential area of friction,” added Petchey, with a distinct tone of diplomacy.
However to many seasoned viewpoints Murray at 23 is still a long way short of full mental maturity. In the four most important matches of his life, the 2008 US Open final, this year’s Australian Open final and the two Wimbledon semi-finals, he has not only been outplayed but also found tactically wanting in terms of a winning game plan.
Tony Pickard is Britain’s most successful coach when it comes to guiding players to majors titles. Not only did his long term charge Stefan Edberg win six majors but, by telephone, Nottingham-based Pickard was also a daily source of advice and motivation for Petr Korda when the Czech surprisingly won the 1998 Australian Open.
Pickard readily admits he has no insight into Murray’s thinking but said: “I believe the young man can still take his game up another two levels which will put him right there at the very top. However to do that he needs help from somebody who is there with him most of the time.
“The tricky thing for him is finding the right person. Knowing what I do about him it’s no good having somebody there who keeps telling him what to do because that’s the way I used to do it with so and so. It’s better to find common ground and ask what Andy sees himself doing and then come up with positive suggestions. Look at the example of Rafael Nadal, in the last 18 months he has added so much to his game like a serve and the ability to come to the net and volley. But I look at Murray’s last regime and although there were titles and finals I haven’t seen him add anything very much to his armory.
“Too many coaches nowadays are either too keen on seeing themselves on television or are too worried about losing their jobs and therefore say just what the player wants to hear. That is no good but neither is laying the law down because the young man will not listen.”
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