Andy Murray will rediscover the battling qualities that took him to world number one when he arrives at the French Open and Wimbledon, according to former coach Mark Petchey. The Scot has endured a torrid 2017 season and heads into the fulcrum of the season with just one tournament victory and premature exits at a string of high profile events.
At the Rome Masters he was knocked-out in the second round by Fabio Fognini having suffered defeats at tournaments in Madrid, Barcelona and Monte-Carlo to Borna Coric, Dominic Thiem and Albert Ramos-Vinolas. The disastrous run during the clay court swing follows a fourth round exit at the Australian Open and defeat to Vasek Pospisil in Indian Wells – which was then followed by a lengthy absence due to an elbow injury.
Victory at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships merely represented respite for Murray and he now approaches two season-defining tournaments at Roland Garros and SW19 which will prove pivotal to his hopes of remaining at the top of the ATP rankings. Petchy worked as Murray's coach for less than a year before the pair split in 2006 and expects the three-time major winner to return to his best form.
"He has got the majors coming up now. He can just focus on that," Petchey told Sky Sports. "The pressure is off to some degree. He has a great character trait in terms of trying to prove people wrong so I still feel as though he is going to make a very deep run in Paris.
"The one thing that is very much down is his first serve speed. He is down in the high 80s (Kph) which last year was a big transformation – he was mid-90s. That extra time you have on the ball as a returner obviously makes a guy like Fognini that much more effective.
"Also his accuracy on his first serve compared to when he played [Novak] Djokovic last year in the final in Rome was substantially down against Fognini, particularly the wide one on the deuce side and up the tee on the ad [advantage] side."
The landscape of men's tennis has a surprising, if not unfamiliar look with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal having dominated the season. Both players have won three titles each and though the Swiss will miss the French Open in an effort to prepare for the remainder of the year the pair are threatening to hone in on Murray's place at the top of the rankings. Murray will lose points if he does not match his performance at this stage of last year, when he reached the final of the French Open, then won Queen's Club and Wimbledon.
Djokovic meanwhile has struggled since completing the career grand slam at last year's French Open and was replaced by Murray as the year-end world number one. The Serbian was then dumped out of the Australian Open by Denis Istomin and has yet to fully recapture his best form.