Darren Cahill and Brad Gilbert discuss Andy Murray’s game with The Tennis Space. Cahill and Gilbert, who have both worked with Murray, are part of the ESPN team covering the Wimbledon Championships:
General impressions of Murray so far during this tournament?
Cahill: “Every year we see him at Wimbledon, there’s an improvement in his game, an improvement in his demeanour and an improvement in his belief. He plays his best tennis on the grass. Even though it was tough on him to miss the French Open it may have been a blessing in disguise because he found his grass-court feet faster than anyone else. He’s got a tough match against Fernando Verdasco in the quarters. Andy has got a good head-to-head record against him, but he has lost to him at the slams before. I think Fernando made a racket change a few weeks ago and that has been exceptional for him. Fernando has got better body language on the court at the moment, he’s getting easier power from his shots, and he has been serving about as well as I’ve ever seen him serve. I think the match will be tougher than most people think, but at the moment it’s tough to bet against Andy. He’s got that confidence that we see every time he steps on to the grass. And he’s playing really well.”
Do you think Murray will go on to win the title?
Cahill: “I wouldn’t say that yet. There were two favourites before the tournament started – Andy and Novak Djokovic – and they’re still here in the draw. There have been a lot of upsets in the draw, but Andy and Novak have been playing extremely well. Novak has been awfully impressive this year, especially with his returns and getting his racket on a lot of balls. It’s been some of the best returning I’ve ever seen from him in his career. So I’m not going to go out on a limb just yet and say that Andy is going to win it. But obviously he will stand a great chance if he makes the final.”
Gilbert: “I just think the match-up with Fernando Verdasco is a good match-up for Andy. It’s too early to be thinking about Andy winning the championships as you don’t know who is going to be on the other side, what the variables are. Potentially, the highest ranked guy that Andy is going to have to play from now on to make the final is Jerzy Janowicz, the No 24 seed. But you don’t make the draw, you just play it, and Andy has kept his focus pretty good. Against Verdasco, Andy just has to continue what he’s been doing.”
Cahill: “The big thing is that Andy isn’t just playing set parts of the courts any more. He is willing to hit his forehand down the line earlier in the point, and the same on the backhand side. I think this is a new Andy Murray, who is willing to rip shots, and not wait for the game to come to him. It was a big turning point for Andy last year, even though he lost the final to Federer, as it was the first time he was able to step off in a grand slam final and say, ‘you know what, I played on my terms, Yes, I lost the match, but at least the final was played on my terms’. That has set the standard for how he has played since.”
Is there anything Murray has to concentrate on against Verdasco?
Gilbert: “Andy hasn’t played a leftie all year. In general, Andy plays very well against lefties, excluding Nadal. What’s great is that Andy will just focus with his team on how to get ready for his match with Verdasco. That’s all you can control, and that’s the only thing you want to worry about. I think here in London people get too caught up with what’s ahead, and what could happen at the end of the tournament, but he just needs to focus on getting the three sets against Verdasco. For now, that’s the only thing that matters. If he gets the three sets, then he has to figure out where he goes from there. He doesn’t even know who he’s going to get in the draw after that. He can’t control that. But he can control trying to get the three sets.”
Has Murray changed a lot since last year?
Cahill: “No, he’s just more mature. There’s been constant improvement. Obviously when Lendl came in, he set certain standards for Andy to live up to, and you don’t get hit those standards straight away. It takes a bit of time. You’re just looking for a one or two per cent improvement over the course of time. Andy has become a better tennis player since last year’s Wimbledon, and in 12 months’ time, he will be better again. Everybody has to improve. Once you stagnate, you lose touch with the rest of the field. You have to keep tweaking your game and looking for improvement, and keep practising to make sure you’re working on your strengths. It’s just small things in many parts of your game.”
Darren, has Andy thanked you for your role in helping to broker his coaching relationship with Lendl?
Cahill: “Andy is a good friend. It was part of my adidas job – not just with Andy, but with other players as well – to find a good coach for players, to mix the personalities together. To make sure that it’s not just a quick coaching job, but a long-term arrangement. That there’s a future in it. I like Andy a lot – he’s a great friend – but when it comes to these slams, you earn everything, nothing is a given. I love the fact that Andy is going out there and being more positive and more aggressive, and going after it and not waiting for it to come to him.”
Why did you think Lendl would be so good for Murray?
Cahill: “They had travelled down similar paths. What Lendl went through as a tennis player was very similar to what Andy went through as a tennis player. Brad and I grew up with Ivan and knew how he thinks about his tennis.”
Gilbert: “He’s very detail-orientated.”
Cahill: ”As a player, Ivan had one of the best work ethics that the game has ever seen. To bring that philosophy through to coaching Andy, that’s great. Ivan also recognised that what he went through was very similar to what Andy was going through. And he wanted to help. He wanted to make a difference to Andy’s life and to his career. You can’t buy that.”
Gilbert: ”Ivan also has a zany sense of humour.”