Mats Wilander, a winner of seven grand slam titles, tells The Tennis Space why Andy Murray’s early defeat in Indian Wells doesn’t matter one bit (“irrelevant – I wish people would realise that”), and why the Scot will be the most improved player on the men’s tour this season (“the others in the locker room will now be thinking, ‘Holy s—, he’s here to play'”),
Wilander on Murray’s defeat in Indian Wells, where he lost his opening match:
“Murray’s defeat in Indian Wells? Irrelevant. I wish people would realise that, for Murray, it’s all about the grand slams. Tournaments like Indian Wells and Miami only matter financially. Murray’s record against Djokovic, Nadal and Federer at tournaments other than slams, it doesn’t mean s—. What matters is how he does against the top three at the grand slams.
“If Murray stopped now, you could say that he’s had a brilliant career. He would be remembered for a while as a fantastic tennis player, but he wants more than that. His whole focus has to be on winning a grand slam. In some ways, it’s probably no bad thing for him not doing well as tournaments like Indian Wells, as it shows him what really matters. Losing early in Indian Wells, and maybe in Miami? Irrelevant, I would say.
“Does his ranking even matter? If he’s number 4 in the world, number 8 or number 12, that doesn’t matter. Perhaps it would even make life easier for him, having a lower ranking. Beating Nadal in the fourth round of a major would be easier than beating him in the semi-finals. It only matters now if he becomes number one. Otherwise, doesn’t matter, it’s about winning a slam.”
Wilander on how Lendl has helped Murray:
“Murray will be the most improved player on the men’s tour this year. Lendl is making a big difference, already a real big difference. The biggest difference has been to his approach. He’s not looking up at his box during matches, he’s taking some more responsibility. If he loses, if the plan doesn’t work out, he knows it’s his fault. He’s not going to blame anyone else, and that’s good to see.
“The players will be looking differently at Murray now. He’s changing perceptions. They’re going to be looking at him and thinking, ‘Holy s—, he’s here to play’. I think it’s much more likely now that Murray will win a grand slam. That’s why Murray hired Lendl, right, to help him win a slam? It’s going well so far, but let’s see whether it lasts. You never know with these relationships – Murray could grow tired of the way that Lendl talks to him, who knows?”
Wilander on Murray at the slams:
“What matters now is how Murray does at the other three slams this year. He can beat Djokovic, Nadal and Federer away from the slams, but has not yet mastered beating them on the big stage. Look at his semi-final against Djokovic at the Australian Open; he was up by two sets to one and then played some sloppy tennis at the start of the fourth set. That’s where he lost it.”
Mats Wilander competes on the ATP Champions Tour which culminates at the Royal Albert Hall in December. For more information go to www.atpchampionstour.com and for tickets to the Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall call 0207 0704404 or go to www.aegonmasterstennis.com/tickets/