Andy Murray: Can He Beat Nadal and Djokovic in the Same Tournament?

Gregory LanzenbergCorrespondent IApril 22, 2011

MONACO - APRIL 13:  Andy Murray of Great Britain looks on in his match against Radek Stepanek of Czech Republic during Day Four of the ATP Masters Series Tennis at the Monte Carlo Country Club on April 13, 2011 in Monte Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal was stunned by Andy Murray at Roland Garros.

What are the odds of what would be one of the most shocking headlines in 2011 happening?

The fact of the matter is the Scot should always believe he is going to beat the World No. 1, the World No. 2 and the World No 3. It is the only way he will improve his chances at winning a Grand Slam title.

Of course Murray has already beaten Nadal at Majors.

The twice Australian Open runner-up beat the Spaniard at the 2008 US Open, as well as the 2010 Australian Open. On both occasions he was beaten by Federer in the championship match.

More over, the Serb has joined the club at beating Murray in the Grand Slam finals earlier this year in Melbourne.

Most of the time, when a player is confronted by Rafael Nadal, it appears to me as if he has no strategy, and as if he's not giving his all to succeed.

It's like he already knows he's going to lose, is resigned to defeat and, worst of all, is helping Nadal's best abilities to shine through.

The same is true with Novak Djokovic since the start of the season.

But even if very few of his opponents seem to believe it, Nadal and the 2011 Australian Open winner are not unbeatable.

They are still human beings, with strengths and weaknesses. They will not forever be immune from a bad day either.

Don't get me wrong; I'm fully aware of Nadal and Djokovic's great abilities in the game, of their fighting spirit and of them being true champions.

But it would be more fun to see them challenged from time to time.

There are a lot of tactics to explore against Nadal.

Playing Nadal is already like climbing Mount Everest, so heading into the match without weapons and being too shy to fight is pure recklessness.

As I've said before, there are very few flaws in the Spaniard's game, and on top of that, he is improving month after month.

Novak Djokovic has become one of the fittest players on the planet. The Serb can now play with the same consistency for three hours.

That's what we saw in Miami against Nadal.

There was also welcoming news in the fact that the Scot took a set to Nadal in the semifinals of Monte-Carlo.

But he did not play with the same consistency in the third set, and the World No. 1 was not at his best either. Maybe it's due to the fact that Murray had issues with his elbow earlier in the day.

I want to see players pushing Nadal and Djokovic to their limits. I want to see them struggling. If their opponents could make them struggle, they'd improve even more because they'd have no choice in order to go on winning.

Although, we can always trust both top players to find the answers in order to remain the best players in the world.

If most players battled them with the positive attitude, they would also improve a lot and would believe even more in their own abilities, as they would be more involved.

The issue is that it is not possible anymore for players to believe they will lose.
It kills the fight before it has even started. At the end of the day, tennis is the biggest loser.

Andy Murray has all it takes to become a real rival of the top two players.

Murray is one of those who in the years to come, could threaten providing some adjustments, to dethrone Nadal.

He's one of the main contenders for Rafa because his game is one of the most complete. He's got a lot of weapons to oppose the Spaniard's domination.

In fact, that may even be his biggest issue; too many options are killing the choice and ruining his best-laid plans, because everything is always possible.

The Scot needs guidelines. He has a huge technical background though; he knows how to speed up the game, and he can take the ball very early. He's a wonderful counter-puncher and can defend better than pretty much anyone else.

But he needs to add a very good serve and an outstanding return. And in order to challenge Nadal and Djokovic in the Grand Slams, he's still going to have to improve.

He's shown he is able to beat Nadal in big tournaments, but he still hasn't done it in the Grand Slam finals.

With no other choice than playing very aggressive, inspired tennis, with a great diversity, he often ends up playing his best. But only when he's forced to.

Andy knows he's capable of playing this kind of game.

But he doesn't always play that way. He often tries to push his opponent into making mistakes and he rarely dictates the game. When he does, it's in a really shy way.

All those matches are messing up his game and don't let him grow into a naturally offensive player, one who hits the ball each time with the clear goal of being the boss on the court.

To challenge Rafa and Djokovic, he has to build this game all year long, in all his matches. He has to train with this mindset, one of a player whose aim is to win the point and not to make his opponent lose it.

Andy has won a lot of matches by sitting on the fence. He keeps hesitating and fighting with himself when choosing between defending or attacking. His game has no clear identity.

And the issue is that when you face Nadal in a Grand Slam, you need to be confident enough in yourself, in your own game and your own style.

His current game isn't sufficient anymore because Nadal is stronger than him in this cat-and-mouse kind of game.

Andy must now change his plan and prevent Nadal from getting into the baseline rhythm that he likes so much. Andy should try to serve and volley way more, to take the ball earlier and to hit harder. He should take his chances on all Nadal's second serves.

If he hopes to beat Nadal, he will have to master all of these areas of the game. Maybe even for five sets.

Andy has reached the limit with his current plan, and if he is to improve, this is the road he should now follow with his new coach.


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