Simon Reed

Murray in the form of his life

Simon Reed

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Andy Murray played incredible tennis against Rafael Nadal
in the ATP Tokyo final last week -
and it is an encouraging sign for his Grand Slam chances.

What's most
encouraging is that when he's had big defeats before - and the US Open was a big defeat for
him - it's taken him a while to get things back on track; and here he's come
straight back and is playing the best tennis of his life.

Last week was the best I have ever seen him play. It's a great contrast with defeats
that we've seen before,
particularly at the Australian Open last year when it took him an age to get
back. I think the consistency he has shown is admirable - it is nothing short
of spectacular, the form he has shown. The third set against Nadal in
Japan was the best I have ever seen him play against a top player.

He's doing
what everyone's asked him to do for the last three years, which is really take
it on against Nadal. The key was the second set, when he turned it around. He
got the compromise just right there, between attack and defence. He lifted his
own game and began to play breathtaking tennis; he picked the right moments to
hit the right shots.

In the third set it was just fun. With top 10 players
they can just play 'unconsciously'
when they feel like that: he just felt so good he was able to attack absolutely
at will. Everything came off, Nadal won just the four points throughout and it
was one of the most extraordinary sets I've seen.

However when Andy plays the top guys in the finals of
Grand Slams, it is important to remember that he isn't caught in the headlights; what happens is that the others raise
their game another notch or two and he hasn't been able to take them on when they are playing at that level.

Is this latest match a sign that things might be
different the next time he gets that far in a Slam? I don't know. It's a really good sign that
might mean something in Grand Slam terms, or might not. The question
mark is there now - and only a Grand Slam win is going to erase it.

After the US Open I was of the opinion that if he was to
win a Slam, all the cards would have to fall in his place. One of the top three
has to get injured, the others have to be picked off - and he gets to the final and plays Berdych… or Verdasco… or Del
Potro. I'm confident he could beat those guys in a final. What we saw in Japan
was that if he can play at that level and take it into a final, he doesn't need
all those things to happen.

It is late in the year and we won't have another Slam until January, but you take your form where you
can get it. You can focus on the big events and organise your diary so that you
will peak for them, then something comes along and you're not playing your best tennis. And
suddenly you are here in October, a less vital time, and you are. He would
prefer it to be in the key months of January, June, July and August, but it can
be random.

Perhaps the pressure's off and that allows him to play at that level, or maybe his
graph is simply on the up: if so, he will be a real contender in Australia in
January. It's difficult to know.

Sometimes great form at the end of the year can translate
into great form at the start of the following season. Djokovic began his
fantastic form last season, at the Davis Cup, and took it through; this is a
little bit earlier and is, in my opinion, less likely to be taken through.

It is not a question of temperament with Murray - that is becoming clear. There
has been a lot of hot air about body language, but you could have looked at
that in the first set of the final last week and said "there you go - he's going to lose". But he got it sorted, had a
rant at himself then produced the tennis of his life.

+++

Andy downplayed his comments about a players' strike this week, and rightly so.

Such talk is always going to get the players laughed at
and they should always be careful with such pronouncements. Tennis fans,
sitting at home, no matter how big a fan they are, will regard the fact that multi-millionaires talking about striking is ridiculous.

For the lesser players, sure, they can have a bone to
pick and not be ridiculed. But not the top players.

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