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Andy Murray is undeniably one of the most important players in British tennis history. The first Briton to win the Wimbledon Championships in almost 80 years, the first Olympic gold medalist in tennis for Britain in over a century, these records are clearly the proof of his success. However, his performances and his ranking have both been deteriorating sharply since the start of 2014.
Murray underwent surgery at the end of 2013 to solve his back injury, which had brought him a lot of problems including a withdrawal from the 2013 French Open. He even decided not to participate in the World Tour Finals in London at the end of the 2013 season and missed the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award ceremony in order to prepare for the upcoming season. It is reasonable to say that Murray’s 2014 season has been affected by the surgery. Nevertheless, there is another more important issue behind his decline this season.
Murray started his co-operation with Ivan Lendl on the last day of 2011. Lendl’s contribution brought Murray to a next level. Lendl, who stood atop the men’s single ranking for 270 weeks during his time as a player, successfully built a stronger mentality in Murray’s mind. In past seasons, Murray’s performance was always affected by his own mental issues. He found it very difficult to overcome difficulties during a match, despite the fact that he is equipped with one of the most powerful forehands and backhands in the tour. It took only nine months for Lendl to bring Murray two Olympics medals (a gold in the men’s singles and a silver in the mixed doubles) during London 2012, a Wimbledon championship final and an US Open trophy. A year later, Murray became the first male Briton to win the Wimbledon Championships in 77 years after beating Novak Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final.
However, their partnership ended in March 2014. Despite the fact that Murray managed to get into the semi-finals of the 2014 French Open in May, Murray did not face any top ten players before facing Rafael Nadal in the semi-final. The separation between Lendl and Murray is the primary reason behind Murray’s decline this season. Murray reached the peak of his career under the coaching of Lendl, where he was considered a top player on the tour who could be a grand-slam finalist or win a few master titles every season. He was always fourth seed or lower in a grand slam tournament but lived under the shadow of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic before the appointment of Lendl as his coach. Lendl was the person who turned Murray into a grand-slam winner and a challenger for the number one spot in the world rankings. Murray reached second in 2013, which is still his highest ranking, again under the guidance of Lendl.
Murray would always find it hard to replace a Lendl. His current coach, Amélie Mauresmo, who won two grand slam titles as a player, has worked with two other female grand slam winners, Victoria Azarenka and Marion Bartoli. Her experience as a player and a coach may bring Murray back to his best. It is not fair to draw a conclusion at this point, since Murray started the season after undergoing a surgery and changing his coach.
Murray is now sitting 8th in the rankings. He needs more solid performances in the remaining parts of the season to win himself a place in the tour finals, which will be held in London from 9th November to 16th November.
Murray has been affected by his surgery recovery and a lot of different issues this season, but his form has been growing steadily throughout the year. His victories in the Shenzhen Open and the Vienna Open show that he is ready for a strong return. Only time can tell whether Murray is ready to win another grand slam title or even just get back amongst the top four.