Wimbledon 2009: John McEnroe backs Andy Murray's mental edge over Roger Federer
If John McEnroe used to get into people's faces, Andy Murray is getting into players' heads.
By Mark Hodgkinson
Published: 10:30PM BST 16 Jun 2009
John McEnroe backs Andy Murray's mental edge over Roger Federer
Ever since the foaming furies and f-words from McEnroe in the angry 1980s, pop psychology has featured heavily in tennis conversations, and now he has suggested ahead of the Wimbledon Championships that Murray has worked himself into Roger Federer's head.
Murray has won six of his eight career meetings with Federer, including their last four matches, and McEnroe said that the Swiss does not like it one bit.
"The cat-and-mouse style Murray plays is something I like to see. It's a thinking man's game and he has got into Roger's head right now. He's got into Roger's head pretty good recently," McEnroe said.
"Murray's legs are thicker than I've ever seen them, his bounce around the back of the court is impressive, and he's intimidating people with his fitness, which was an issue at the start of his career. His movement is amazing when you think how tall he is. He has got more pop on his serve and he continues to befuddle guys mentally."
When McEnroe was in his prime, no one was ever left under any illusions as to what he was thinking on a tennis court, and it could be argued that the most emotional player on tour now is Federer. McEnroe raged, and Federer cries.
Federer was emotional after finishing as the runner-up to Rafael Nadal at last summer's Wimbledon, and also lost control of his bottom lip during his post-match speech at this season's Australian Open when the Spaniard beat him again.
McEnroe has observed "a vulnerability" in the Swiss. In McEnroe's day, they used to shout and scream rather than cry. But that was McEnroe's way of dealing with tennis life, and this is Federer's; there is nothing wrong with the world No 2 letting it all out.
"It was strange to see Federer in tears after he lost the Australian Open final to Nadal," said McEnroe, a winner of three Wimbledon titles, who will be commentating for the BBC at the All England Club this year. "I had an emotional moment with him at Wimbledon last year. I was really surprised to see that happen again in Australia. That shows a vulnerability on Federer's part. In the old days, you wouldn't see that from almost anybody. I think it will bring him some support and show that he's human. That could help him when times get tough.
"I was a little taken aback. I guess the good part is that he shows just how much it meant to him. Here's a guy whose record speaks for itself. Ultimately, it was a little strange to see him melting down like that."
Still, at least Federer shed some 'happy tears' in Paris this month after winning the French Open for the first time.
Another of the Wimbledon greats, Bjorn Borg, has argued that the most vulnerable of the top three at Wimbledon will be Nadal. Borg said yesterday that the two likeliest winners are Federer and Murray.
Like everyone else in tennis, Borg was astonished when Nadal lost in the fourth round at Roland Garros to Sweden's Robin Soderling. Nadal then withdrew from last week's grass-court tournament at Queen's Club because of knee problems.
Borg, a winner of five Wimbledon titles, indicated that Nadal would have been mentally affected by his early defeat in France.
"I'm sure that Nadal was very disappointed after he went home from Paris. That defeat would have taken him many days to get over," said Borg. "I am not sure how serious his injury is. It could be very serious and I'm not picking him to win Wimbledon. I am picking Murray or Federer."
Murray's progress has impressed Borg. "He's had a great year. I didn't think he was ready to win Wimbledon last year, but it is a different story now," said Borg, who was speaking at London's Victoria and Albert Museum at yesterday's launch of the "HSBC Champions of Wimbledon", which will allow the public to vote on who they consider to be the greatest men's and women's winners in history.
"Murray is now ready to win Wimbledon for the first time."