Andy Murray is a proven Champion. His association with a smart ex-champion helped him break the ice in a big way – Olympic gold, a US Open and Wimbledon in twelve months. Ivan Lendl was a wise and tough father figure and mentor to Andy, but also a winner. Novak Djokovic was sufficiently rattled by his presence, taking steps to rectify this perceived imbalance and hired Boris Becker. Whether the fear factor is real or imagined is irrelevant, because if it exists in your opponents mind it is real. The combined Locker Room Power of Murray and Lendl was having the desired affect on the man he faced in both Grand Slam finals.
Novak is on a run and has his mojo back whilst Andy battles for form after surgery and the departure of Lendl. With regards to Roger Federer, somehow I think the hiring of Stefan Edberg is totally unrelated to the Becker appointment as Roger showed all last year that it was his intention to attack the net more. Hiring one of the all time great movers and volleyers was a logical step in his quest to improve – and 2014 has so far shown this to be an excellent appointment.
So what will Andy Murray look for and be aware of?
- He certainly needs someone credible to walk into the locker room.
The coach has to be articulate enough to paint a clear picture of a way forward, after listening carefully to what Andy has to say and asking the right questions to fire Andy’s imagination.
The work on and off court has to be interesting and relevant to the agreed path. Andy has to feel like he is improving.
- The coach and Andy have to quietly exude confidence in the process and the attitude Andy brings to their first few matches together must signal their intent.
- If you get a chance to watch the TV programme where Michael Jordan talks about his career, he mentions several times how important it was for the Bulls to continually make statements early in each game and how important it was to send the message that it was one thing to play and run with the Bulls but another entirely to beat them. If Andy is to win another Slam he needs to recapture this mindset. However as always it has to be based on substance, which is built on the work, the preparation and belief in the project.
- The coach has to have a keen eye for detail as Andy is a great player so it will require a subtle tweak here and there. This requires confidence and knowledge as Andy will not appreciate fluff.
The difficulty is until a player works with a coach he never actually knows what he is about and vice versa. Players select on recommendation, perception and past record but I would always recommend a couple of in depth conversations as it is very much horses for courses and a gelling of personalities. I would recommend a trial to any player who is competing regularly and deciding on a coach or a coaching setup. Selecting a coach is a big decision because ultimately it affects confidence positively or negatively in the short term. The younger or more inexperienced the player is, the more influence the coach will have on the players confidence. When choosing a coach you need to make sure you select someone who inspires confidence in you, who makes you feel like you can conquer the world if you do the work and improve. I’m not talking about mindless motivational stuff. Again it is about the coach helping the player lay out the pathway forward and then doing the constructive work to get there.
Big players are very self sufficient, so no coach will make or break them but as was proved by Lendl, a slight difference can be huge if it means winning a Slam final rather than losing one.