Blueprint for Andy Murray to Become One of the Current Era's Greatest Stars

Jeremy Eckstein@!/JeremyEckstein1Featured ColumnistJuly 8, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 08:  Andy Murray of Great Britain smiles during an event to meet fans following his victory in the Wimbledon Championships Gentlemen's Singles final match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia at the Black Prince Community Hub on July 8, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for adidas)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Andy Murray is no doubt enjoying his Wimbledon victory, but the instant the sparkle in the champagne turns flat it will be time to go back to work. This is no time to be satisfied if he hopes to build on his legacy as one of this generation’s greatest stars.

The lot of all champions is to keep evolving or fade away.

Murray's biggest rivals are hungry winners and will push hard this summer to target him and take his U.S. Open crown. He knows the price for greater tennis immortality is often painful and unforgiving. He must continue to set goals and improve his game if he is to become a bigger star.

The good news is that Murray took a long-suffering route to arrive. He had to work his apprenticeship under the harsh tutelage of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. It was borderline purgatory and required a trail of tears to eradicate the demons of self-doubt.

He will not throw this away through fickle motivation, like much of Marat Safin’s career.


Keep Building Your Game, Andy

Murray’s game has no easy security blanket.

It is built around superb footwork and baseline variety. His backhand is steady as a rock and his forehand is a curious weapon that blends consistency, slice and improved power. He’s a lot like feisty Lleyton Hewitt—a technical grinder who can use fast courts to counter-punch with adequate power.

Murray can still improve his skills.

He is learning to be comfortable in stepping into the baseline. Hitting the ball earlier will help compensate for his power gap in playing the Big Three. During the Wimbledon final he did this effectively, but there were times he drifted back into his natural tendencies to scramble and retrieve.

His forehand is best when he has more shoulder turn. This generates more power and takes away time from his opponents, turning them into defenders. It’s not second nature for him to completely attack, but this tactic will allow him to hit harder and deeper shots.

His second serve can improve. It’s a concern if he is grooving them at less than 90 mph. Can he kick it out wide with greater impact and change spins and location? He needs to coerce more short balls from his opponent and then to attack that second ball.


Trying to Catch Djokovic’s Blazing Star

The immediate goal is to catch Djokovic. He still trails 6-2 in Slam wins and has yet to dominate tennis. He has about seven prime opportunities to add more Wimbledon or U.S. Open titles, assuming he can stay healthy and fit. Three more combined wins at these venues is possible.

Murray must conquer Australia for one title. This will be difficult because he must generate more of his own power on the slower hard courts that produce a higher bounce. It plays into Djokovic’s strengths. Still, Murray has been to three Aussie Open finals and narrowly lost an epic semifinal there in 2012.

Can he win one title Down Under?

It’s doubtful Murray will win the French Open title—he has not won any tournament on clay. If he learns to slide into his shots smoother, he can win on faster clay like Madrid. This could arm him with the confidence to make a run at Roland Garros, should Nadal ever bow out.

He is already in the class of Open-era champions like Hewitt, Safin, Patrick Rafter, Ilie Nastase and Arthur Ashe. This puts him somewhere between No. 20-25 the past half century. He has bagged two Slams in the fiercely contested territory of the Big Three, where these titles are at a premium.

Winning five more total Grand Slam titles is very ambitious, but not impossible.

Federer is aging, Nadal continues to battle injuries, and other talented competitors will need to prove they can reach his level. If Murray ends up with six or seven Slams he will be linked with past legends such as Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander and John McEnroe.

Above all, Murray must capture the No. 1 ranking. It’s the mark of being the most dominant player of his time, and Djokovic is firmly in the lead by almost 3,000 points.

He will lose his Olympics gold medal points, but can gain ground in Toronto and Cincinnati after struggling with a knee injury in 2012. Then he must defend his U.S. Open title, and try for Shanghai, Paris and the WTF Final. If all goes well, he can target Australia for the occasion.

For the moment, let him continue to be the toast of Great Britain. He has spent a lifetime earning this reward.

The sun sets quickly on fame and success. Morning comes around to collect on its payment for more hard work. Murray knows this path well, but how far will he journey?

Click Here for the rivalry outlook on Murray vs. Djokovic