Sir Andy Murray is far from done on a tennis court. Murray screamed those words to his box during the US Open epic battle with Stefanos Tsitsipas, albeit a bit more expletive-ridden, and he is saying versions of it in every interview that he is conducting. He knew that his level was getting better. He insists that he still has the potential to compete at the top. Now, in the second round of Indian Wells, he gave the tennis public the surest indication yet that there is life in this remarkable career yet.
Carlos Alcaraz is most definitely not done on a tennis court. The teenage Spaniard is going to be a huge star, his US Open run has already made that clear. Murray is a man who famously recognises and respects game, both male and female. The embrace at the net at the end of this match told its own story. It’s unlikely that Murray has kept up his Spanish from his early days training in Spain, but his words would surely have been ones of encourgement for the youngster. It is possible that Alcaraz will go on to emulate Murray’s achievements, and maybe even exceed them.
Murray Tactical Masterclass
If that future is to become a reality though then Alcaraz could do worse than look across the court and learn some of the lessons that Murray dished out in their match. The Scottish former world #1 was able to weather the storm of Alcaraz’s wonderful hitting and turn the tables on his young opponent.
Murray’s tennis IQ is almost unmatched on the tour. In fact, it is the one thing that he can rely on in every match. His body may not be as sharp and his forehand is certainly a touch more loose than it was at his peak, but when it comes to reading the game and adapting to his opponents there are few better. The ultimate example of this came when her produced an underarm ace to win an important game. There was no need for him to defend the shot, it was clear what his mindset was. Alcaraz had dropped a few metres deeper to return serve and the opportunity for a beautifully played underarm serve. Alcaraz didn’t even try to retrieve it such was the skill and surprise of the shot.
The underarm serve may have been the most obvious example of tactical nous but the adaptations were plentiful and subtle. The extension of the rallies, the ability to find the Alcaraz backhand, the improvement in returning, the odd serve & volley point, lobs to keep the ball in play, all of these tactics were used by Murray to gain the upper hand in the match. Acknowledging the fact that he couldn’t win a firefight with one of the most explosive forehands in the game, Murray became chief disruptor. He allowed Alcaraz to beat himself in some cases. The unforced error count for the Spaniard rose to a level that simply could not win the match.
What can Alcaraz Learn From This Defeat?
It will be fascinating how Alcaraz reacts to this match. His coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, was once the master to Murray’s apprentice. A Grand Slam winner and former World #1 himself, he was unable to find an answer to Murray in their three meetings in 2009, but undoubtedly he will have plans to bring Alcaraz to the top of the game. Also undoubtedly, Ferrero will be saying to Alcaraz, learn from Andy Murray. If the teenager can develop those tactical skills, improve his serve and combine that with his powerful groundstrokes then the tennis world would surely have a new master to celebrate.
The Future For Andy Murray
Andy Murray now opens up the possibility that he could be a contender again. He is still ranked way outside the top 100 at the moment though and he continues to rely on the generosity of wild cards to enter ATP tournaments. After all, which tournament director doesn’t want a former world number one and Grand Slam champion in their tournament? However, he must be competitive. Murray is a pure tennis competitor and my heart and head tell me the same thing. The master isn’t done yet.
Can the master win another Masters title? Only time will tell, but by the look in the Scot’s eyes you can see that’s what he wants and he certainly won’t rest until he’s given it everything.
Main Photo from Getty.