Andy Murray hopes small changes will lead to big successes
Andy Murray is hoping that working with Ivan Lendl can help him achieve the small gains that will turn him into a grand slam champion.
The world No. 4 hired Lendl, an eight-times slam winner, as his coach at the end of last year and immediately seemed to have taken a step forward as he pushed Novak Djokovic all the way in the Australian Open semi-finals. The Serb’s transformation from nearly man to winner of four of the last five major titles has presented Murray with both another obstacle and encouragement.
Djokovic’s breakthrough came as a result of small improvements rather than any radical alterations to his game, and Murray is plotting a similar path.
Explaining his work with Lendl, the 25-year-old said: “There’s not been one radical change. We changed some of the things I practise, and some of the ways that I train and prepare for events. A lot of it is minor details. But, if you pick ten small things to work on and change, that can turn into a big difference.”
Murray negotiated his first hurdle at the French Open on Tuesday, beating Tatsuma Ito 6-1, 7-5, 6-0, and today he will meet world No 48, Jarkko Nieminen.
The Finn is a familiar opponent for Murray, who has won all three of their previous encounters, most recently in front of the Queen at Wimbledon two years ago. But they have never met on clay and Nieminen, 30, has had a good year, climbing to 48 in the rankings from outside the top 70 and winning the ATP Tour event in Sydney in January.
Murray said: “The surface changes things. He’ll do certain things better and certain things not so good. I’ve practised with him on clay before, and I’ve normally enjoyed playing against left handers. He has a lot of experience and won some good matches here in the past. He beat Agassi here [in 2005]. He’s not scared of causing an upset.”
Murray had to wait until the last possible day to begin his campaign, but he is confident that will not hurt his chances of at least matching last year’s semi-final run. The Scot said: “If you play a long match in the first round it probably wouldn’t be ideal, but I play every second day, so that helps. You’ve got a bit of a routine. It’s probably better to play earlier matches but, providing you get through the first rounds without playing any really long matches, it shouldn’t make too much of a difference.”
Nieminen had not won a match at Roland Garros for four years prior to Tuesday’s victory over Igor Andreev, where he benefited from the Russian’s retirement, and knows he has his work cut out if he is to topple Murray today. The Finn said: “He’s one of the top four players and one of the favourites for the tournament. It’s a great challenge for me.”
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