Cooney and Black

Message for Andy Murray – there are three alternatives. You can re-employ the occasionally obnoxious Lendl; hire the equally grating McEnroe. Or take on the role of a spent force

Andy Murray


NURSE, nurse, oxygen over here, please. Andy Murray is down and out… flat on his back and suffering,

Now, as the shattered Scot contemplates another major set-back to his tennis career, it would be appropriate if the stretcher bearers included Ivan Lendl or John McEnroe.

Either might be able to administer the help and encouragement Murray needs at another downturn in his fortunes.

His embarrassing exit from the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals means that Murray has to make some major decisions. One of them might be to re-employ the occasionally obnoxious Lendl, or the equally grating John McEnroe.

Murray now needs a stronger influence off court, somebody ready to kick ass and damn the consequences.

It seems the experiment of working with French girl Amelie Mauresmo has not worked. There is too much time spent in Sleepy Hollow. Life has become too comfortable, much like his support team.

Mauresmo, who won Wimbledon and the Australian Open, has nevertheless been equally well known for having a fragile temperament. She was mentally brittle, to say the least.

This is not the best ingredient for a coach to have when you are two sets all and 5-5 in the fifth. But Murray has preferred her gentle ministrations rather than the boorish behaviour of Lendl, whose mixture of foul language and awful jokes would make a sailor blush.

Lendl, from whom the Scot parted earlier in the year, managed to win eight Grand Slam titles by overcoming his nerves so fraught that he would sometimes throw up in the locker room.

It was why he cultivated that old stone face and an unblinking stare that would even disarm the pigeons on Centre Court. He overcame himself.

But his relationship worked with Murray, and brought the US Open title and Wimbledon, until Murray tired of the bullying, the strong words, the criticism.

He wanted more from his tennis, he wanted to enjoy it, and win without this monster on his back all the time.

McEnroe would be equally demanding, with a vocabulary to back up his talent, and a way of dealing with people that was firm if not always fair. In short he would not tolerate any interference or signs of a lack of focus. They were the tools he employed to clamber his way to the top.

Murray may yet go cap in hand to Lendl and ask to try again, or decide that McEnroe can offer something different.

Two years ago, Novak Djokovic suffered a lapse in form almost as serious as Murray. He employed Boris Becker to head up the team.

Last year. Roger Federer struggled, decided to do something and hired Stefan Edberg. He and Becker knew just how to get in the heads of both Djokovic and Federer.

There would be strong words, but who wouldn’t listen to two men who dominated the game for so long and easily transferred that ability into not just coaching, but advising, praising, suggesting other ways of doing things?

Now, Djokovic and Federer are contesting the world number one spot, while Murray is now reaching for the thermometer and the oxygen mask.

Of course, Murray may never win again. The back injury that needed surgery still troubles him, and next week he will sit down with his team and decide what course of action to take.

He will also put into sharper focus the role of Mauresmo in his life. It is believed she only got the job because women close to the team put forward her name.

It was daring and different, but it has never worked before, and it appears it is unlikely to forge a working, and successful, partnership this time, either. Shame.

The Scot is brimming with talent, but sometimes outside influences are so important in creating the right atmosphere and ambience.

Maybe Murray would prefer to be at war and winning than listening to the advice of a gentle girl who can’t help being nice.

In life, that only gets you second place.



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