Three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe has told Andy Murray he can win a “few more” grand slam titles – if he puts greater faith in his volleying.
Murray plays Australia’s talented 20-year-old Nick Kyrgios for a place in the French Open last 16 today as he bids to add a first Paris crown to the US Open and Wimbledon titles he won in 2012 and 2013.
The Scot has enjoyed his best clay-court season, winning 10 consecutive matches on the red sand and his success has, in part, been due to a more aggressive style of play.
Drop-shots, volleys and a more potent second serve have all helped Murray become less predictable and McEnroe, who is considered one of the greatest net players in the history of the game, believes the British No 1 should go even further.
“We obviously play totally different games but the similarity is the hands,” said McEnroe, who is providing analysis for British Eurosport’s French Open coverage.
“I think he has a beautiful feel for the ball and that’s what I was lucky enough to be taught – to mix it up.
“He is a bigger guy, he hits a bigger ball off the baseline. I actually think he would be better off coming forward more because he could use the hands to his advantage.
“The skills that he hasn’t shown a lot are the ones at the net. If he did that more frequently that would help him win at least a few more majors.
“It may not show so much at the French Open, but I think it would show at Wimbledon and the hard-court events.
“You see Roger Federer doing it now, coming in, being more aggressive, I think Andy needs to do that also.”
Murray is seeded third at Roland Garros and will likely have to beat either world No 1 Novak Djokovic or nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal even to reach the final.
The 28-year-old can take heart, however, from recent form which has seen him take a maiden clay-court title in Munich last month, before beating Nadal for the first time in Madrid.
“Belief is probably the biggest thing, this is probably the first year that he thinks he can win,” said McEnroe.
“Beating Rafael Nadal finally in Madrid is huge for him.
“He is doing a lot of things that a lot of people have implored him to do in the past – whether it’s taking the ball early, being more aggressive, taking control of points.
“But he has always been able to play on clay – he played in Spain as a young kid, he’s been in the semis of the French a couple of times.
“People always knew he could do it but I think he really believes he can go all the way now – that’s the biggest difference for me.”
Murray was made to work hard for a 6-2 4-6 6-4 6-1 victory over Portugal’s Joao Sousa on Thursday but Kyrgios will provide a much sterner test.
Kyrgios lost to Murray in straight sets at the Australian Open quarter-final in January but has proven himself a dangerous opponent, having beaten Nadal at Wimbledon last year and Federer three weeks ago in Madrid.
“He’s obviously a very talented guy,” said Murray.
“He likes the big stage. He’s had some good results at the slams.
“Also away from the slams, he beat Roger a few weeks ago on the clay, so he can cause a lot of players trouble.
“He’s an exciting guy to watch and he’s going to be around for a long time, I’m sure.”
Murray also says he believes it can be difficult for players to avoid time violations after the Scot was penalised twice during his second-round victory.
Murray beat Joao Sousa in four sets on Court Philippe Chatrier but he was twice punished by umpire Pascal Maria for exceeding the 20-second limit between points.
The Scot seemed to be waiting for the wind to drop when he was warned in the eighth game of the second set, while after the second offence in the third, which cost him a fault, he explained to the umpire he had been delayed by highlights being played on the big screen.
Maria’s strict approach came as a surprise after Nadal confirmed this week he had requested to be given a “break” from Brazilian umpire Carlos Bernardes, who gave hime time-violations during a match in February.
“I wasn’t annoyed with the time thing at all, I made no issue of it on the court,” said Murray.
“I think it’s there for a reason. Sometimes I play too slow and that’s unintentional. I don’t mean to do it.
“But obviously as a player you have no idea how long you’re taking in between the points and people can say, ‘Oh, they do, they play tennis’, but the reality is things happen sometimes.
“You don’t get the ball in time or the towel in time. Or the second one that I got, genuinely I was up at the line in good time, but they were showing the highlights from the point before, so I didn’t serve.
“So sometimes things like that make it tougher for the players but there were points where I got told I was playing too slow and I should try to speed up. And I did.”