Andy Murray’s former coach has dismissed the notion that winning the men’s singles title at Wimbledon this year will be devalued by Novak Djokovic’s early exit.
The Serb, who went into the Championships holding all four grand slam titles, crashed out to Sam Querrey in the third round.
Cynical voices could be heard around Wimbledon suggesting: “If Andy Murray now goes on and wins the title for a second time will this be a lesser achievement than the first?”
Mark Petchey is having none of that. The Scot’s former coach says that should Murray come through his semi-final against Tomas Berdych today and lift the trophy on Sunday it will be every bit the fantastic feat that his 2013 triumph was.
“If Andy wins Wimbledon by beating, say, Milos Raonic then I think there will be a few people who will say: ‘Well, he beat Novak three years ago so that was the greater achievement.’
“My personal feeling is that whoever gets to the final from the top half of the draw, whether it’s Roger [Federer] or not, then they are going to be a handful on Sunday. And I hope that if Andy wins, and I hope he does, that the story of these championships is written like that.”
Petchey became Murray’s coach in 2005 and helped guide him into the top 50. Now a commentator, he ran the rule over the No 2 seed’s form along with Jonas Bjorkman, who stood in for Amelie Mauresmo as Murray’s coach when she was having a baby. Asked if Murray was in the form of his life, Petchey said: “It’s difficult to say because I think he’s played great all year and that’s maybe got lost in this tournament.
“He obviously played unbelievably well in 2012 through 2013,” added the Englishman, referring to the triumphs at the US Open and the Olympics followed by Wimbledon. “But it’s not as though he came into this playing poorly and suddenly found his form at Queen’s – he’s played great all year. There was a bit of a wobble in Indian Wells and Miami but apart from that he’s been hitting the ball great.”
Bjorkman said: “Andy’s been very solid so far. He made history at Queen’s and he’s looking very sharp here. He’s in a good place after a very good eight or nine weeks if you go back to Madrid when he reached the final and then won in Rome.”
Had the Swede spotted any improvements in Murray’s play since his spell coaching him? “It’s tough to say. At Andy’s level he’s almost 100 per cent perfect. The top four or five guys don’t really have any weaknesses and yet they still try to improve those tiny percentages. It’s not easy to find those percentages which are better now than in the past – he’s the only one who can feel that. The good sign is that he’s been serving very solid, winning a lot of free points and serving big on the important points when he’s under pressure. That’s always a key in the big matches.”
Bjorkman said he hadn’t anticipated Murray would get back with Ivan Lendl but right away it made perfect sense. “It wasn’t something I was thinking at that moment but when it turned out to be, I wasn’t surprised because they’d had great success in the past.
“Obviously, Ivan has done so much in his own career. He knows what it takes to win. He has a good approach with Andy and can bring a lot from his own career. And he also has – how do you say it – a good fun side off the court. So with Ivan, it is not only the serious stuff when it is matches but he is very easy-going off the court and behind the scenes as well. So all in all, it’s a good combo.
“It’s always important to have the right personalities. You have got to have fun. You spend so much time together you’ve got to have fun. Besides the matches you play and the practices, everything in between is very important and that seems to work for these two extremely well.”
So, the big question: can Murray win the title again? “Andy is so professional, he wants to succeed in all his goals. I think he really wants to do all he can to win a few more majors and I think he’s looking good to achieve that.
“This might look like a good chance [because Djokovic is out] but Andy has proved he can beat Novak and Roger on and off. His consistency is there more or less every slam he’s playing – he’s always there. So I would say he always has a big chance of winning. It’s always a few points here and there that decides who will win when those guys are playing because they are all great champions.”