Andy Murray may need more mental map-making for Open success

Andy Murray has shown a willingness to learn through his new coach Ivan Lendl.

We examine how the learning will require reframing not of broken racquets but of mental maps

As Murray was heading for defeat against Tomas Berdych at the Monte Carlo Masters event [April 20th 2012] he smashed his racquet in frustration at his failure to find a strategy to cope with his opponent’s muscular game.

Coping with the unexpected

The defeat was not particularly unexpected. Although Murray is higher ranked, Berdych’s game is suited to Monaco’s clay court surfaces. Murray’s preparation has been hampered by unusual circumstances (withdrawal of three opponents through injury in the last few weeks, including in his last match). But the unusual has also to be coped with. The manner of the loss suggested Murray had not found a plan to deal with ‘events’ and with Berdych.

The post-match interview

We can examine the post-match interview for signs of the Scot’s mental state. I borrow from the principles of mental map-making which are being taught to business students including those at the Miami location of Manchester Business School programs not far from Murray’s own training facilities. The mapping approach attempts to examine the way an individual (or a group) may be ‘reading’ a situation and making sense of it by testing assumptions, and maybe changing his or her mind through mental reframing or conceptual map-making.

In post-match interviews Andy usually shows evidence of an acute mind actively engaged. That is in itself unusual, and compares well with evidence from interviews with top sports figures generally (I am thinking of the vast majority of interviews with fooball players and many managers). I have added my own ‘map testing’ interpretations of Andy’s maps.

“At some points today in the match I did well, and at some points I didn’t do so well,” said the Scot.
[Map reading]

“Today is a good match to learn from because I was playing a top player who played very, very well.
[Recognising the need to learn by map-mapping]

“I hung in, in the first set. Then in the tie-break I got a few lucky bounces. He missed a couple of shots that he hadn’t been missing.
[More map-reading]

“At the start of the second set he obviously started playing better and my level dropped – as the scoreline suggests.”
[map-making? He concludes that Berdych gained an advantage by playing the better better and that his own level dropped. He bases it on the evidence of the scoreline. He lost the set heavily].

Some tentative conclusions

A post-match interview may only reveal a glimpse of a player’s thinking processes. There may be deliberate withholding of information. And there is the possibility of ‘knowing more than can be said’. Just on the evidence, it seems to me that Andy Murray has untapped potential which if released will increase his chances of winning his much-coveted first Open Championship. He shows he has the mental equipment to reflect and develop his game further.

Although not obvious in the snippet of interview above, he is adequately motivated (over-motivated, some may say. His reflections stop short of acknowledging the dilemmas he faces. Can he rely on his exceptional defensive skills or should he attempt to be more aggressive, for example?
Maybe some more reframing of his mind sets will produce less reframing of his racquets.

Acknowledgement

The image could have been of Andy’s racquet. I suspect it’s not. It comes from the excellent tennis blog This tennis.

Update

A few months later Andy Murray won the US Open, with ample evidence that he has developed the necessary mental reframing.

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