World No 1 went to Roland Garros last year in hot clay-court form but now he’s on a slump and lost his Italian Open crown
ANDY MURRAY pays Ivan Lendl big bucks for his flying visits.
And he needs the head coach to deliver a solution to his mini-crisis.
Murray, who turned 30 this week, and Lendl will hook up for the first time in months in Paris.
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Top of the agenda will be stopping the rot in time for the French Open, which will begin a week on Sunday.
The Scot went into Roland Garros last year on the back of the best clay-court season of his career and as Italian Open champion.
But just 12 months later, Murray’s defence of his title in Rome ended in defeat by Fabio Fognini and followed last-16 exits at the other two Masters events on clay, in Monte Carlo and Madrid.
What is perhaps most worrying is that Murray himself cannot explain his current slump where he has even lost to then-world No 129 Vasek Pospisil.
After the 6-2 6-4 loss to world No 29 Fognini, Murray said: “I am just not playing well. The last couple of weeks, they have been tough but I haven’t played well.
“I am just not playing good tennis and I need to try and work out how to turn that around.”
Dealing with this kind of situation is exactly what Murray re-hired Lendl, 57, for last year.
The tennis legend does not travel with his employer for much of the gruelling tennis season and huge credit for Murray’s triumphant 2016 has to go to full-time coach Jamie Delgado.
But when Lendl is there, primarily for the Grand Slams, the idea is that he can make the difference.
To do so this time, he will have to untangle the various factors which have played a part in Muzza’s slump.
Injury is certainly one.
The elbow problem which kept him out of March’s Miami Open also prevented him from doing some hard training on clay before the season on the red stuff began. Observers have noted his movement, normally such an impressive part of his game, has been lacking.
Fatigue, both mental and physical, is also playing its part. His incredible run in the second half of 2016, which ended in Murray becoming the first British player to be a world No 1 in singles, took it out of him.
It may well have also made him vulnerable to the bout of shingles he suffered earlier in the year.
It is the Scot’s phenomenal work ethic which has taken him to the top. But now it may have played its part in his problems because he failed to take the necessary rest in the close season.
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Murray admitted: “I might have overcooked it at the end of last year. I’ve never played that many matches and that many days before, like after the US Open and with Davis Cup as well.
“It’s difficult to say what I would have done differently but if I was in that position again I’d certainly make a couple more changes, maybe start training slightly later.”
Has the status of world No 1 or the knighthood he received in the New Year played on his mind?
Murray said last month: “Definitely at the end of last year, there was a lot going on. But this year, I haven’t felt any different or any extra pressure when I go on the court.
“Maybe now when you lose as No 1, it’s a bigger story.
“It feels like each time you lose, it is treated like more of a surprise.
“But I’ve lost early in Monte Carlo before, I’ve lost early in Indian Wells before — I have started clay court seasons badly and had difficult runs and I also wasn’t No 1, so I really don’t think it’s to do with that.”
But something is not right, and it is Lendl’s job to work out what it is and resolve it.