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Murray and Djokovic, two parallel careers

sports Updated: Jun 19, 2011 00:01 IST
Highlight Story

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are described by their academy coaches Pato Alvarez (PA) and Niki Pilic (NP) respectively. Alvarez coached Murray from the age of 15 to 18, after the Scot joined the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Madrid, while former French Open finalist Pilic coached Novak Djokovic from the age of 12 in his academy in Munich. The Guardian presents their views

Personality on the court
Novak Djokovic: At his first tournament, aged 16, he had four match points against his opponent who was 28. He already had the ability to earn ATP points; and I realised he had the potential to be a top player. He was special — he took the game seriously, always preparing the right way. - NP

Andy Murray: He was a very good boy who wanted to practice and play in as many tournaments as possible. On the court he was just focused on doing the correct things and improving as a player. I don't think I once saw him get angry on the court in the three years I worked with him, so it surprises me to see him get angry so often now! - PA

What they were like off it
Novak Djokovic: While he might have the reputation as a bit of a joker for the way in which he imitates other players, he is much more serious than most when it comes down to it. You can't change a player's character — think of McEnroe, Connors — you don't like to see a player with a poker face — you want to see them express themselves.

Andy Murray: Again, he was quiet and well behaved. All the boys and girls who come to the academy put maximum effort into practising but while many of them went wild in their spare time, Andy kept to himself. His schedule was the most intense of anyone I’ve coached; he spent 25 hours a week on court, five hours training and 20 to 25 hours doing schoolwork.

Strengths when they came to the academy
Novak Djokovic: Novak has always prepared in the right way, which is one of the main reasons why he is so strong mentally and physically. It is a combination of many factors that have made him such a strong player. He had a good backhand and his will to win was always incredibly strong, even from an early age. It wasn't long before I found out he could become a real player.

Andy Murray: It was obvious that he had the potential to be a complete player. Instantly I could see that he had a very good serve and backhand — both came to him naturally. His movement at the net was also good; he was not afraid, which was rare as most young players I have seen like to stay at the baseline, they feel safe there. He was brave and confident from day one.

Weaknesses when they arrived
Novak Djokovic: He initially didn't have a very good serve. He also didn't have particularly good volleys but made up for it with great anticipation, very good eyes and very good legs.

Andy Murray: Just mental things, specifically concentration. Andy found it so easy against most players that he would sometimes switch off.

Developing the shots
Novak Djokovic: We had to work on improving his wrist action for one year to help improve his serve. I also changed his grip on the forehand because it was too much of a Western grip.

Andy Murray: None, really. Andy came to us already with the basics of every shot and it was a case of him working to make them perfect.

The key weapons in the arsenal
Novak Djokovic: In the last nine months he has improved his serve and forehand in a massive way. His forehand is much more penetrating, he looks like he has much more confidence in it than he did before. Mentally and physically he is amazing: as shown at the Davis Cup 2010. He had a problem with his stomach before a singles game against Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic), with Serbia trailing 1-2, and he couldn't even warm up. But he went out there with all that pressure, not feeling good, and he won. That says a lot about him. - NP

Andy Murray: In all my time coaching, and that includes 16 years as the national coach of Spain, Andy is the most talented player I have worked with. Technically he had everything when he came to us and he has developed that since, as well as adding more skills. When I trained Andy I felt he would become the most complete player in the world and that is exactly what he has done. For me he is a more complete player than Nadal, Federer and Djokovic, he can do more on the court than all of them. His backhand is now one of the strongest shots in world tennis. - PA

Any chinks left to iron out?
Novak Djokovic: For six months he didn't lose one match — he won seven tournaments, beating Nadal and Federer repeatedly on all the different surfaces. But I still think he can improve, especially by going to the net more, and by not taking part in so many long rallies. If he hits a ball into the corner he needs to finish at the net. He's the best at chasing balls now after Rafa.

Andy Murray: All Andy needs is to have more confidence in himself. He has won many titles and he has got to the final at two grand slam tournaments, but still maybe he does not believe he can be a champion like Nadal and Federer. He just needs to improve his belief and his confidence in himself.

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