ONE would have thought that Andy Murray’s critics had consumed more than enough humble pie over the years, but given the speed with which many have written him off, yet again, the Scot would be excused if he had spent the days since his Wimbledon exit preparing another batch to be served up cold at a later date.
No one disputes that he surrendered his Wimbledon title meekly to Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals this week but writing off the likelihood of him coming back to add further major titles to the two he already has in the bag seems a massive leap. After all, in the previous rounds he had played some sublime tennis, marching through to the final eight without conceding a set.
Not bad for a man who less than a year ago underwent back surgery. In fact it was possibly not even that unexpected given the other uncertainty over his coaching team.
Amelie Mauresmo signed up to fill the void left by Ivan Lendl through the grass court season, with the pair now discussing whether to extend that relationship. Much will depend on whether the Frenchwoman’s desire to get Murray back to the higher echelons and winning major titles again matches that of the Brit himself.
There is no doubt that the determination and the motivation still burns fiercely in Murray’s belly. The comments he made after his Wimbledon exit cleared that up. But what he needs is a boot up the backside and a fresh injection of hard work to elevate him once again.
When Lendl first joined Team Murray, he agreed to work with the Scot for 25 years in the year. In the second year of that association, he stripped that back to 20 weeks. It was when, he said he wanted to reduce that further to around 17 weeks so he could spend more time at home with his family and on the golf course, that they agreed to go their separate ways.
Mauresmo has said that she is willing to commit more of her time and the suggestion from Murray was that he had enjoyed working with her but details still need to be ironed out and Mauresmo has to decide if she is up to the fight.
Because, no matter what his critics say, Murray does not believe he is a spent force, certainly not on the back of this year, not when his back injury precluded him from pushing himself the way he normally would in Miami in the month or so between the ATP World Tour Finals in London at the end of November and the build up to the Australian Open.
That’s when he builds up the reserves of energy, works on new strategies and addresses weaknesses. This year, without that foundation, he has, to some extent, been winging it. That’s why, when things go wrong, he can be seen hitting his legs, almost admonishing them for not being able to give him more.
He has his fitness coach and regardless of who comes on board as coach, that will be addressed, in the coming weeks, ahead of the US Open, and most definitely come the end of the year. But he needs the coach to buy into that idea of hard work and he needs that issue settled soon. A creature of habit, he likes things just so. In his personal life he may not be offering the tabloid media the engagement they crave but he is settled and has been for a long time with girlfriend Kim. In his career has also tended to surround himself with people he knows and people he is comfortable with and bolstered that with the likes of Alex Corjeta and Ivan Lendl; people who can challenge him and prevent that comfort zone becoming too cosy.
Mauresmo, like Lendl, also knows what it takes to win Grand Slam titles. She has the work ethic and the mentality and she too came back to prove people wrong.
That is what Murray needs right now. There have been talks since his exit, with the pair meeting on Thursday, and the talk of a rift in his camp, with certain people apparently upset that they weren’t consulted before she was brought on board at the French Open, are exaggerated.
It shows that Murray is single-minded enough to do what he thinks is necessary to climb back up the rankings.
With Murray keen to get back to work, a decision on their partnership is expected at the beginning of this week, of an extended agreement could come early next week, with Murray keen to sort the matter out before heading off to Miami at the end of next week for a training block.
In the past, deep disappointment has always driven him on and seeing how hungry the next generation seems to be, he knows that hard graft is a minimum requirement now. With a month until his next tournament, he sees this is a crucial period in his season.
And he would love to head into the US hard court season with a stable support team and head deep into the US Open competition.
Having spent almost three months searching for the right person, the last thing Murray will want is to have to go back to square one if he and Mauresmo cannot reach a deal.
Mauresmo’s calm approach could be invaluable given the turmoil in his own mind and the ball appears to be firmly in her court.