At one time it was a detriment to Andy Murray that he stubbornly followed his own judgment call and insisted on sticking with his desired team. Once he gave in to the fact he needed a new voice to hear – a more experienced voice – he became a two-time Grand Slam champion and Olympic gold medalist with Ivan Lendl at his side. When Lendl decided it was time to move along last year, Murray needed to find a Lendl substitute. Once again, the Scotsman went with his own inclination despite knowing his choice would be controversial.
He chose Amelie Mauresmo – a woman – for the job of head coach. Surely that wasn’t going to work thought the tennis chorus. But Andy saw that Mauresmo’s personality and talent only had tremendous upside for his future. He also knew that a woman – his mother, Judy – was the person who shaped his game through his youth. He was familiar with working with those of the female persuasion and rightly believed that Mauresmo’s sex had no bearing on what she could bring to the equation. When at the end of last year his longtime regular team decided to abandon the duo, Andy stuck with his decision to work with Mauresmo. Now, on Sunday, he’ll be in the hunt for a first Australian Open title in a fourth Australian Open final appearance. More power to you, Andy.
Tomas Berdych – Thumb Down (Sort of)
It’s hard to work out why Tomas Berdych, a guy with tremendous upside in his power game, can’t get the job done when it comes down to prime-time situations. Technically he has the goods, there’s no question about it. But mentally he just can’t get himself to the finish line. This occurs at places like the Grand Slams and at regular tournaments as well. It was only a few weeks ago that Tomas, accompanied by new coach, Dani Vallverdu, who used to be on Andy Murray’s team, found his way into the Qatar Exxonmobil Open against David Ferrer. He never lost a set to that final, but couldn’t keep his form in a 6-4, 7-5 loss to the Spaniard.
Moving along to Australia, Berdych looked practically unbeatable heading into the semifinal – he never dropped a set. After losing to Rafael Nadal 17-times in a row, Berdych sent the Spaniard packing in an impressive quarterfinal encounter. Could he finally be getting over that mental hope? Not yet. Despite a 6-5 winning record over Murray and a one-set lead, Berdych surrendered to Murray 6-7 (6), 6-0, 6-3, 7-5. It looks like Vallverdu has begun to help Berdych a bit in the mental aspect of the game and should be given more time. This match clearly had some extra ill will between the players. But by now Berdych, the 2010 Wimbledon finalist with only 10 titles in 25 final appearances, has to be considered the best active player not to own a Grand Slam title.