The former French Open champion told Wimbledon.com that Andy Murray should avoid the temptation of looking ahead to defending his Wimbledon title too quickly, and instead concentrate fully on his first French Open since 2012.
We’re less than a month away from seeing Andy Murray back in his Wimbledon whites and performing the returning champion’s tradition of opening Centre Court on the first Monday of The Championships. Still, it would be a mistake for Murray to start mentally fast-forwarding to that appearance at the All England Club, with Jim Courier arguing that the Briton must first give his full attention to the clay courts of Roland Garros.
"Murray needs to focus on playing his best tennis in Paris, and not to worry about the grass-court season. That will come soon enough. He's here at Roland Garros to play in a major, and he should be - and I'm sure he is - focused on trying to go deep into the tournament,” Courier, a former world No.1, and a winner of four Grand Slam titles, told Wimbledon.com.
If Murray is to retain his Wimbledon title, Courier said, he “needs good health”. This is Murray’s first French Open for a couple of years, as he missed last season’s tournament because of a back condition that would subsequently require an operation in the autumn. But he has been working himself back into shape, and Courier has been encouraged by the Scot’s conditioning during the European clay-court swing. “If his body continues to move in the direction that it seems like it has been moving in, health is the biggest thing for him because he knows how to play well,” said Courier, who is part of ITV’s team during this year’s French Open. “He's a great player. You don't do what he has done if you don't have those capabilities, and also some inner-belief."
Mark Petchey, one of Murray’s former coaches, is in agreement with Courier – the best way for the defending champion to prepare for Wimbledon is to attempt to win the French Open. "If everyone looked at Andy playing the French Open as simply a stepping-stone to Wimbledon, that would be misguided. It would be disrespectful to Andy’s game on clay. It's Andy’s toughest surface to win on, and in Rafael Nadal, there’s a player in the field who just happens to be the greatest of all time on a clay court, so winning the French Open is a tough thing for Andy to do. But Andy's game is such that he's capable of winning on this surface,” Petchey, one of Courier’s ITV colleagues, told Wimbledon.com.
“The deeper Andy goes into the French Open, the better his chances at Wimbledon. Last year, he missed the French Open because of injury, and then he had a great tournament at The Queen's Club, winning the title, and then went on to win Wimbledon. But I don't necessarily think that's his best policy. I think the more matches he wins in Paris, the more confidence he is going to have before he heads on to the grass, and it's such a quick turnaround. Winning Queen's would be nice for him, but I think the next few days in Paris are more important."
Petchey suggested that Murray’s performance at Rome’s Foro Italico, where he troubled Nadal, could galvanise him. "Even though Andy lost to Rafa in Rome, there were a lot of positives to take out of it. That match could spur Andy on, and could have him thinking that he's not far off his best tennis.”
There has been much speculation about Murray’s future coaching arrangements, but Petchey doubted whether that off-court debate would have put some uncertainty into his former employer’s head. "There's only uncertainty if Andy feels a bit insecure about it. He's such a great player, and knows the game so well, and he's won slams, so you feel as though he can take control of what's happening on the court by himself until the ideal candidate comes along,” Petchey said.
“In an ideal world, he will find someone who will be the right fit who's going to be around for a long time. But if he can't find someone, it's not that he can't play great tennis. He knows more about tennis than almost everyone in the sport. He's looking for someone a little special. But he's got such a great, positive team around him, so if they can't find that special person, they will be fine on their own.”
Mark Hodgkinson is the author of Lendl: The Man Who Made Murray.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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