Brad Gilbert - Andy Murray´s next goal should be to become world number one
Andy Murray never looked likely to be a one-slam wonder. After making his breakthrough at the US Open last year, it appeared to be a matter of time before he won his second major. The French Open aside, Murray is a genuine contender for the sport’s biggest crowns these days and after winning Wimbledon, he may even arrive in New York next month as the favourite to defend his title at Flushing Meadows.
Over the past fortnight, numerous pundits have been quick to give their opinion on the number of slams that Murray will ultimately end up with but his former coach Brad Gilbert believes that setting thresholds is a futile exercise.
“You know what’s most important?” Gilbert said. “You just work hard, keep working on your game and then you go from 2-3 and then from 3-4. I don’t want to put a number because that could be selling him short or you could put too high of a number and you put too much pressure on him. To me I think Andy’s next goal should be to win the [US] Open and become number one in the world.”
Unseating Novak Djokovic at the top of the rankings is not easy, simply because of the Serb’s consistency in the big events. You have to go back to the 2010 French Open to find the last time Djokovic failed to reach the semi-finals of a major tournament and Murray would need him to suffer a series of shock defeats in order to usurp his points tally by the end of 2013.
“You just look at how many people have done it since 1973 and that tells you how tough it is,” Gilbert said.
Wimbledon 2013 was one of the most unpredictable Grand Slams in years with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova all losing to players ranked outside the top 100 but as Gilbert points out, at the end of the day the world number one and two still reached the final of the men’s singles. However as ever it was the side stories which arguably provided the most fascinating narrative this year.
Jerzy Janowicz stunned the tennis world with his run to the Paris Masters final as a qualifier last November but at Wimbledon he showed that he has genuine top ten potential as he powered his way through an open draw to reach the semi-finals and after coming through a testing four setter against the Pole, Murray earmarked him as a player who can reach the very top.
Gilbert says that the challenge for Janowicz is to find a way to produce that level of tennis on a more regular basis.
“He actually came into Wimbledon after a pretty marginal year,” he said. “He was like 47th place on the ATP Race for the year. Obviously he stepped up tremendously and if he plays like that week in, week out, he can be in the top eight in the world in no time but the crux for him is consistency. Before Wimbledon, in Halle he lost to a guy ranked 250 first round. So for him it’s all about consistency but if he can continue playing like he did at Wimbledon, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in the top eight in the world in the next twelve months.”
In the top half of the draw, it was heart-warming to see Juan Martin Del Potro back to his very best after his injury woes of the past three years. Del Potro eventually fell to Djokovic in a compelling five setter but not before recording a straight sets win over David Ferrer in the quarter-finals and Gilbert believes he’s now playing as well as he did when he won the 2009 US Open.
“He certainly was this tournament,” he said. “His biggest thing is just staying healthy. If he stays healthy for the whole year he will be ranked where he was back then.”
However from an American perspective, this year’s Wimbledon was a tournament to forget. Serena Williams went in as the overwhelming favourite but crashed out in the fourth round to Sabine Lisicki. And it was even more disastrous for the American men. For the first time since 1912, they had no representatives in the third round and Gilbert admits that right now it isn’t looking especially promising for them.
“For those young guys, they’re under a lot more pressure,” he said. “We’re not at the same level as we were before and we’re expecting them to be the next Agassi, the next Courier, the next Sampras. I think that now we need to see if we can get guys in the top 20, inside the top 10, make small bridges The best athletes in tennis right now, we’re getting them on the female side. We’re not quite getting the elite level of athlete on the male side. Hopefully that will come. All I can say is that I’m hopeful. I don’t know what’s going on with every single player but we’ve just to be patient and hope that something’s going to turn around.”
The Williams sisters have flown the flag almost exclusively for the American women since Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati retired but at long last there are a string of genuine world class prospects coming through. 2013 has been a breakthrough season for Sloane Stephens and she was the last American stranding at Wimbledon but in years to come she may look back at her quarter-final loss to Marion Bartoli with more than a few regrets.
“I think Sloane and Madison Keys both have great potential,” Gilbert said. “On the ladies side for the US, we have some great athletes who are elite level and can go far in the game. She was a little bit unlucky in that match against Marion Bartoli and Bartoli went on to win the tournament! So you never know that if Sloane had won that match, she could have won the tournament.”
And what about Bartoli? It was a fairytale fortnight for her but is she capable of winning more Grand Slams?
“Well before the tournament I would have given you 1000/1 that she would have won it but who knows!”
Keys has pinpointed as the pick of the bunch when it comes to the next generation in women’s tennis and she showed her class at Wimbledon, reaching the fourth round before losing a close tussle to Agnieszka Radwanska.
“Of all the teenagers, I think Madison Keys is by far the best,” Gilbert said. “Of the other young ones I like Sloane Stephens and I like the Croatian girl, Donna Vekic. And I like Laura Robson as well. Those four have all got great futures. But when you’re 18, 19 you want to improve all aspects of your game. Nothing you do at 19 you can say you’re set with.”http://www.tennisworldusa.org/Brad-Gilbert---Andy-Murrays-next-goal-should-be-to-become-world-number-one-articolo11558.html