Andy Murray came onto the tour as a bright counterpuncher, and while his game has evolved over the years, he has not lost his base. In the past seven months, which were the most successful of his career, the Australian Open 2010 finalist showed an ability to go on the offensive early in points when he needed to.
But the reason why he became a top-five player at the age of 20 was because he could read most of his opponent’s tendencies like open books and the quickly close the covers on them.
From the time Murray became the youngest Briton in the Open era to capture an ATP crown at the age of 18 in San Jose in 2006, he has known how to construct and reconstruct points. Then and now, he could crush his two-handed backhand down the line or crosscourt, either flat or with topspin. He already owned a biting one-handed backhand slice. He could roll his forehand crosscourt and return even the most powerful players’ serves right back at them as if he was born with the knowledge as to where they were intending to place them.
He could volley more than a touch then, too, but seven years later at the age of 25, he has added more than a few new elements to his game, and all of them were critical in pushing him to his first Grand Slam title at the 2012 US Open as well as the Olympic gold medal.
His first serve has become much bigger, and now he can back up his well-located slice and kick serves with hard and flat ones down the T. He has terrific touch and numerous options in his game, but he can also simplify it so he doesn’t get caught up using shots that are unnecessary and sometimes distracting in the course of victory.
He has always been a fine mover, but his court positioning has improved. He is more secure at the net, but most importantly, under Ivan Lendl, his coach of the past year, he now steps in more on his forehand side and cuts loose. Admittedly, that was the most critical part of his game that he needed to improve to keep up with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, because all of them had significantly better forehands than he did. They would go at that wing time and time again when they were in trouble, and now they can no longer count on that as Murray is capable of punishing balls down the line and stinging shots at sharp angles crosscourt.
Moreover, Murray has become more and more ferocious, and has learned how to close. If he gets a foe in his firm grip, he rarely stops squeezing their neck until a defeated hand is offered to him across the net.