When Andy Murray was booed in Monte Carlo Thursday, the irony was that it was the first time I hadn’t wanted to boo him in months. Ever since the Australian Open in January, Murray has floated around, losing to far lesser players without putting up a fight.
He needs to be more cutthroat, critics have said. So now he took advantage of an opponent’s sore spot and was booed for it?
If you didn’t see, Gilles Simon hurt his ankle and couldn’t run much anymore, so Murray started hitting dropshots. The crowd booed him for being merciless, I suppose, though Murray did exactly the right thing: See a weakness, attack a weakness.
What’s next, fans boo players for serving to John Isner’s backhand?
“I was doing what I had to do to win the match as quickly and efficiently as possible,’’ Murray said. “It worked. So I know every single player on the tour would have done exactly the same thing.’’
Simon said he would have done it, too.
If this was anything for Murray, it was the start of something big. A killer instinct. I’m guessing, though, that it was nothing more than Murray seeing an opportunity to deploy another strategy.
To have killer instinct, you have to see your opponent’s injury not as something to feel bad about, but as something to attack. You can feel bad later.
You’ve seen Rafael Nadal feel bad for Roger Federer after beating him in majors. Those feelings came after the match, maybe even, partly, out of guilt over what Nadal was actually feeling about Federer over the previous three or four hours.
Murray is a strange case. Usually when people are so hyper on the court, screaming at their coaches, they have a killer instinct. Murray is overly amped up, but his play is docile on the court.
I wonder how much of his funk lately is the result of Novak Djokovic’ success. For so long, Murray and Djokovic were on that second tier, just below Nadal and Federer. Now, Djokovic has climbed to the top level, and Murray was left behind.
Maybe he started wondering if this just isn’t going to happen for him. So Murray went nearly three months without winning a match, including losses to Donald Young and Alex Bogomolov, Jr., who aren’t even ranked in the top 100.
Murray is looking for a new coach again, meaning someone else to blame. And the rumors focuse on Ivan Lendl. Jimmy Connors made a very public attempt to lobby for the job.
I highly doubt either of those guys would help Murray much. It’s true they are champions, which means Murray might respect them. And while I doubt they know anything about the modern game, Murray doesn’t need to be taught strategy, anyway.
He needs to be taught about killing. Lendl and Connors were great at it. But by the time you’re 24, as Murray will be in a few weeks, your instincts are already finalized.
This is just who Murray is. But maybe it was a spark for him when he started drop-shotting Simon. I’m not sure why it takes an injured opponent for him to find a killer instinct, but whatever. Connors would have taken joy in watching Simon suffer.
Baltimore Orioles pitcher Justin Duchscherer told Men’s Journal about this month about his clinical depression: “My problem is I’m a soft guy in a profession of hard guys. I’d prefer to be playing tennis.’’
I’m sorry about his troubles, but he doesn’t understand anything about tennis. You cannot be soft and be a tennis champ, no matter what the people in Monte Carlo want.
Some people are saying that Murray, who plays Nadal next, is having a resurgence this week. I don’t see it that way. I think Murray had a letdown after the Australian, and now likely will go back to being who he was before: an amazingly talented player with no killer instinct.
But hope comes in his efforts to make a gimpy guy run.