Murray Mania: Is This The Year?

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James Gray gets excited about Andy Murray… again

Personally, I am an Andy Murray fan. That’s because he is the one British tennis player who might, and I stress might, one day win something. Having grown up in the Henman era, I am hard-wired to latch on to any vague success and assume that he / she is the next big thing. (I remember how excited I was the first time Elena Baltacha got through to the second round.)

However this year is different. For starters, Nadal’s surprise exit has opened up the draw, so that Murray only (!) has to beat the number 5 seed, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, whom he has beaten twice on grass, in order to reach the final, where he will play one of the two best tennis players of the last 25 years. Usually, I would be safely removing all my money from any betting website in order to avoid any impulsive betting on Murray to win the whole shooting match. However, this is not the Andy Murray that we have seen in previous years.

On his previous jaunts to the Wimbledon semi-finals, and subsequent defeats, Murray has cut the figure of a petulant child. When things were going wrong, he was forever complaining about the umpire, the surface, and after every missed shot he would turn to his box and throw his hands up as though it was Miles McLagan’s fault. This year, he was beaten by David Ferrer for 23 games going into the second set tie-break. Everything Murray tried the little Spaniard had returned, and to quote the commentators, his Wimbledon championship was hanging by a thread. However, Murray blamed only himself, resolving to keep fighting, and dig his own way out of a hole. Why? Because Ivan Lendl was staring him down the entire time.

Lendl and Murray is a bizarre partnership. Murray was a polite and quiet man off the court, and a gritty but mentally weak man on it. Lendl was barbarous on and off the court, and had no real reason to come back to tennis. It would seem strange then that he would walk into a very difficult situation, and attempt to turn tennis’ nearly man into a champion. Why?

My own opinion is that Lendl sees something of himself in Murray. He is undoubtedly extremely talented. Someone who can hold down number 4 in the world without ever winning a Major must have incredible consistency, and no little ability. His problem is his composure. Like so many British athletes, it would appear that he can only produce his best when he is behind, and under the cosh. Lendl was also a fighter, and if every single person in a stadium was willing Lendl to lose, that was when he produced his best tennis. These days, Murray appears to be a more disciplined, motivated player. One can only assume that Lendl wouldn’t take lightly to be shouted at from the court, and this seems to give Murray the siege mentality that he needs. The world is against him, so he’s going to bring everything he’s got.

The one disadvantage that Lendl’s aggressive and disciplined is that it does appear to encourage Murray’s tight style of play. He has no confidence in following his strong shots to the net, despite showing some brilliant touches at close-quarters, but when he frees up, as he did in the 3rd and 4th sets against Ferrer, he shows his brilliance.

In all likelihood, he will beat Tsonga in 4, and face Djokovic in the final. The Serb has lost once in his last 33 matches, so of course all the money will be with the World Number 1. However, Murray will have, the crowd and my backing…we can but hope.

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