• Chris Wilkinson

Murray needs to shed 'mates' syndrome'

Chris Wilkinson April 6, 2011

Andy Murray showed he had a sense of humour on April Fools' Day, but it is covering up a much more serious issue. He announced last week that Ross Hutchins would be his coach, and while clearly Hutchins isn't up to the job, it must surely be time that Murray gets a full-time coach on board.

Murray has often been accused of being surly, and a prank like that showed he has a sense of humour and showed him in a good light. Sometimes when you go through a bad slump you have to try not to get too stressed out about it, and Murray has shown he isn't letting a bad patch get him down.

His performance in Miami was obviously hugely disappointing - it's his third straight defeat since the Australian Open final but more concerning is it was his second defeat to such a lowly-ranked player. You can't see any other of the top-ranked guys losing in that manner and something needs to change.

He has been linked with all sorts of names in the past few months but it is important he gets the right guy. He needs to choose someone he respects and who has the experience. Ivan Lendl is one name who has been linked with Murray and the similarities between them are clear - Lendl obviously made four grand slam finals before he finally got a title so he knows what Murray is going through.

On the other hand, Lendl hasn't been on the coaching circuit for such a while so I am not sure he is the right person for the job. But what is important is that Murray gets away from his 'mates' syndrome' - he needs to hire someone who is bigger than he is. Sadly I don't think I would be asked, I still need to work my way up to that level, but it would be a pretty exciting opportunity.

Murray has accepted a wildcard for the Monte Carlo Masters which I think is a really good thing - he is still clearly lacking match practice and he is going to struggle to get results on the clay so any wins he can get under his belt is a confidence boost ahead of the grass court season. He needs to make sure he doesn't get left behind - whereas a few months ago we were talking about the 'big four' of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Murray and Novak Djokovic, it seems to be the top three now. Djokovic is well and truly competing with the big guns and a gulf has opened up - the top three are streets ahead of Murray at the moment.

Rafael Nadal will be the man to beat on the clay © Getty Images

It will be an interesting couple of months as we move onto the clay - Djokovic is currently the best player in the world, having beaten Nadal in consecutive finals, but now Nadal has 'home advantage'. Back on the clay Nadal will be the hot favourite, but he has a lot of points to defend and if he doesn't win all the titles he won last year, Djokovic could be breathing down his neck and could even overtake him as world No. 1.

I genuinely thought Djokovic would run out of steam in Miami but it just goes to show what a big factor confidence is. Winning becomes a habit and he goes onto that court believing he can beat anybody, and now his rivals are starting to fear him. Nadal played as well as he could have done in Sunday's final but Djokovic was the better player. He is hitting the ball harder, moving better and really attacking the ball. But his serve has made the real difference and he is no longer giving away the double faults.

It is definitely a case that Djokovic has upped his game rather than Nadal's level has dropped. It will be difficult for him to defend all his points on the clay, and it will probably come down to his fitness.

It is a quick turnaround now before the clay season and the most important thing is to get some hours in and get used to the movement on the surface which a lot of players find difficult. Nadal is really at home on the clay and slides around really naturally, but a player like Murray will find it hard to adjust.

It is the nature of the tour that the conditions are always changing - the surface, the time zone and the best players are able to make the transition from hard courts to clay and then to grass and transfer their game between the different conditions.

I am beginning to sound like a broken record but Juan Martin del Potro will be one to keep your eye on. He's progressing really well and had another solid week in Miami. Other players who I expect to do well will be David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco and Robin Soderling. I have been saying for about six months now that Gael Monfils should be a top ten player, and now he is back up there in the rankings it is time he had a decent run of form.

Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1

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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.