With so many rising stars of tennis, it could be said that the Tennis US Open tournament this year is truly up for grabs. Although Djokovic is always a threat even with his spate of recent losses, any of the players seeded in the top ten have the potential to win. One of the strongest contenders for the title must be the British number one Andy Murray who has, on paper, all of the skills necessary to take the US Open by storm – especially following his Wimbledon triumph and his Olympic gold. But will he?
While no one can doubt his astounding groundstrokes or his potential to be able to wield each one as a weapon, there is far more to the game than this. If we take a closer look at Murray, we see the complete package and he has variety, power and great coordination. His serve is solid and his ability to come up with the right shot at the right time while under immense pressure is spectacular. Over the years, his physique and athleticism has also improved, and he now runs down shots that most players would concede. He also has one of the best returns of serve, but, in many ways, he is still not rated as one of the greats. Why? It all comes down to mental toughness, and this may be the final part of the puzzle which has been missing, along with consistency.
It could be argued that his mental strength has been apparent with his dogged determination to help win the Davis Cup and then, subsequent grand slam battles, but tennis enthusiasts have often seen a very public falling apart of his confidence and self-belief. Indeed, his composure is easy to upset and when things start to go wrong, it does so in a catastrophic way, often resulting in the loss of a set. While his steely reserve can – and often does – repair the damage, this is a dangerous game to play, especially when faced with an opponent who is mentally sharp and who has plenty of match play and wins.
Lendl will no doubt be working on Murray’s mindset, which is currently his best and worst weapon, and this is vital, as most professional athletes will know that their mindset attributes to 90-95% of their successes. Where self-doubts exist, this forms a stronger barrier than the opponent across the net and is why all tennis champions have a great inner battle: that of increasing their mental strength so it matches their techniques and physical fitness.
Will Murray’s recent successes give him the confidence to lay down the gauntlet and fight the battle of his life? Possibly, but you can never discount Djokovic or Wawrinka – and with super-fit and enthused Del Potro waiting in the wings, anything could happen.