In Depth

What's eating Andy Murray as Lendl flies in for French Open?

Defeat to Fognini means world number one has lost five out of nine games since winning Dubai tournament

 

Andy Murray may still be the world's best tennis player on paper, but after a first-round defeat to Fabio Fognini at the Italian Open, he does not look like it.

 

The Scot, who turned 30 this week, has lost five of his last nine matches since winning the Dubai tournament in March and admitted he was "not playing good tennis".

 

While he won the Italian Open last year, he has failed to fire on clay this season.

 

His opponent was in fine form in front of his home crowd and Murray appeared unable to handle the world number 29, who won 6-2, 6-4 in a little more than 90 minutes.

 

"Fognini hit some monster forehands, and some gorgeous drop shots, but at no stage was Murray able to impose his game on the Italian," says Russell Fuller of the BBC. "Many of his groundstrokes were landing in mid-court: there was very little threat or conviction to trouble someone playing as well as Fognini.

 

"Ivan Lendl flies to Europe this weekend to bolster Murray's coaching team, and they will all have their work cut out. Murray is currently playing nothing like a world number one, and nothing like a potential French Open champion."

 

Never mind Roland Garros, says Stuart Fraser of The Times. "Murray realises his hopes of retaining his Wimbledon title and his world number one ranking depend now on a lot of hard work with Ivan Lendl."

 

Murray rejected the idea that Lendl was "a white knight riding to his rescue", says Kevin Mitchell of The Guardian, and said his arrival had always been planned for this week.

 

He also "bristled when it was suggested his ranking might be affecting his game", adds the journalist.

 

"He did admit he was not moving well the past couple of weeks and owned up to one shocking refusal of chasing a drop shot, yet, despite the gathering woe, Murray is confident he can do well in Paris and London."

 

Has Ivan Lendl pushed Andy Murray to 'breaking point'?

23 March

Andy Murray is said to be at "breaking point" due to illness and an elbow problem that have forced him to pull out of the Miami Masters tournament. As a result, hopes are fast receding that the world number one will be fit for Great Britain's Davis Cup clash with France in Rouen early next month.

"In the past seven weeks, Murray has suffered shingles, an elbow injury and now a flu-type virus that has capped a miserable trip to the United States," says Mike Dickson of the Daily Mail.

"The travails of the past two months – winning the Dubai Championships is the one happy punctuation – will focus attention on the 29-year-old Scot's coaching set-up and in particular the part-time role of Ivan Lendl," he says.

Simon Briggs of the Daily Telegraph agrees. "Murray's sequence of ailments... must point to an amateur diagnosis of overtraining," he says. "Extra time on the match court is unavoidable when you are winning – as Murray was during his sequence of five straight titles at the end of 2016 – but his training block in Miami in December has also been described by observers as the hardest yet.

"There is a sense that Ivan Lendl, Murray's head coach, could have gone easier on him in hindsight."

It could be that the strain is taking its toll on Murray, says Dickson of the Mail. The Scottish tennis star became a father last year and then won Wimbledon and Olympic gold before an "exhausting end" to the season, winning 50 out of 53 matches after the French Open and reeling off 24 consecutive victories to end the year.

"Being ranked first, a huge deal in the culture of tennis, brings a pressure all of its own," says Dickson. "On top of that, he needed to assimilate things such as a slew of awards and a knighthood – which he was happy to accept, while being slightly embarrassed about it. He took barely two weeks off at the end of the season and then, according to sources, was put through a brutal training block in Miami which Lendl insisted on."

However, Murray will not find it easy to "back off", warns Briggs of the Telegraph. "His enormous appetite for work was evident in Indian Wells last week when he finished a doubles match and then returned to an empty stadium court at 10pm for a bout of serving practice."

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