Andy Murray’s coach Jonas Bjorkman has urged the Scot to fight fire with fire and attack Roger Federer in today’s Wimbledon semi-final.
Bjorkman was brought into Murray’s back-room team in March to work with Amelie Mauresmo at adding more variety and aggression to the British No 1’s game.
Murray has thrived under his new sense of freedom, enjoying his best clay-court season and stringing together 10 consecutive victories on grass, which included winning a fourth title at Queen’s last month.
The 28-year-old’s fresh attacking blueprint, however, will undergo its stiffest examination yet today, as Murray bids to inflict a first defeat on Federer in a Wimbledon semi-final and prevent the 17-time major champion from claiming a record eighth title at the All England Club.
Federer has typically played the role of aggressor in previous meetings, with Murray using his speed and guile to counter-punch the Swiss, but Bjorkman believes his protege should stick to his guns and attack this time around.
“That will still be the best way, absolutely,” Bjorkman said. “We’re trying, Amelie and I, to get him to be more comfortable at the net and be more aggressive.
“That’s what he was asking me to come into the team and help out with and it will take some time because at big tournaments it’s hard to do that straight away.
“But there’s no doubt he has the potential to do it. He has the legs, he’s one of the fastest guys out there, he’s super strong and he can attack in behind when he’s under pressure.
“Even against someone like Roger that is a good way to play. It puts off the guy who wants to come in – he wants to move forward but then all of a sudden he has to go back. So definitely, a way to beat someone who is very aggressive is to be very aggressive yourself.”
Federer has won the duo’s last three meetings, including a 6-0 6-1 demolition at the ATP World Tour Finals in November, but their most recent clash on grass remains Murray’s Olympic triumph on Centre Court in 2012.
His victory, coming just a month after the tear-jerking final defeat on the same patch of turf, was a turning-point for Murray, spurring him on to secure the US Open title that year before becoming Wimbledon champion 12 months later.
“He will definitely watch those 2012 matches, for sure,” Bjorkman said.
“I will too look at them with a different view to when I was commentating – now I look at them with a view of what to do against Roger and how to beat him.
“We will all have tried to watch them, but the players know each other’s game so well, they have played so many times.
“For both Andy and Roger, this court is probably the most famous court and their favourite court as well so those matches can only play a small part.”
Murray has dropped just two sets en route to the semi-finals and Bjorkman insists the shoulder injury that proved problematic in round three is no longer causing the Briton discomfort.
“If he had issues before, it was good in the match and it felt strong [yesterday] in the warm-up,” Bjorkman said.
“Andy is playing with tons of confidence right now and he’s had a great season, the whole team has done a great job with him. He just has to go and prove it. When you get to his fitness level and have the confidence of winning so many matches, you just have to keep going.”
Murray admits he felt a sense of awe when he first beat Federer as a 19-year-old in 2006, but there is no inferiority complex now, after 23 meetings between the pair, of which the Briton has won 11.
“There is no reason for Andy to have any fear, they have played a lot of times before and it will be another close match [today],” Bjorkman said.
“The top four have been so dominant for so many years that they have a lot of respect for each other.
“But they also know whoever is in good form on the day will win. And hopefully that will be Andy.”
In the second semi-final, Richard Gasquet can topple defending champion Novak Djokovic – and no one should be surprised if he does, according to Cedric Pioline.
France’s 1997 Wimbledon finalist Pioline backed Gasquet to go toe-to-toe with top seed and world No 1 Djokovic in his second semi-final at SW19.
Djokovic eased past Marin Cilic to reach his 27th grand slam semi-final, while world No 20 Gasquet has only two previous last-four appearances to his name.
Serbia’s eight-time grand slam champion Djokovic dispatched Gasquet 6-1 6-2 6-3 in the last 16 at the recent French Open, but Pioline believes it will be a different story in London.
“It’s going to be difficult, Novak is very hard to beat lately, but Richard has a chance to make it,” Pioline said.
“He’s qualified for the semi-finals, he deserves to be there – he’s earned the right to play Novak.
“I hope for him that he’s coming into his prime now. He has the potential to play every year the semi-finals of slams.
“So now he needs to prove that with consistency.
“I think he can definitely win this match, and I don’t think it should be viewed as an upset if he does.”