We recorded a Sportscast last September when both me and Marcus predicted Andy Murray would win the Australian Open 2011. A bold prediction? Maybe. Nadal had just won Wimbledon, Murray was struggling for form, and Federer was, well Roger Federer. Other players, like Soderling, Berdych and Djokovic were all winning matches and climbing the rankings, so why the confidence in Andy Murray? Well, he lost in the final of last year’s Aussie Open, and is on record as saying the hard court surface suits his game. However, my main reason was Nadal’s dominance at Roland Garros, and Federer at Wimbledon. Meaning if he was going to win any, this would be his best opportunity.
I’ve been following Murray’s career since he burst on to the scene as a gangly teenager by winning the US Open junior title. Predictable hype followed his success, and after replacing Tim Henman as British number one within 2 years of turning professional certainly increased the anticipation that Murray might be the next Fred Perry.
He was coached in Spain, his Mum refusing to let him enter the LTA’s youth coaching set up fearing they would turn his undoubted potential into the next Jeremy Bates (and I’m not knocking Batesy, I remember the delight I used to feel when a British player reached the second round at Wimbledon, never mind the second week!)
He progressed quickly up the mens rankings, and secured a number of notable victories over the then invincible Federer. He won more Masters Series titles in his first five years, than Tiger Tim did in his whole career. He has also reached two grand slam finals, losing both to breathtaking performances from Federer. Finally, in August 2009, he reached number two in the world rankings, another British record. But the nagging, constant and frustrating elephant in the room still reminded us that, so far, he’s won the same amount of grand slam titles as Henman, Bates and Bogdanovic.
Murray seems to annoy a lot of British tennis fans, his aggression; his on court antics; his lack of Queens English and to the odd idiotic xenophobe, the fact he’s Scottish. His attitude toward Brad Gilbert was questioned, although that partnership was somewhat forced on him by the inspirational LTA (assuming a mens grand slam title would reduce the focus on the depth and quality of the overall British tennis standards). His fitness levels, his serve, his tactics and his commitment have all been called into question at one time or another. His occasional decision to miss the Davis Cup has led to calls of selfishness and betrayal. The vast majority of these criticisms, in my opinion, are way off the mark.
He needs to be selfish. He needs to put himself first. You don’t play for your country very often in tennis, you play for yourself. When he starts taking the weight of a nations expectation on his shoulders, he’s doomed. Just like Henman, you could see him wilting under the pressure. Murray goes for shots. Murray sits back and defends. Murray comes into the net after his big booming serve. He’s got the whole package. He’s equally strong on his forehand and his backhand. No, he’s not got the extreme power of Nadal or the finesse, perfect technique and genius of Federer; but as he gets older, he regularly dispatches the rest of the field with relative ease. The only question left for him to answer is a victory in a grand slam event. Me and Marcus predicted the Australian Open would be the one. Let’s hope we’re right…
*(This is a funny little bonus from the ever brilliant Anton Vowl – Andy Murray’s ‘Grace Jones Face’