The Murray balm for British sports fans

Andy Murray, though still not tugging at the crowd’s heartstrings as Roger Federer does, has come to be accepted by the Brits, and he lifted their spirits up by winning the title, his second Wimbledon crown. The British sportslovers had been downcast after the disappointment at the EURO football cup.

Andy Murray with the Wimbledon trophy.   -  AP

Roger Federer’s defeat in the semi-finals of the All England Tennis tournament was his first in a semi-finals here in Wimbledon. Always a favourite wherever he plays, Federer would have been the one that most, apart from Englishmen, would have loved to win the title.

Andy Murray, though still not tugging at the crowd’s heartstrings as Federer does, has come to be accepted by the Brits, and he lifted their spirits up by winning the title, his second Wimbledon crown. The British sportslovers had been downcast after the disappointment at the EURO football cup.

Milos Raonic lost in the final, but his recent acquisition of John McEnroe as his mentor is clearly paying dividends. McEnroe is in addition to Carlos Moya who has been Raonic’s coach for some time now.

At that level what does a coach contribute? More than any technical input about the player’s game it would be more of insights on how to stay in the game when it’s not going well, how to try and turn things around, when to keep the ball in play or finish the point off and such like. There could also be a bit more tactical advice about the opposing player. Mostly it would have to be about preparation than anything else.

Ivan Lendl is back as Murray’s coach and suddenly there seems to be a less volatile approach from Murray and a more structured game plan than when he was getting to the finals and then not finding that one step that could take him to the title. A coach who has won majors brings a winning mentality to the player and that is why Raonic with McEnroe, Murray with Lendl and Djokovic with Boris Becker are looking so formidable in every tournament that they play.

Federer also has some great support staff, but perhaps it’s his age that is now going against him, for when it comes to five-setters against much younger players he is finding it harder and harder to finish the match off. He did that brilliantly against Marin Cilic where he was two sets down, but came roaring back to win, but maybe that took a lot out of him for when it went to a five-setter against Raonic he didn’t seem to have the extra spring in the final set that could have made the difference.

One player, who badly needs a coach, who will not just show him the winning method, but also be able to bawl at him is Nick Kyrgios. The Aussie, by all accounts, is one of the most talented players around, but his temperament is that of a five-year-old or less, who when he finds things are not going his way begins to sulk and throw tantrums and gives up trying altogether. As long as things are going well he is brilliant, but once he comes across a player who is not giving up and who is better than him, Kyrgios tends to throw in the towel and is happy to exit without putting up a fight. He will continue to surprise the odd top 10 player but unless he toughens up mentally he is never going to win a major and that would be a sheer waste of talent. Perhaps too much publicity too soon has not helped and when a youngster gets huge endorsement contracts his head begins to turn.

It’s not just Kyrgios, but also Bernard Tomic, who is another fine talent, but is wasting it. He too seems lost with no paternal figure to guide him and help him achieve his potential. The sooner both these players get former champions as their coaches the better it will be for them. As it is they have wasted so many opportunities and time will not wait for them.

Looking at his temperament, Kyrgios would do well to get Jimmy Connors on board, for Connors was one who never gave up and would fight till the last point. One of Connors’ memorable quotes was ‘even if am two sets and 0-5 and 0-40 down in the third set I won’t give up, for who knows lightning might strike only the other side of the court and kill my opponent.’ Whether this is apocryphal or not it just shows Connors’ never- give-up attitude and that’s what Kyrgios needs. Bjorn Borg is another who could be considered, but for Kyrgios to be as cool as Borg was on court would take a brain transplant and nothing less.

Anil Kumble’s appointment as the Indian cricket team’s coach has been widely welcomed by just about everyone for he has been a player who like Connors never gave up and always fought till the last ball of the match. Although he was a spinner, he was very aggressive like a fast bowler in his attitude towards the batsmen. And though they did not exactly hate him, the batsmen didn’t like facing him either.

The expectations are high so anything less than wins will not be acceptable to the Indian cricket supporter. But then that’s where Kumble scores, for right through his career he was expected to take wickets and that was enormous pressure! But 619 wickets tell you how well he handled that. The Indian cricket team is thus in the good hands of someone, who has experienced intense pressure. That is a big heads up.