Friday, October 24, 2008

Rated BG (Gilbert's impact on Andre and the two Andys)

Andy Roddick lost his quarterfinal match today in Lyon while Andy Murray won his in St. Petersburg.

Murray's had a dream season this year (a couple of Masters shields, a Slam final) and Roddick's hasn't been that bad really, when you think about it: three titles, wins over each of the big three. But for all they've done so far, I can't help but think of one question:

What if they would've stayed working with Brad Gilbert for a longer period of time?

It seems to me that Murray has been doing the things that Gilbert wanted him to do, such as placing an emphasis on fitness and serving bigger. A-Rod's development has taken some steps back since working with BG: no more Slams, wins against higher-ranked guys going few and far between.

From what I gather, Mr. Winning Ugly's personality just rubbed them the wrong way. But I would almost think that if you saw what Gilbert did for Andre Agassi, if you had the chance to work with him, why not stick it out?

Anyway, I decided to take a look at the three A's before and after working with BG.

• Agassi:
Before: Dre was probably the best ball-striker on tour, who had gotten to number 3 in the world and picked up a Wimbledon title in '92 on sheer talent alone. But in '93, that started to get exposed a little bit and his habit of not putting in the work hampered him as he finished up the year outside of the top 10 for the first time since 1987.

During: Agassi entered 1994 a little more focused and asked Gilbert, who was starting to curtail his playing schedule, to help him out in Key Biscayne. He got to the finals there, and went on to win the U.S. Open that year, beating five seeded players along the way. Over the course of their partnership, Agassi went on to complete the career Slam and pick up Olympic Gold.

After: Agassi still managed to do OK, winning Slams and making Slam finals after hooking up with Darren Cahill. Credit to "Killer" for that, but to me, it looked like he was still doing what he learned during the Gilbert era.

• Roddick:
Before: Roddick made his big splash in 2001 with a win over Pete Sampras and a run to the quarters at the U.S. Open. He also won three tournaments that year before making his top 10 debut in '02. The first half of '03 was kind of shaky for him and it was beginning to look like him winning a Slam would never happen.

During: A-Rod got rid of his longtime coach heading into the second half of the season, then proceeded to tear the tour up after hooking up with BG, culminating with his first Slam title and a year-end finish at number one. The future seemed so bright, until it became a matter of he-said, he-said and they broke up.

After: What can you say? It's been a roller-coaster ever since. Probably out of everything going on in tennis right now, I wish these two could get back to working together. Roddick's career has been great (I consider him a first-ballot Hall of Famer), but man, there's still so much out there left for him to grab, and Gilbert's the man to help him out.

Before: Murray was showing signs of greatness but had yet to pull it all together. Knocking off guys like Roddick showed signs of being the real deal. It's funny: I saw him play the qualies at the U.S. Open and he had all the shots. Then, when it was announced that the LTA hired Brad Gilbert and he was going to be working with Murray, I thought, "This could be the most talented player BG has had, including Agassi."

During: Well, the two never got to really show what could've been, with Murray being injured most of the time. And with those two being such strong-willed individuals it was over before it started. However, Gilbert did lay the foundation for Murray, I feel, like getting him to work out with track star Michael Johnson.

After: Murray's doing big things now with his team, but I can't help but think everything good he's doing now could've gone even better if old Brad was still there. I think Murray will win a Slam next year if he keeps it up like this. And a former coach of his should feel proud if he does.

(Photos: Gilbert, New York Times; Roddick, Getty Images)


TopSpin said...

Great post Van.
I didn't follow Agassi's and BGs partnership much but I've always thought the greater improvements to Roddick's game came after the spell with Jimmy Connors.

His double handed backhand went from being a 'nothing'/'half court' shot to a legitimate weapon that was deeper and flatter than ever before.
Ditto, his net play.
Maybe its nothing to do with either BG or JC, and just a sign of Roddick's growing on court maturity.

I definitely think it was a mistake for the younger, abrasive Murray to be partnered with BG; he wasn't ready (it was almost like the LTA thought 'Wow British tennis has a real prospect here - lets get him the biggest, baddest Coach money can buy') - but we all know he's grown a lot since then, both Tennis wise and in his temperament - maybe he would benefit from the arrangement now...

heyheyhey said...

I think a player's personality has to mesh with Gilbert's, or it doesn't work.

Agassi's did...longer than most. Agassi completely bought everything Brad was selling. Then, eventually they fell out, too.

He would have been brilliant with Murray, but those 2 personalities clashed from the start.

Roddick also, had his own ideas. Every coach he's had has told him the same thing we all tell him: STOP STAYING 8 FEET BEHIND THE BASELINE! But that's the way he wants to play. He has to live with the results. For me, he's the biggest male disappointment in the last 10 years. If I was a professional player, there isn't a thing I wouldn't try to get better.
Sorry, got off-topic there. Andy R's my pet peeve.

In conclusion, BG's has good ideas if you can stomach his personality & believe in & do everything he tells you to.

van said...

Hey Topspin, thanks! I watched pretty much everything Agassi and Gilbert did together, and the impact was pretty noticeable. I guess Connors did add that aspect to Roddick's game, but it's like Heyheyhey says: He has to play closer in the court! As for Murray and BG, you both are right: That was just a clash of personalities from the get-go. Too bad it couldn't work out.