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
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.”
‘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