Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Anyone But Murray

A drained, emotional and disheartened Andy Murray gave a speech which has went someway towards endearing himself into the British public's hearts for the first time. A man often depicted as dour and his personality being non-existent, it was a welcome breach of his usual stony demeanour. Ever since the infamous 'Anyone But England' debate he sparked in the lead up to the 2006 World Cup, something clearly said in jest has lingered around him in the media leaving a distinctly anti-Murray feeling among those south of the border. The continued shouts of 'C'mon Tim' which gain a hearty chuckle from the Wimbledon faithful gives no respect to British number 1 who is regularly seen as Scottish until he is on the edge of victory. Hopefully the emotions witnessed pouring from Murray after Sunday's final will translate and allow a full backing in the future rather than an underlying desire to see him lose.

33 Grand Slams. 440 weeks at world #1. 155 titles.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have combined to make up the aforementioned statistics making it little wonder that Murray has failed to take his maiden Slam. These three men have taken tennis to a level which is unprecedented. With the advances in fitness and technology over the past couple of decades the standard of tennis is at an all time high. While the magic produced by the old guard was something to behold, this generations top 3 have excelled past this giving performances which seem impossible to the average strawberries and cream eater in the stand. Arriving into a generation which has produced three of the best players ever to grace the tramlines, it's clear that alongside Sampras, Becker, Borg and a few others these sportsmen will be put forward in the highest esteem, Murray is performing admirably to be the best of the rest as it were. Therefore the issue of Murray lacking 'bottle' is hugely misconceived.

While failing to gain a set in his three previous Grand Slam finals is hardly stellar reading, it's clear he was facing the cream of the tennis playing crop. Three final defeats to Roger Federer is something which Murray can reflect on in later life as an inevitability of playing at the top level in this current age. The Swiss artist continually paints a masterpiece on the tennis court while Murray at this time is still painting by numbers. The wizardry of Federer, the power of Nadal and the athleticism of Djokovic gives Murray an unerring prospect when plotting his way to the title. He has won numerous titles on the ATP Tour, 22 of them, showing that he has no problem winning trophies against the top players. The argument of an 0 and 4 record in Grand Slams can be put forward but it is clear that this was down to the superiority of his opponents rather than poor performance on Murray's part. Apart from the 2008 loss where he was really in uncharted territory and appeared overawed, Murray has not disgraced himself on the biggest stage. The glorious nature of his peers ability is something to be applauded rather than a stick to beat the young Scotsman with. The sooner the media and the public realise this then the quicker Murray will be able to play stress free, giving him a greater chance of success in the top level tournaments.

With Ivan Lendl now staring poker-faced at him from the coaches box, he now has someone who has been there in the situation Murray currently finds himself in. Lendl himself lost his first 4 grand Slam finals before finally achieving success at the French Open. Knowing his coach has been in the trenches as such will be a huge spur to Murray's attitude moving forward. Technique and fitness are all well and good but temperament may be the most important attribute of all to a sportsmen. Lendl's experience will be invaluable to Murray as he has been in the same spot, therefore isn't speculating what it feels like but has real input to give. Having this in his camp could be the extra 5% he needs to convert his next attempt.

While I don't claim to be a tennis expert, far from it in fact, it seems clear to me that Murray is possibly the best defensive player in tennis today. His uncanny ability to make his opponent hit one more shot gives him those few extra points per match that has propelled him to his number 4 ranking. Decisiveness could be the key to going that one step further. Waiting for his opponent to make a mistake rather than taking the initiative is something which lets him down against the elite and once he gains the confidence to go for his shots a little more it can give him the edge he needs to sustain his challenge for more than a couple of sets. Overall Murray has the skills in place to win, the confidence to implement them repeatedly is what he needs to actually come through.

A certain Irish brewery says 'Good things come to those who wait', well it seems Murray's pint is approaching the brim and it won't be long until the sweet taste of success embraces him.