Andy Murray should win another Grand Slam this year after breaking his duck at the 2012 US Open, John McEnroe believes. And the American thinks that victory at Wimbledon, where no British man has won since 1936, is a distinct possibility for the Scot.
“The expectation would be for him to follow up and at least win another one this year,” McEnroe said yesterday after being unveiled as the first confirmed participant in the Brodies Champions of Tennis event, to be held at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh in June. “That’s the thing once you get one under your belt – presumably there’s less pressure than there was originally.
“He seems supremely fit, it looks to me that he’s coming to his prime and, mentally, he’s tougher than ever. And dare I say, Ivan Lendl [Murray’s coach] has done a very solid job with him. So when you put all that into the equation, it would be surprising if he were not to win at least a few more.
“He’s got some obstacles, [Novak] Djokovic being the most obvious one. And hopefully [Rafael] Nadal will be back – it looks like he’s coming back and playing like he’s capable of, and that would be great for tennis.
“Then somebody could come along that we haven’t seen yet and fill that void. Everyone’s waiting for the next guy.”
Nadal will be a hot favourite to win the French Open in May, provided he continues his comeback from injury, but McEnroe believes that, when the tour switches from the clay of Paris to the grass of Wimbledon, Murray can triumph. “Of course he can. These next couple of years are going to be the best years of his career in all likelihood.
“Winning a major has taken some of the pressure off. It’s not going to be as intense as it was. People are still going to be scrutinising his every move but, because he’s already won one, to me people won’t be as quick to go after him and knock him if he doesn’t do it. Clearly for him and a lot of other people, he feels like he’s got to win one of those in the next couple of years.”
Asked which player from his own era Murray most reminded him of, McEnroe did not take long to come up with an answer which many observers would agree with. “He reminds me of myself. Obviously he’s way fitter than I was and he works out extremely hard.
“But, of the players I remember from the past, in terms of his movement and style of play – hard-hitting, soft touch, great feel for the ball – I would say that he’s most like myself. Hopefully he’ll take that as a compliment.”
The Brodies Champions of Tennis tournament will see ten veterans compete at a specially constructed arena at the Edinburgh Accies rugby ground over four days from 20-23 June. Eight of the ten will be regular competitors on the global tour for seniors, with the other two expected to be British wildcards.
With many former Grand Slam winners among those who take part on the seniors tour, spectators at the specially constructed 2,500-capacity venue can expect some world-class sport. The competitors may not be at quite the peak of fitness they enjoyed in their prime, but McEnroe believes the greater enjoyment they derive from the game makes up for that.
“I would say that people would be pleasantly surprised that it’s still serious, but it would not be as serious as when Jimmy Connors and I were going at it in the 80s in Wimbledon and US Open finals,” he said. “We go out there and have pride in what we’re doing. We want to put on a show so people feel like they’ve been entertained, but we also want to show people we can still play. I enjoy it more in certain ways.
“When you’re dying to win Wimbledon it’s a pressure cooker. There’s something about that that’s incomparable.
“But now I do enjoy myself more out there. It’s like a second chance. A lot of people don’t get second chances in life to continue to do something they love to do.”
This will be McEnroe’s first visit to Scotland since 1989, when he played Jimmy Connors at Craiglockhart. More announcements will follow over the coming weeks as other players are confirmed. Leading law firm Brodies have been confirmed as title sponsors, and tickets are on sale now. See www.championsoftennis.com for more details.