• Chris Wilkinson

Murray looking to regain his edge

Chris Wilkinson March 20, 2014
Ivan Lendl helped Andy Murray end Britain's 76-year wait for a male singles champion © Getty Images

The parting of Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl may have come as a shock but it is likely to be just the latest attempt by the Wimbledon champion to gain an edge on his perennial rivals Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

I can't imagine many people would have expected Tuesday's announcement that the pair were to split. There were no murmurs at all and it was pretty much out of the blue.

But Murray's rivals have all changed their games over the years and it is a natural occurrence on the circuit, so he is probably feeling the same way.

Players are constantly looking for an advantage on tour - that's why Federer and Djokovic have taken on high-profile coaches in Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker after Murray started the trend, his Lendl partnership having proved so successful.

Now Federer has stepped up to the mark again this season, reaching the semi-finals at the Australian Open. Djokovic is always there or thereabouts and it's the same with Nadal.

But Murray's form has dipped a little bit by his standards since his comeback from September's back surgery. He went out to Federer in Melbourne in the last eight and his exit in the fourth round at Indian Wells will have been a worry.

Andy Murray suffered a disappointing fourth-round exit to Milos Raonic at Indian Wells © Getty Images

The Indian Wells disappointment could have played a part in the decision to part with Lendl. Murray will have seen his rivals' coaches all turning up there and at other tournaments while Lendl was playing on the seniors' tour.

Lendl had a lot more commitments besides Murray, who probably wanted him to travel a bit more than he has done. Having Lendl closer to fulfilling a full-time coaching role is likely to have been part of the equation.

I guess it was about making a commitment on a weekly basis; Murray is looking for that now.

His goals and his feelings about where he wants to take his game will be changing all the time. He and Lendl have achieved so much and were a great combination, but injury might have affected Murray's confidence on court a little bit and that's when you need someone to be there a bit more regularly.

Murray must have realised that if his opponents are doing it and have their coaches around at all other tournaments, maybe he should too.

He'll be looking to catch up with his rivals again, to keep his game at their level. It's all about trying to go one better than your counterparts.

Andy Murray began working with Ivan Lendl shortly before the 2012 Australian Open © Getty Images

If Murray opts for a full-time coach then he's done it early, which is good. He's made the change at the right time and it was important to get that right.

After the hard court season come the clay courts, then there's Wimbledon coming up as well and Murray will be defending champion, so you're always changing games and tactics as the surface changes.

Looking at the coaches who are out there, I honestly don't know who Murray will replace Lendl with. Leon Smith, the British Davis Cup Captain, is a possible candidate as Murray has responsibility in that team.

But all the big coaches seem to be pretty much tied up with other players. Federer's former coach Paul Annacone is working with Sloane Stephens and Roger Rasheed is coaching Grigor Dimitrov.

There aren't many out there so it's very difficult to see who Murray can and will go with next. That makes me think he will end up taking his time to get it right and won't just opt for a quick fix.

There's nothing wrong with Murray's game per se, so it's not a question of changing anything big - it's not like he's still trying to claim his first grand slam.

He just needs to get his match tightness back because the injury halted his progress. Last year, before the injury, he was playing some of his best tennis - he won Wimbledon. He has struggled a bit with form since coming back but it's nothing overly serious.

Murray will just be trying to get the belief and confidence back. Lendl was the person in the corner sitting there and seeing the belief and now it's about getting people around you who make you comfortable and confident when stepping out on court.

There are no problems from a motivation angle. I know how hard Murray works, particularly in the off-season, I've seen him train. It won't be a change in that regard.

But the guys he's competing with at the top - Federer, Nadal and Djokovic - are the best of all time, so if Murray is slightly off his edge it will have a big impact on the way he plays.

His goal will be to win a grand slam this season. He is probably not going to win the French so watch out for him trying to peak at the US Open.

Chris Wilkinson is a former British No.1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis.

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Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis. Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis.