Andy Murray’s timing is pretty bad. Five years in the past, or five years in the future, his chances of winning a Grand Slam would have been much better than it is here in 2012. Murray has the misfortune of playing against a lineup of three outstanding tennis players (Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal) that have dominated tennis for the past several years. Between the three of them, they’ve won 27 out of the last 28 Grand Slams. How is an upstart like Andy Murray supposed to elbow his way past these three greats in order to secure himself his first Grand Slam title?
Murray is an excellent tennis player. There’s no question about that. He’s earned my respect over the past few years with his play. He won five titles in 2011, and finished the year 56-13 and ranked third (although he has now fallen to fourth). He reached the semi-finals or better in every Grand Slam for the first time in his career. It seemed only a matter of time before he broke through at a Grand Slam to win.
Based on the play I saw at the 2012 Australian Open Final, however, Murray is both extremely close and extremely far away from a Grand Slam title. Murray played the best tennis he quite possibly has ever played, and it still wasn’t enough to beat top-ranked Djokovic. He was able to push him to five sets, and I felt then that he was just a few plays from defeating Djokovic.
My aspirations for Murray were short-lived, however, after watching Djokovic and Nadal in the Final. After that epic match, I stopped thinking about Murray’s improved game for quite a while. As good as Murray had played against Djokovic, Nadal played even better. Of course, Djokovic ultimately was better than the both of them. Is this how it’s going to be the rest of 2012 for Murray? He’s stuck on the same side of any Grand Slam bracket as Djokovic (as long as he’s ranked fourth) so even if he were to somehow beat the top-ranked player he’d still have to get through either Nadal or Federer to win a Slam. Those seem to be fairly long odds, and I’m not at all confident that he can do it.
It’s not like Murray hasn’t realized that he has to do things differently to break through. He hired former tennis legend Ivan Lendl as his personal coach, and that change did seem to help him at the Australian Open. He pushed Djokovic further than he ever had before at a Grand Slam. Lendl may help him with his mental game but it could very well not be enough in this particular era of tennis.
I feel badly for Murray. After watching his style of play in the Australian Open Final, he’s now one of my favorite players, but I don’t have much hope for him. In any other time in tennis, he’d be considered one of the greats. Now he may be faced with a future in which he’s shut out in Grand Slam play because of the superior excellence of his competition. While he may ultimately win a Slam (or a few), I can’t see him doing it in 2012 unless at least a few of the other top three players suffers an injury. It may be quite a long, frustrating year for Murray.
Julie has been a tennis fan all her life. She believes that men’s tennis is currently in a golden era.