Andy Murray is going through a very difficult spell at the moment. Injuries and illness have contributed to a large part of his lull and they have also justified some of his alarming losses this season.
If we go back to the opening week of 2017 those will remember seeing an introduction to a seemingly predictable year: a Murray v Djokovic final. Their encounter in Doha was an epic and we were all wondering if that final would play as a psychological edge to their almost certain final in Melbourne a few weeks later. That script did not transpire as the pair failed to make the quarter final stage. It was the first time they had not made that round of a slam since the Australian Open ten years earlier. A massive shock to the tennis world.
Shingles and an injured elbow
More troubling times occurred for Andy Murray. The Scot suffered from shingles for numerous weeks which halted his training. His first tournament back from that was in Dubai where he won the title but it was not as easy as it seemed. In the quarter finals he was forced to save a staggering seven match points against Philipp Kohlschreiber. With a supposed rise in form Murray travelled to one of his least successful tournaments, Indian Wells. A shock opening round defeat to qualifier Vasek Pospisil ensued. However, this loss can be justified. We later discovered that Murray did in fact have a right elbow injury at the time which then would put him on the sidelines for even more weeks.
The world #1 was ruled out of one of his favourite tournaments in Miami and the next we saw of him was in Monte Carlo. The serve showed major signs of expected rust as he hit three double faults in his first service game since Indian Wells. The rust did not rub off as the gritty competitor blew a 4-0 lead in the final set against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Again this loss can in fact be somewhat justified because it was his first tournament back for numerous weeks.
The last we saw of the Brit was in Barcelona where he lost a tightly contested match to clay specialist Dominic Thiem. The week was littered with moments of brilliance from Murray, he managed to gain revenge over Ramos-Vinolas in a three set dog fight. That week in Barcelona was a giant step in the right direction. Nonetheless, he will need to take even bigger steps if he is to maintain a healthy lead at the top of the rankings.
Plenty of clay court points to defend
The last tournaments of Murray’s difficult clay season will be in Madrid, Rome and of course, Paris for the French Open. The world #1 is defending a great amount of points (2,800) in those competitions after terrific displays there last year. In Madrid he is defending final points (600), in Rome he is defending champion (1,000) points and again final points in Paris (1,200). A shock loss here or there can seriously eat away at his points total. The good news for Andy Murray fans is that he normally performs well in Madrid because it plays fast due to the altitude. If Murray can dazzle us all and put a good week in there then this could give him the confidence to elevate his level of play on a consistent basis. Do not be surprised if this happens and he returns to the form of late 2016.
If you take Andy Murray’s first three tournaments of the year into isolation then it is not that bad. These were tournaments that were not affected by injury. A title in Dubai, runner-up to Djokovic in Doha and a shock fourth round defeat to Mischa Zverev in Melbourne. Of course the shock defeat to Zverev draws the attention but every top player suffers from shocks. No one is invincible. Indian Wells was a tournament where Murray was handicapped due to injury and Monte Carlo was his comeback destination. Two excusable and justified losses.
Parallels to last year?
Andy Murray’s 2017 season is vaguely similar to his 2016 season. Last year he did start the season relatively slowly. A few gritty wins in Monte Carlo then propelled his season where he went on to win nine titles. A few gritty wins in Madrid could do the trick and Murray could be in top form in no time.
Let’s not forget that he is still the world #1 by quite some margin despite the difficult start to the season. He is the only player in 2017 to win a tournament with Roger Federer in the draw. Andy Murray is still a top level athlete and he can return to top form and potentially dominate tennis again.
My Prediction for the Rest of Andy Murray’s 2017
I think Murray will enjoy a sensational week in Madrid which will propel his season in the right direction. I think he will win one of Madrid or Rome and fall just short of a maiden title at Roland Garros. My biggest and boldest prediction is that I believe he will win a Grand Slam title and finish the year as the world #1.