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Andy Murray, touted by many as the best British tennis player since Fred Perry, recently lost his third Grand Slam final without winning a single set, with a staggering set aggregate score of 9-0 over the three finals! Considering Murray’s recent form against Djokovic, having won the last three meetings, it appeared the Scot would certainly see his best chance of being the first Brit to lift a Grand Slam title since Fred Perry way back in 1936. However, it seems Andy suffers from the British disease of ‘lost bottle’. Perhaps not to that scale of the English football team but nevertheless he clearly lacks the ‘big game mentality’ required to be a world beater. It would seem he has the bottle of everyone’s favorite snooker loser, poor old Jimmy White. Murray, despite his youth, is in danger of becoming ‘poor old Andy Murray’ unless he can grow himself a set of balls (excuse the pun), man up and realise his potential.

How? Maybe Boris Becker hit the nail on the head by suggesting he needs a mentor. Boris should know, having won 49 titles in an illustrious career whilst still finding time to pose nude and have sex in cupboards. Maybe he needs to develop a personality! Poor Murray has the charisma of a lettuce leaf, a soggy one at that, but that’s him, could he change that? Sure he seems relaxed, but surely that’s a front? The frustration is immense and I do feel that if (when???) he finally breaks his duck, the Grand Slam titles will be flowing his way.

He certainly looks moody enough so maybe he should swear more, a la McEnroe, channel his aggression on to his opponent and the umpire, and anyone else who stands in his way! Attempt to scare the opposition into losing! If a player is confident he will have an aura around him, he lacks swagger and arrogance which all sporting greats have. Watch Federer stroll on to the court and you know he means business. He wins because he ‘knows’ he is the best, not because he ‘thinks’ he’s pretty good and might have a chance.

Murray looks uncomfortable and ill-fitting when he ambles on to Centre Court. The boy’s certainly not pretty enough either. Maybe he should channel his aggression in the gym, I know he’s beefed up a bit but he’s no Adonis, no Rafa Nadal! And that hair….. Need I say any more? Maybe its the pressure of his mother Judy turning up every time! Remember your first school play? I think I was a shepherd. One thing I am sure of is that I was shit! Desperate to impress my parents, all ending in the inevitable ‘Nevermind, we still love you Son.’

Murray claims he doesn’t care if he’s labelled a ‘bottler’ but the longer he goes without a Grand Slam title the more infamous he will become as the nearly man of tennis, sure he’s better than Henman ever was, but is that something to be proud of? On a positive note Agassi and Ivanisevic lost their 1st 3 Grand Slam finals and that didn’t seem to do them any harm (Ivanisevic won his fourth and last final, beating Pat Rafter after disposing of Henman in the semi, so perhaps not a great example) and Ivan Lendl lost his first 4 and then went on to win an impressive 8, nobody will remember him as a ‘bottler’!

In conclusion, it seems, Mr. Murray needs a new gym membership, a few sunbed sessions, to wear more vests, more aggression, a personality transplant and to tell his mother to politely ‘do one!’. I pray, for his own sanity, that he can take heed of this advice and maybe invest in an Adam Sandler box set to cheer himself up. Relax, stop taking yourself so seriously and, most importantly, WIN (a Grand Slam title!)
By Shaun Hurley

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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’

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The ATP World Tour Finals began on the back of a Masters Series Final involving the only man ever to beat Rafa Nadal on the clay of Roland Garros. The man on form and the new world number four Roger Soderling was drawn against the man he replaced in the elite top four and home crowd favourite Andy Murray. The questions about who are currently the best four players in the world was answered emphatically as the tournament progressed to its semi-final stage.

Andy Murray destroyed Soderling in the first match of the tournament. The score was 6-2 6-4. The players have spent all season building up ranking points to qualify for this end of season cash-fest, so for Murray to start so well was a great response to the ranking slip hiccup. This ongoing battle for who should be number four in the world was to become a side-show to the upcoming masterclass. Federer and Nadal were about to turn up.

Federer sailed through the group stage dispatching the hapless David Ferrer conceding only five games, beating Murray with ominous ease and even though he managed to concede a full five games in the first set against Soderling – he still sailed through with a 100% record (without coming close to losing a set) – Federer was impressive.

Nadal had a little more trouble in his group matches. He dropped the first set against Roddick and was pushed in the first set against Djokovic and Berdych. Not as comfortable as the current Best Player To Ever Pick Up a Racket Cliche Roger Federer, but 100% nevertheless. The fact he kept this perfect record also ensured the semi-final line up would feature the best four players in the world. Nadal vs Murray and Federer vs Djokovic.

The draw also set up what was to be the best match of a frankly disappointing tournament in terms of exciting matches, tense moments and final set showdowns. It was worth it. The Nadal/Murray match served up all these and more. Outstanding tennis from both players. Murray played his best game at times, as did Nadal. Similar to the opening major of this year – Murray was on form and still losing against one of the world’s top two. He was losing well. But, at times, you even dared to hope he would be winning well… Small differences. The kind of differences that make a champion. Murray was ahead in the final set tie-break. He was 4-1 up. He couldn’t lose from here; he did. Nadal found that priceless thing that champions have, the ability to win the big points when everything else is even. When both players are at the top of their game, hitting winners, defending forehand after forehand, mixing up the serve and volleys, hitting the 70% first serve mark; Murray was doing all of these – but he still couldn’t win. Nadal won, again. Murray must count himself unlucky to be around at a time of Nadal/Federer tennis empire building but if he doesn’t win a major soon, questions are going to become louder and louder about whether he ever will.

Federer dominated Djokovic in the other semi-final. He won easily.

The dream final. The best two players ever, the final match of the season. Would Federer finish the season as he began with a victory in the Australian Open or would Nadal complete one of the most remarkable seasons ever with a win. Federer won the first. Nadal won the second. Final set showdown. Some would say a 6-1 thrashing is a disappoining finale. Not here. It was an example of the complicated relationship between these two players. Some days Nadal cannot be touched. He’s too powerful, mentally strong and hits the ball harder from all angles. Not in this set. Federer showed the speed of thought, the brilliant execution of spectacular cross court shots. He showed why the debate is so difficult. He muddied the waters everyone thought were clear after Nadal’s victory at Flushing Meadows (his third successive major win). Roger Federer will win another major, Andy Murray will win a major and Rafa Nadal will win the most majors. Now there’s a prediction for you. The first two will happen next season. I can’t wait.

By George Allwell

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