Barry Cowan reflects on Andy Murray's French Open campaign so far
Reaching French Open semis would be a superb achievement for Andy Murray, says Barry Cowan.
Last Updated: 30/05/14 4:03pm
He's continuing the form he showed in Rome, and I think that's really been important for him because it's been quite a stop-start year so far. He played really well against Novak Djokovic in Miami then probably didn't play as well as he would have expected in the Davis Cup, and then poorly in Madrid.
Since then he's got better and better and he's got to be delighted with where he's at. He looks a lot happier on court, which is always important - when you're happier on court you play much better.
Now the test does come. He was never going to lose the first two matches against the players he had to play, but now the standard is much better and Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round is certainly a player who can beat Andy if he doesn't play his best. It'll be a test to see where he's at in terms of his level for the French Open.
Obviously the back is an issue, but I think what's more relevant is winning Wimbledon. His whole life and the way he views tennis has changed since he won Wimbledon. We mustn't underestimate 20 years of trying to achieve your goal, and for Andy he didn't achieve it in an easy way - it wasn't like Rafa Nadal winning the French Open as a teenager, or Roger Federer winning his first Grand Slam in 2003 when he was a lot younger. Andy's had to go through a lot of difficult moments and, of course, the added pressure of being British.
There was a feeling of 'what's next', then he had the back problem and the surgery. That's what's really pleased me when watching him in Rome and at the French Open - he feels a lot happier with the new goals he wants to set. It's only normal, what Andy had by winning Wimbledon - it happens to a lot of players when they do win their first Grand Slam - but you have to reset your goals and I think Andy struggled to do that.
I think he's been moving well for long periods of time - maybe what he has lacked is the confidence that he can go deep on consecutive days, but I think he's built up enough fitness that if he were to go five sets he could come back two days later and perform again.
I think he has the potential to be a great clay court player, but we can't get away from the fact he's never won a clay court title. So to expect him to go and win the French Open title having never won a clay court title, having never beaten a player ranked higher than nine in the world on clay - that was Nikolay Davydenko in Monte Carlo five or six years ago - is unrealistic at the moment. But he can have a great run, and who knows what can happen?
But I picked Djokovic at the start, and it all seems to be heading towards a Djokovic-Nadal final. I think they were the best two on the clay and I felt they could only lose to Stan Wawrinka at his very best, so the omens are good for them. They came out of the starting blocks quickly, and I certainly expect them to be in the final on Sunday week. I said it on Sky Sports during the Masters Series that ever since Novak lost to Rafa last year at the French Open I felt he would win it this year.
If you look at the way the draw's gone I think it's realistic to expect Andy to get to the semi-finals - I would say that would be a great achievement. I think Andy would be absolutely delighted and it would set him up nicely for Wimbledon.
As for the issue of a new coach, I felt from the word go when he split with Ivan Lendl that nothing would happen until Wimbledon. It continues to be a story, but Andy's playing a very straight bat. I think it's unrealistic to expect someone will be appointed just before Wimbledon, especially with him playing well at the moment. Why potentially rock the momentum he has? You might feel you will get on with the coach, but until you've been with someone for a week or two you don't truly know.
Heather Watson has had a great May. She's got her ranking back up - she's now going to be British number one. In terms of where she was last year, when she had glandular fever and her ranking dropped, she's getting back to a level where she can play those top players week in, week out. We can't ignore that whenever Heather plays the top players it's going to be difficult for her because she doesn't have the firepower, but what she lacks in that department she can obviously make up with determination and athleticism.
She's tried to work on her game and be more aggressive, and that will definitely be something she will keep looking to improve as the weeks and months go by this year. It's a start, though, and realistically for her she's got more chance of beating someone like Halep on grass at Wimbledon than on clay at Roland Garros.
I think 2014 will see Heather get back to where she was. There's a question mark over whether she can go higher in the rankings, because unless you start reaching quarter-finals in big events there is a ceiling, and as yet Heather hasn't been able to do it. She's still young, though, so that's not to say she can't.
The defeat for Serena Williams is just a blip, without a shadow of a doubt. Serena is still by far and away the best player. When she plays her best tennis she'll win the event, whether it's the Australian Open or Wimbledon. She lost reasonably early at Wimbledon to Sabine Lisicki last year after winning the French, so maybe she might be more dangerous at Wimbledon this year, with a point to prove. But at Roland Garros it opens things up for anyone.
With no Victoria Azarenka through injury and the top two seeds losing, it really is anyone's. The women's second week is very unpredictable as it has been a few times now. Think back to when Francesca Schiavone won it - who would have thought she would be the French Open champion? The women's is very difficult to call now. As soon as Serena Williams goes out and Azarenka's not in the event you may as well close your eyes, pick up your pen and see which name it lands on.