Let's begin with Andy Murray's strengths. Murray has a complete game: There is not a shot that he potentially cannot hit. While some shots may not have as developed as others, a few of the strokes can be considered his strength as well as his defense and ability to counter-punch.
Murray has one of the best, if not the best, double-handed backhand in the game. What makes it a strength is that his backhand is very consistent; he varies it very well and can hit it with a lot of pace when needed.
His backhand down the line is a shot to be feared by his opponents.
The First Serve
Murray has a very good first serve. His serve is extremely accurate; he hits it with loads of pace; he varies the spin very well; and he places it on all areas of the court. His first serve is key if he wants a shot at winning a Grand Slam.
The Sliced Backhand
Murray has one of the best sliced backhands in the game today. What makes his slice so good is that he can put lots of spin on the ball. The shot is penetrating, and there is great disguise on the shot. He also does not make a lot of errors hitting the slice that many top players do.
On The Run Passing Shot
Murray's on-the-run passing shots, which he hits with both backhand and forehand, are one of the most remarkable shots in his cast arsenal. The shot on his forehand side has been said to resemble Sampras. He likes to go cross-court on the forehand side and up the line on the backhand side. For those who want to come to net, beware, whoever doesn't come in on a good approach shot will be burned.
This one was a given. Murray's defence is right up there with Rafa’s defense. Their ability to retrieve balls is amazing. Murray often relies on his ability to retrieve to force his opponent into error by making them hit one extra shot.
The downside is that the physical toll on the body is enormous, and whether he can keep it up for the duration of a Grand Slam remains to be seen.
This is the bread and butter to Murray’s whole game. It’s his style. Though his counter-punching is not a good as Rafa’s (for various reasons), Murray is able to turn defense to offense in a matter of seconds.
This is vastly helped by getting so many balls back. He will wait until there is a short ball and then pounce on it like a cat.
Most notably, he improvises his game on the spot with great instinct. He pulls out his weapons tactically on right time, as if custom-made for each opponent, and prevents his opponents from getting any rhythm. This leaves them frustrated and clueless.
In Murray's game there are a couple of "weaknesses," that a player could potentially exploit:
The Second Serve
Murray, in my opinion, has a decent FIRST serve, but his second one could be a liability. Having watched his most recent "big" matches (against Andy Roddick at Wimbledon and Juan Martin del Potro in Montreal), both of these players attacked Murray's second serve to a great effect.
Murray's second serve may have great placement, but there is not enough pace or spin on the ball to be able to threaten the top players.
First off, I'm not saying that Murray's forehand isn't good. He has an adequate forehand. The problem is that Murray seems to have a problem "hitting through" the ball consistently, which means he can't generate the same pace of shot of Federer's, Roddick's, Nadal's, or del Potro's forehands.
I believe this has somewhat to do with the style of Murray's game, the counter-punch style. This basically means that Murray has to constantly get the ball back into the court using topspin shots.
This gives hard hitters a chance to punish the shot, e.g. del Potro in the Montreal Final.
The Return of Serve
Many people say that Murray is one of the best if not the best at returning serves. This may or may not be true. In his most recent match against del Potro, Murray was caught returning with the wrong grip numerous times. This can be accomplished by varying the serve placement, the speed, and the spin.
Murray often had to guess where the serve was going. Even if Murray does return the serve, but with the wrong grip, the return is going to be awfully short and can be taken advantage of.
The Sliced Backhand
I know I said Murray has one of the best sliced backhands in the game today. Don’t get me wrong, he has great slices off of both wings, but sometimes, I think, he uses the slice too often.
When he slices he allows a hard hitting player to dictate the pace and the point. Murray has a great slice but I think he should reconsider when he should use it.
I know I have said that this is one of his strengths. But it can also be considered somewhat a weakness. This is because in a big tournament, you can’t sit back and wait for an error, especially not in a Grand Slam when all the players are (should) be in top form.
The errors are not going to be frequent enough that a player can win a match from. This is going to be the hardest thing for Murray to change because he is so accustomed to playing this way.
Keys to Success
For Murray to be successful in a major tournament, he has to be aggressive and be a “in your face” type of player. Though this is not his comfort zone, he must do this if he wants to win.
He seems to be passive when it matters most, for example: against Roddick in the semifinal at Wimbledon and against Federer at last year's US Open. Murray must learn how to consistently hit with authority of both his forehand and backhand sides. He should also use the slice a bit less, so he doesn’t allow players to dictate the points.
Murray is also going to have to be in top form for the duration of the Slam. He simply cannot repeat what happened last year (for those who forgot; he played great against Nadal then gets destroyed by Federer).
Like Federer said, “Winning a Slam is a different animal.” Andy Murray has yet to prove he can stay in top form for two weeks. It’s now or never for M-Andy.
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