ANDY Murray will work harder than before, if that is possible, and think hard about what went wrong in his quarter-final against Grigor Dimitrov. But, as he begins to think about the build-up to the next major, what the deposed Wimbledon champion needs above all is a run of wins – and ideally at least one tournament victory.
The Scot likes to think rationally about his sport, and believes in the old saying: ‘The more I practise, the luckier I get’. But there is always the odd element of good fortune in any success, and, perhaps, to get back on track he just needs a couple of minor elements to go his way. Certainly, however that elusive tournament victory comes, it could be just the spark required to get Murray back on track.
He has not had one since this time last year and, although much of the interim has been spent recovering from back injury, he feels that a player of his calibre is overdue a win.
“It’s been a year since Wimbledon last year, the last time I won an event, and the best way to prepare for majors is by winning a lot of matches and I have not done that,” Murray said, having had time to reflect on the straight-sets defeat that was one of the biggest disappointments of his career. “In Doha I didn’t do that, didn’t do that before the French, didn’t win Queen’s. It hasn’t stopped me from having good tournaments in the Slams, but to have great ones it helps if you have a good build-up.”
In the sense that he lost to Radek Stepanek in his second match at Queen’s, Murray did not have a great build-up to Wimbledon. But, during the tournament itself, he played very well in his first two matches, and exceptionally well for spells in his third-round tie with Roberto Bautista Agut, and again in his last-16 match against Kevin Anderson. There was nothing in those contests to suggest he was about to fall flat against Dimitrov and he was in a good frame of mind going into Wednesday’s quarter-final, especially as in the year’s previous two Grand Slams he had only been eliminated when he came up against Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
“I believed in myself. I lost to Roger in Australia and Rafa in Paris. I felt I was playing good tennis, playing well for ten days, moving well, my game was in a good place.
“I just had a poor day. I don’t want to over-analyse it too much, but I just know that if I make some improvements in my game when you have those off-days you can still find a way to win. That’s what I need to do.
“The spark is trying to win these events,” he continued when asked what gave him the renewed motivation in majors. “That’s what I enjoy. That’s what has motivated me over the last four or five years. I need to go away for a few days, think about a few things, talk to my team about what I’m going to do to improve my game and how I am going to get better.”
One thing in Murray’s favour is his tendency to come good on the back of difficult defeats at Wimbledon.
In 2012 it took him only a month to recover from losing his first final to Federer before he was back at the same venue to beat the same player in the final of the Olympic Tennis Event, and he went on from there to win the US Open – his first major. So the precedent is good. But Murray admitted that, before he even thinks about returning to training, he will need to clear his head of any clutter.
“I need to make sure that when I get back on the practice court my head is clear and I am looking forward and I have a clear plan as to what I am going to do over the next five weeks before I start playing matches.”
The key ingredient of that clear plan will be agreeing a more lasting arrangement with new coach Amelie Mauresmo. Once that is done, he will be able to analyse every aspect of his preparation, although for the time being he is convinced that training in Miami in preparation for the North American hardcourt season is an essential ingredient of it.
“I would say it would be more likely that I will go to Miami just because of the conditions.
“ I’m not against changing or going to train in different places, but I think, for this period, just because of conditions in Cincinatti and at the US Open, Miami is a good place to prepare for that. But at other times of the year there is no reason why I couldn’t go somewhere else to prepare.”
In other words, nothing is sacrosanct, and nothing will be left to chance. Murray has not gone this far, sacrificing so much, to have his determination undermined by one bad afternoon.