Exclusive interview with Mats Wilander, a former world number one.
– Wilander has told The Tennis Space that Andy Murray making Sunday’s Wimbledon final “is basically nothing special” unless he beats Roger Federer. “It’s a Wimbledon final, and that’s brilliant, that’s great, but with that draw, he should be there. Well done, really well done, the pressure was on, blah blah, he delivered, that’s great. But it doesn’t mean anything to me, or to Andy Murray, unless he beats Federer in the final.”
– Wilander also said that Murray should not think about his previous three grand slam finals – all of which he lost in straight sets – as “he didn’t learn anything from those finals”. “He might have to take the headline in the face that he played another final and didn’t win a set. But he mustn’t think about that on court. It’s more than likely that there’s a thought in Murray’s head: ‘I need to win a set’. If he goes into the match thinking that he needs to win the set, he’s never going to win the match.”
– Wilander suggested that, “in Federer’s eyes, Murray isn’t that special as he’s only made four grand slam finals, and Federer has won 16 slams”.
Your thoughts on the final? “I think Andy has a really good chance if he plays well. But if Federer plays like he did in his semi-final, he will be the favourite. But Murray seems to be able to to slow things down and he should be able to handle it. Is he able to do that on grass on Sunday? Yes, he must be able to do that. But if Federer serves like he did in his semi-final, it’s going to be almost impossible for Andy. But Murray presents a different problem to Federer than Djokovic does.”
Murray lost three previous slam finals in straight sets, including two to Federer. Is that a factor? “It doesn’t have to be a factor in the match, if his man, Ivan Lendl, does his job properly. Andy Murray ought to have Lendl with him from now until the match on Sunday. It’s more than likely that there’s a thought in Murray’s head: ‘I need to win a set’. If he goes into the match thinking that he needs to win the set, he’s never going to win the match. This is when Lendl is valuable. This is not about winning a set; this is about playing the right match under the circumstances. He should be thinking, ‘What’s Roger doing? What am I doing? If I’m behind, how do I get closer to him? If I’m ahead, how do I get further away from him?’ He might have to take the headline in the face that he played another final and didn’t win a set. That mustn’t enter his mind. But that’s very easily done, allowing yourself to think like that.
“He can’t think in a negative way. He can’t even think about the previous three slam finals. He hasn’t learnt anything from those three finals. You can’t say that he has. Just because you’ve been in three slam finals, that doesn’t mean that you learnt anything from those experiences, anything that’s really going to help you. He hasn’t won a set. This is a completely new match. He’s playing against the greatest player of all time and he’s beaten him before. He should think back to what he did in those matches and what he needs to do again this time. It’s about tunnel-vision about this match he playing against Federer on Sunday. That’s hard to achieve unless you’ve got someone who’s been there 19 times before, and who has won eight of those 19, someone called Lendl.”
How will Murray handle the emotional side on Sunday? “For Andy Murray, making the final is basically nothing special. It’s special for Britain, and it’s huge for everyone here as there hasn’t been a finalist since 1938. But, for Andy Murray, there’s a risk of losing your first four grand slam finals. That’s what he’s facing. If Murray had lost his semi-final today, it would have been a disaster for Murray personally, but not for Britain. Now Murray’s in the final and it’s great for Britain, but it means nothing to Andy Murray. It’s a Wimbledon final, and that’s brilliant, that’s great, but with that draw, he should be there. Well done, really well done, the pressure was on, blah blah, he delivered, that’s great. It doesn’t mean anything to me, or to Andy Murray, unless he beats Federer in the final. Lendl lost his first four finals and went on to win eight slams. Do those first finals mean anything to Lendl? They won’t mean anything to him.”
What will Lendl be saying to Murray? “To have Lendl now is unbelievable. Lendl is the perfect guy to have. Lendl can’t tell him how to win Wimbledon as he didn’t win Wimbledon. But he has so much other experience. There’s so much in there to help Murray out. Is it right or wrong what Lendl is telling Murray? It doesn’t really matter. It’s just an opinion. The most important thing is that Lendl makes Murray commit to a decision about the way he does things. Who can tell whether it’s the right approach? If someone was right the whole time they would be a genius. If someone can convince you to commit to Plan A and not Plan B, that’s the person that you need. That’s what Lendl is doing. It’s up to to Andy Murray whether that’s enough or not.”
Do you believe there is any tension between Murray and Federer? “I don’t think there’s tension between them or that they don’t like each other. They might not like each other’s games but their personalities don’t come into this. Tennis players might not like it that another player is winning more than them, because they think that they’re a better player. I think Federer has thought that he’s better than Andy Murray and that Murray has got nothing special. In Federer’s eyes, Murray isn’t that special as he’s only made four grand slam finals, and Federer has won 16 slams. That’s a big, big difference. I can’t imagine that there’s anything personal between them. It doesn’t go that way in tennis. Players are together the whole time. There’s only a problem between players if one of them is a complete jerk.”
Annabel Croft and Mats Wilander are presenting Live @ Wimbledon this fortnight. http://www.wimbledon.com/en_GB/interactive/index.html