Mcen­roe: ‘If he is fit, I can see Mur­ray win­ning Wim­ble­don again’

John Mcen­roe be­lieves Bri­ton can win a slam again as long as he is fit, writes Char­lie Ec­cle­share

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page -

As ten­nis watch­ers ea­gerly an­tic­i­pate the be­lated emer­gence of a new gen­er­a­tion, John Mcen­roe be­lieves next year could in­stead be de­fined by an­other re­nais­sance story. Roger Fed­erer, Rafael Nadal and No­vak Djokovic have all en­joyed their ten­nis equiv­a­lents of a come­back tour in the past cou­ple of years, but what about the fourth and fi­nal mem­ber of the erst­while “Big Four”, the for­got­ten man Andy Mur­ray?

“I’m sure Andy looks at those three and says, ‘I should be able to do some­thing akin to what they’ve done’. At least come back to sort of what he was be­fore,” says sev­en­time grand-slam cham­pion Mcen­roe, who is in Lon­don com­pet­ing at the vet­er­ans’ Cham­pi­ons Ten­nis event.

“If he does that, if you look at the top five, it’s not as if he can’t look at those and think, on a given day at Wim­ble­don, that he couldn’t go the dis­tance, po­ten­tially.”

Mcen­roe does, though, is­sue a caveat: Mur­ray needs to have fully shaken off the hip trou­bles that have dogged him since the sum­mer of 2017. “Al­most all of it de­pends on his level of health.”

Hav­ing limped his way through last year’s Wim­ble­don, Mur­ray did not play again for 11 months. He un­der­went surgery at the start of 2018 and be­gan a come­back in June in which he won seven out of 12 matches and broke down in tears fol­low­ing a win over Mar­ius Copil. He then ended his year in Septem­ber to fo­cus on mak­ing “big im­prove­ments” for 2019, where he will be­gin in Bris­bane next month ahead of the Aus­tralian Open.

Mur­ray’s rank­ing is a lowly 259, but Mcen­roe, who also suf­fered with hip prob­lems, to­wards the end of his ca­reer, says: “You could see when he came back he didn’t seem to be 100 per cent, so I’m sure he’s just hop­ing he can get a cou­ple more years. If he does that, I would ex­pect he would be in the top 10 within six to nine months.

“But I would see him com­ing back quickly if he’s healthy. He is do­ing ev­ery­thing in his power to get back to full strength.”

Re­cent footage Mur­ray posted of him­self per­form­ing an elab­o­rate gym­nas­tics rou­tine cer­tainly at­tested to the idea he is leav­ing noth­ing to chance.

Mur­ray may also ben­e­fit from tak­ing the re­luc­tant step to have surgery, says Mcen­roe. “I never had a hip surgery. Some­times, I wish I had ex­plored that. It wasn’t thought to be nec­es­sary, but my hip is­sue both­ered me since I was 26 or 27, and it’s still not right.”

Mcen­roe’s fail­ing hip is one of the rea­sons this year’s ap­pear­ance at the Royal Al­bert Hall for Cham­pi­ons Ten­nis will be his last. His busy broad­cast­ing sched­ule and role as a team cap­tain in the Laver Cup mean Mcen­roe re­mains a high-pro­file fig­ure in the sport, but he ad­mits there are a cou­ple of play­ers he would rel­ish coach­ing.

The first is the teenage Cana­dian De­nis Shapo­valov, whose shot­mak­ing skills and sin­gle-handed leftie back­hand re­mind Mcen­roe of his own game.

The sec­ond is Aus­tralian enigma Nick Kyr­gios who, at 23, con­tin­ues to punch be­low his weight and with whom Mcen­roe has worked at Laver Cup level.

“Nick’s ex­tremely tal­ented,” Mcen­roe says. “Out of maybe all the play­ers in the last 10 years in terms of pure ten­nis abil­ity, he could be the best.

“Nat­u­rally, when you see a guy not do­ing what he can do, you feel like it would be nice to help make a dif­fer­ence.”

Mcen­roe

‘It all de­pends on his level of health, He is do­ing all in his power’

is op­ti­mistic that Alexan­der Zverev, Ste­fanos Tsit­si­pas, Karen Khachanov and Borna Coric can build on ex­cel­lent years and start com­pet­ing se­ri­ously for grand­slam ti­tles.

Of Bri­tain’s Kyle Ed­mund, ranked No14 af­ter a break­through 12 months, Mcen­roe says: “It’s re­al­is­tic that he can be in the top 10, but he’s go­ing to have to be ex­tremely care­ful be­cause more peo­ple will be com­ing af­ter him.”

Mcen­roe is hope­ful the next gen­er­a­tion of play­ers can start to make “over­due” in­roads at the ma­jors, but his one wish for the new year con­cerns the sport’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Con­fir­ma­tion that ten­nis will have two men’s team events – the re­vamped Davis Cup and ATP Cup – within fewer than six weeks of each other from next Novem­ber has caused con­ster­na­tion.

“They need to be on the same page, and there needs to be more part­ner­ships,” says Mcen­roe who, through his role as a team cap­tain in the Laver Cup, plays a prom­i­nent role in ten­nis’ third men’s team com­pe­ti­tion.

“For ex­am­ple, this lat­est Davis Cup pro­posal, along with the ATP team cham­pi­onship pro­posal. To me, they should be in one event. That should be some­thing that should be a pri­or­ity for our sport. God for­bid these pow­ers-that-be work to­gether.”

John Mcen­roe will be mak­ing his last ap­pear­ance at Cham­pi­ons Ten­nis at the Royal Al­bert Hall to­day and to­mor­row. Tick­ets avail­able at cham­pi­onsten­nis.co.uk

Come­back trail: Andy Mur­ray will start his sea­son in Bris­bane next month; and (be­low) with John Mcen­roe

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