Murray wins a battle outside his comfort zone in Miami Open

March 29, 2015

Andy Murray had lost heavily to Santiago Giraldo in their last match. In the Miami Open he and his coaching team had to come up with a new strategy to deal with an aggressive risk-taking opponent. It succeeded, but only after taking Murray out of his comfort zone

Murray’s immediate post-match analysis did not quite match up with his court demeanor. It was essentially that he believed he had played a pretty good match in difficult windy conditions.

The final score of 6-3 6-4 seems to back this up. It confirmed expectations of the respective rankings, and Murray’s familiarity with the conditions in Miami, his training base. If so, why was he repeatedly grumbling during the match at his bench? Dissatisfaction was combined with a new tactic of being more aggressive on his opponent’s weak second serve. This seemed to be working well. But it also seems to lie outside Murray’s comfort zone.

When Giraldo came up with a powerful response to it early on, Murray grumbled more pointedly. It was as if he had reluctantly agreed to the new strategy, but wanted his coaching team (especially, I assume, Amalie Marismo) to know this was a dumb idea and he should never have gone along with it.

After the match, Marcus Buckland The Sky interviewer avoided raising the question of Murray’s serve which was found wanting. First serve percentage was low. This could be at least partly due to tricky windy conditions. Second serve was treated by  in an equally aggressive fashion as the way Murray was dealing out to his own serve.

Comfort zone

The Comfort zone is increasingly found in ideas about performance management in sport and beyond. Settling an athlete into a comfort zone is important, as a way of increasing the ease of getting into the bubble of unthinking high performance or flow. But getting out of a comfort zone may not just be a necessity for tactical reasons but opens up possibilities for personal development.

To be continued