How Andy Murray became the new Novak Djokovic
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic continue to trade places, and not just in terms of the world rankings.
For 2½ of the past three years, it was Djokovic who dominated the men’s game and Murray who couldn’t find consistency on the court or in his coaching box.
During the same period, the Scot saw five different members of his inner circle leave. It was not until the first of those departures, Ivan Lendl, returned as his head coach on the eve of Queen’s this year that Murray’s fortunes turned around.
Under the guidance of the man who won eight majors and led him to his two of his own in their first spell together, Murray racked up his third Grand Slam title, at Wimbledon, retained his Olympic gold medal and overhauled Djokovic as world No. 1 with five consecutive titles and a career-best 24-match win streak to close out 2016.
Now it’s Djokovic’s who is chopping and changing his coaching team. Recent events have suggested the Serb is looking for a complete makeover. First came the addition of Pepe Imaz, a Spanish spiritual guru, to an already crowded camp.
Then Tuesday, Djokovic announced he was parting company with six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker. Although the German’s tangible influence can be debated, the results they enjoyed together cannot.
“There are one or two losses that I would like to erase and not be reminded of,” Becker told Sky News after his departure was confirmed by Djokovic on social media. “But overall, if somebody would have told us three years ago we are going to win six Grand Slams together, regain the No. 1 spot in the world and just be the most dominant player, I would have signed up for that.”
Of course, Djokovic’s form tailed off after he completed the career Grand Slam at the French Open, where he beat Murray in the final. Djokovic fell in the third round at Wimbledon and the first round of the Olympics. He then lost to Stan Wawrinka in the US Open final.
After going their separate ways, Becker blamed Djokovic’s slump in the second half of 2016 on a decreased work ethic. “He has to go back to the office and practice these hours and refocus on what made him strong in the first place,” Becker said. “You have to work your bottom off because the opposition does the same.”
Murray is now enjoying an offseason coming off his win at the World Tour Finals, where he took down Djokovic in the final. That result capped a remarkable turnaround from Murray, who trailed Djokovic by more than 8,000 points in the world rankings after Roland Garros.
After a welcome break, Murray will head to Miami to begin training for the 2017 season. More than anyone, Murray understands maintaining his recent success won’t be seamless.
He has suffered four losses to Djokovic in the Australian Open final, including the past two, but might never find himself in a better position to finally break his duck in Melbourne, given the continued uncertainty surrounding Djokovic’s form, fitness, state of mind — and now his volatile coaching situation.
With a clear mindset and unwavering confidence, Murray has become Djokovic — the Djokovic that looked nearly unbeatable until June. If this trend continues through the Australian Open, it will be hard to deny the Andy Murray era has truly arrived.
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