Mats Wilander believes Andy Murray’s indifferent form and lack of coach could play into his hands at the French Open this fortnight.
It has been a distinctly up-and-down season for the Scot so far, but there were signs in his narrow loss to Rafael Nadal in Rome earlier this month that he was close to rediscovering his Wimbledon-winning form.
Murray, who plays Andrey Golubev in his first match on Tuesday, is also close to naming his new coach two months after a split from Ivan Lendl that clearly hurt the 27-year-old.
The French Open has been by far his least successful slam, with Murray’s only semi-final appearance coming in 2011, and he has Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka and Nadal in his half of the draw this time.
Eurosport analyst Wilander said: “I’m not sure if it’s the effect of him and Ivan Lendl not working together or if it’s the effect of trying to come back from back surgery, the effect of searching for that intensity that he had last year during Wimbledon or during the Olympics or the US Open that he won.
“I think that the combination of those three things will possibly just make him lose his intensity a little bit, but at the same time the upside will be that maybe there is less pressure, and with less pressure I think that is his chance of doing really well at the French Open.
“You’re going to a clay-court tournament when you’re not that comfortable on clay and you’re going with no pressure, that is a positive thing.
“I’m not saying that it is a positive thing for the grass-court season or the hard-court season, but I think for the clay-court season, in many ways he’s shooting from the hip and I hope that he does well.”
Wilander was one of the names heavily linked with Murray’s coaching vacancy.
As a seven-time grand slam champion he would be in the same mould as Lendl while his coaching experience includes a spell with former world number one Marat Safin.
But the Swede, like many of the former greats who would surely have interested Murray, is happy doing media work as well as hosting coaching clinics and does not want to commit the necessary time.
He said that if he was to return to coaching it would be to guide a promising junior rather than an established star like Murray.
“I would choose somebody who is 17 years old, who has two or three really good friends and is willing to work really hard and you can help them develop their game,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s me at the moment, I’m too busy with other things.”
The men’s tournament appears to be more open than at any time since Nadal burst onto the scene in 2005, and Wilander believes it should be the year for Novak Djokovic to complete his career Grand Slam.
Wilander said: “Because Nadal has been losing to (Nicolas) Almagro, (David) Ferrer and now Djokovic in three sets in Rome, I think Djokovic is the obvious favourite.
“To me, he has been the favourite for the last two years at the French Open but has not beaten Nadal.
“Djokovic has to survive the first week. If he does I believe he is going to be very difficult to beat until we see a very windy, hot, dry day in Paris and suddenly Nadal will most probably become the favourite in a potential final.”
The younger generation are slowly beginning to make their presence felt as a real force, particularly Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori, who have both had excellent seasons so far.
Coming up behind them are the likes of Jiri Vesely, Nick Kyrgios and Dominic Thiem, who beat Wawrinka in Madrid earlier this month.
A second-round meeting in Paris between the 20-year-old Austrian and Nadal would be highly anticipated, but Wilander does not expect any major breakthroughs just yet.
“The young players overall need to show a little bit more maturity, and young players sometimes need to show the best players in the world that they are ready, that they are willing to suffer the same way Nadal and Djokovic do for every single second they spend on a tennis court,” said Wilander.