Former British No1 Tim Henman believes Andy Murray has mastered his self-destructive tendencies to hit the form of his career, and expects the Scot’s imminent fatherhood to encourage that trend.
Murray heads to the US Open next week buoyed by a strong start to the hard-court season, which followed his virtually single-handed defeat of France in the Davis Cup and a best ever clay-court campaign.
The world No3 has beaten stars such as Kei Nishikori, Richard Gasquet and Grigor Dimitrov in the last fortnight, though the feather in his cap was a first win over Novak Djokovic in nine attempts.
That victory earlier this month in Montreal landed Murray the Rogers Cup, his fourth title of 2015, and served as a warning to his fellow grand slam contenders that he is ready to triumph at Flushing Meadows.
“I think it was a big win on many fronts,” said Henman. “First and foremost, to beat the best player in the world is going to be great for his confidence.
“Secondly, the fact that Andy hadn’t beaten him in two years is a good hurdle to overcome.
“And thirdly, he’s playing as good a tennis as I’ve seen in a long time – probably the best tennis I’ve seen him play in his career – so I think it bodes very, very well.
“It’s his overall consistency. When you look at his performances from the first eight months of this year, I think it’s been the best and the clay court season was a big stepping stone. He really did play exceptionally well on the clay, winning two titles, winning in Madrid, beating Rafael Nadal. So for me this is his best period of play and it will be interesting to see if he could add to his grand slam tally. I really believe he can.”
Central to Murray’s improvement are, Henman says, carrying the fight to the likes of Djokovic and Nadal and the positive influence of his Swedish coach Jonas Bjorkman.
“I watched quite a lot of the final in Montreal and again I think he’s being more and more aggressive,” Henman added.
“On his first serve and his backhand, he’s just going for it so much of the time. And with his technique and ability, he doesn’t miss much. That’s when he’s going to play his best and have his best results against the top players.
“I still think Andy’s biggest challenge is managing his emotions and dealing with adversity on the court. He’s always going to be a pretty volatile character but I think with Bjorkman, the experience and his very positive mindset, it definitely seems to be working well.”
Murray, seeking a second US Open title, is due to become a parent in the New Year and Henman, who was also 28 when his first child was born, expects a new-found outlook to influence his temperament – and results.
“Andy’s always had a very good perspective on the game and certainly when you get married, and with a baby on the way, it does just emphasise that what you’re doing on the court is actually only a game,” Henman said.
“There’s never been any question marks about Andy’s commitment and dedication and I’m sure having a child will just emphasise that perspective even more.”
Tim Henman will play in the Champions Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall with John McEnroe, Henri Leconte and Mansour Bahrami, 2-6 December. Tickets: www.championstennis.co.uk or call 020 7070 4404.