Thursday, 30 October 2008

You gotta read this: Overend on Murray

Here's Jonathan Overend's post on Murray becoming a man, if not quite the man (not yet).

Two tournaments remain in this extraordinary year for Andy Murray and this time it doesn’t matter what happens in Paris and Shanghai - 2008 will go down as the most successful season for a British tennis player since the days of Mr Perry.

Murray has collected five titles in the season - a nice geographical spread from Qatar to Russia via France, Spain and deepest Ohio, USA - he's also climbed to number four in the world, collecting a fearsome reputation as autumn’s in-form player.

He’s in Paris this week for the final Masters Series event of the year before heading to China for the big one, the end-of-season showdown, The Masters Cup.

That’s the one with the best eight players of the year - so no riff-raff, no byes, no Vince Spadea, just serious big-time tennis.

Murray’s second half of the season has been extraordinary, with a quarter-final at Wimbledon followed by the Cincinnati title, a first Grand Slam final at the US Open and then back-to-back titles in Madrid and St Petersburg.

The only blip was in August after Cincinnati - that strange exit from the Olympic Games to Yen Hsun Lu, a defeat which looks more inexplicable with every passing day.

But that remains his only bad loss since the start of May. Every other match he should have won, he has won. Major progress.

Earlier in the year, a search for tennis court perfection appeared to hold him back from concentrating on the simple things. Now it’s all about getting the win, however it comes.

But forget the notion of “winning ugly”, endorsed by his previous coach Brad Gilbert, Murray has been winning spectacularly.

Since the start of August, he's beaten Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic - the only three players ahead of him in the rankings.

Performances of aggressive intent have been backed by real steel under pressure and a revelation of a first serve.

And one of the really interesting aspects of this sequence, 18 wins from his last 19 matches, is the way talented opponents have been crushed, almost beaten mentally before the match begins.

Three matches stand out on this point: Wawrinka in New York, Monfils in Madrid and Verdasco in St Petersburg. Top 20 players with plenty of ability, but freaked out by the mental ordeal of facing Murray. The result? Three consummate thrashings.

Murray, of course, has more than enough ability to beat these guys toe-to-toe, but he’s now beating them in the mind the way Federer used to (perhaps still does?) during his years of domination. That is a considerable factor when you’re still building your reputation on the tour.

And what a reputation. Every interview with an ATP player in advance of Paris appeared to make reference to Murray as “the form player” or “the world’s most dangerous” or “the best in the world right now”.

Careful scheduling, another real improvement from 12 months ago, means Murray still has plenty of energy left at this late stage of the season.

He’ll give it everything for two more tournaments and then take the off-season to prepare for 2009 and the Australian Open, where he will start as one of the favourites to challenge for Djokovic’s title.

And as we come towards the end of a difficult year image-wise, with media spats, TV comedy lampooning and a premature autobiography, one can only praise the way Murray has turned his attitude around.

Everything about him, from the waves to the crowd to the positive approach in interviews, is an improvement.

The world is no longer against him - of course it never really was as long as he could prove he could win matches - and I think he now realises that when his name gets in the paper, it adds several dollars to the bank account. It’s all good.

“Kevin the teenager” appears to have stomped out of the back door. The “miserable git” (Tim Henman’s famous aside from the summer) has cheered up and come to the party after all. Murray’s tennis is doing the talking, and these last few months it’s been magnificent to watch.

In short, as Mr Federer observed, he has "become a man".

The article is from BBC 606 forum. You can read it plus the resulting comments here

1 comment:

Rich said...

He's a huge storyline for 2009 and could make a splash to open the season. Certainly a major championship is within his grasp - it's not if but when.

Everyone jump on the Murray bandwagon stat!