Monday 20 May 2019

Murray psychologist helps Halep to glory

Castorri has struck up strong relationships with Murray. Photo credit: Joe Toth/PA Wire.
Castorri has struck up strong relationships with Murray. Photo credit: Joe Toth/PA Wire. Sportsdesk

As Andy Murray continues his grass-court training block in the hope of making his long-awaited comeback this summer, he will surely have kept an eye on Roland Garros this weekend, and, particularly on Simona Halep's maiden grand slam title.

There are several points of comparison here, starting with the multiple major finals that both players appeared in before finally landing their first trophy: three in Halep's case, four in Murray's. More strikingly, though: they both used the same psychologist to address their internal conflicts - Alexis Castorri.

Castorri's first professional encounter with tennis came in 1985, when she prescribed Ivan Lendl a programme of aerobics, Jazzercise and yoga. Seven months later, Lendl beat John McEnroe in the US Open final in what he still considers to be his greatest performance.

Since then, Castorri has struck up strong relationships with Murray - who she once suggested was in danger of losing his "zest" after repeated setbacks - and more recently with Kevin Anderson, who reached last year's US Open final.

Remember that Lendl was introduced to Murray in 2011 by Darren Cahill, Halep's coach, and plays golf with Anderson, a South African expat.

After Halep's 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 defeat of Sloane Stephens on Saturday, Cahill spoke about the importance of psychology in modern tennis.

"The sport has changed a lot in the last 15 or 20 years because of social media, the money," he said. "Every player has a minibus full of people travelling around, so the pressure is much more than it ever used to be.

"Alexis has been really important for Simona the last couple of years. In my era as a player, maybe admitting to that was a bit of a weakness."

A robust mental approach was essential for Halep, especially as Stephens had opened up by playing near-flawless tennis. Halep responded pushing Stephens deeper behind the baseline and then darting forward to finish points at the net.

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