The year 2014 has not been kind to Andy Murray, not kind at all. After a whirlwind two years between 2012-13; Murray won gold at the 2012 Olympics, his first Grand Slam at the 2012 US Open and of course, the 2013 Wimbledon Championship. Murray was at his zenith, he had become the first Brit to win Wimbledon since the late Fred Perry, who achieved the feat in 1936, becoming a national darling and assuring himself of a knighthood years down the line.
Then that troublesome back flared up again. After the 2013 US Open Murray underwent surgery in an attempt to try and rid himself of the lower back pain that had plagued him since the early stages of the season.
Returning from injury is one thing but splitting with your coach, the coach that has guided you too your Gold Medal and Grand Slam successes, is far from ideal. In Murray’s defence, it was more Ivan Lendl, who had family commitments that he wasn’t able to meet when travelling around the world coaching, than him behind the split.
Back to 2014, quarter-final appearances at the Australian Open, Wimbledon – where he upset the betting, going out to Grigor Dimitrov in a feeble fashion, leading many to question the mentality of the 27-year-old – and the US Open, as well as a semi-final appearance at Roland Garros; his joint-best performance there, meant it was the first time that Murray had not competed in a Grand Slam final since 2009.
But it wasn’t just a drought in the Grand Slams, rather tennis as a whole. Murray struggled profusely throughout 2014. He has seriously toiled but in recent weeks, he has not only made it to his first final since his Wimbledon victory, but he has tasted success. After taking a wildcard for the Shenzhen Open he managed to beat Tommy Robredo, after saving five championship points, to end his 14 month drought and get his hands on some much needed silverware.
So now that he is back to winning ways, is it back to the Murray we have come accustomed, the all-conquering Murray?
The comeback is no longer in its primitive stages. Murray’s lower-back is perfectly healed now; actually the surgery would have made it stronger. So from a fitness standpoint Murray is as fit as ever. Now that is a real worry for those who have leapfrogged him in the rankings, as Murray is coming for you. Nobody likes a cold, calculated man chasing them but, that is exactly what all the players up to Novak Djokovic will now have to look out for.
Changing coach is a big moment in any sport – look at Manchester United without Sir Alex Ferguson – and tennis is no different. Murray has had to adapt from the coaching regime of Lendl to that of new coach, Amelie Mauresmo, who has been in place since the French Open concluded. These two are building up an intrinsic working relationship, something that will only get better with time.
Tennis is full of waves. Murray was riding one in the years prior: reaching the final of Wimbledon, winning the US Open and then finally winning Wimbledon. Murray was red-hot for those 18-months. But as waves go in, they must also go out – this is the crest that Murray was on for most of 2014. All players go in and out of form, sustaining it is the biggest problem, and you can only sustain form when you are playing regularly, something that Murray has not been doing this year, but will be from now.
Hopefully Murray will be able to qualify for the ATP World Tour Final in November. A good showing there will put in him in the right frame of mind to do well at the 2015 Australian Open. Murray needs to use Shenzhen as a springboard. He’s broken his duck and now its time to go back to playing tennis.