Roger Alton Roger Alton

Spectator Sport | 24 May 2008

Teenage tantrums

Tim Henman famously spent a lot of his time trying to convince us he wasn’t as nice as all that. So when Henman called Andy Murray a ‘miserable git’ at a charity do the other day, we ought to listen. Though, bless him, when Murray was asked about this he did say, ‘Well I suppose I am a miserable git really.’

But it’s the heart of the clay court season next week, with the start of the French Open, and isn’t it about time this prodigiously talented young Scot started to deliver? Sure he has beaten Roger Federer twice, but in tennis terms the Swiss World No. 1 is almost at bus pass age. Murray needs to start putting one over his exact contemporaries — the brilliant Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Last Sunday in the final of the Hamburg Open, Nadal was down 5-1 to Federer in the first set. Watching, my friend said, ‘Nadal’s not going to let that go.’ And sure enough the Spaniard reeled off the next six games to take the set 7-5. Right now it’s hard to imagine Murray cultivating anything like that steeliness. Most often, when things go against him you almost sense him starting to give up.

For years he has burned through coaches, including Brad Gilbert. He used his coaches as the focus of his anger and general foul-mouthed salvoes. Well fine, everyone likes a bit of aggression in a sportsman. But bad behaviour has got to get somewhere. Think McEnroe. Murray cranked himself up into a tsunami of swearing against Nikolai Davydenko in the Dubai Open, yet he still lost. He needed to see an insult to his mother Judy to fire himself up against the Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in the first round of the Italian Open a couple of weeks back (though he then lost easily in the next round).

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