Andy Murray: American dream on agenda
Published Date: 05 July 2009
By Moira Gordon
BY TOMORROW morning British sports fans will have moved on from Wimbledon, The Ashes and pre-season football occupying the minds and the media but they won't be the only ones. A certain Andy Murray is already packaging away memories from this year's Championships and looking forward.
Speaking after he had lost Friday's match, making it nine successive semi-final defeats for British men, he reminded those present why he is different from others who have gone before him. His loss did not signify the end, merely the beginning. This grand slam may have come and gone but to dwell on it would be lamentable. Especially when the future still promises so much.
"I'll move on very, very quickly," he said. "I'll go and work on my game and improve and come back stronger. It's a pathetic attitude to have, if you lose one match and you go away and let it ruin your year. I have had a good year so far and I'm very close to the top of the game and the US Open, I have always said it is my best surface, my best chance to win an slam and I will give it my best shot there."
Those comments came minutes, not hours, after the completion of his Wimbledon run, the sight and sound of the standing ovation he was granted as he exited Centre Court still vivid in his mind. But the measured response to questions about this tournament and the future were in keeping with a lad who knows where he wants to get to and has proved himself pretty astute in pinpointing the best way of venturing there thus far.
Still only 22, he has bided his time. In the past others compared him unfavourably to Rafa Nadal, who is only a year older, outlining a disparity in fitness and bulk. But that was back in 2005 and 2006 as he made his fledgling outings on the senior men's tour. It was also a result of smart thinking. Murray had his eye on the long-game.
Still growing, he knew his limitations. Overdoing it at that stage could have led to a flurry of joint problems in the future. So he waited until the time was right before putting himself through the kind of punishing training regimes which now allow him to see out gruelling five-setters and wake up the next day ready to do it all again. He showed patience and awareness then and he will do so again now.
"That's the one thing I have always been quite good at... being patient. Hopefully I am going to play seven or eight more Wimbledons and I had a good chance of making the final here and I didn't do it. But I have a lot more Slams and Wimbledons to play and hopefully I will have a better chance next year."
While winning Wimbledon would have been welcome, he was happy with steady improvement. Every year he has played at SW19 he has bettered his previous best, and in the grand scheme of thing he is delighted with his consistency in the major events.
"The way I played this year I was very, very close to getting to the final and if I keep giving myself these sort of opportunities and keep playing well," he said, assessing his Wimbledon run. "My consistency in the grand slams in the last year or so has been much, much better, a final, a semi, a quarter. I believe I can win a grand slam, whether it's Wimbledon or US Open or Australia or whatever, I'm going to give myself chances."
He now has five weeks before his next tournament, the Montreal Masters. Just as he did after last September's Davis Cup, when he returned from four weeks of solid training and dominated the indoor season. Some of the next few weeks will be spent as down time but then the work will begin again in earnest. The closer he gets to the top, to winning one of the four major tournaments, or moving up the world rankings (had Wimbledon results panned out differently he had the opportunity to leapfrog Roger Federer and move to No.2 ) the more it focuses his mind.
He has always been a man in control of his own destiny and has shown a ruthlessness when necessary. He was the one who opted to move to Spain as a teenager to further his talent, he was the person who signed up coaches he felt could take him that next step and then dispensed with them when he felt they had taken them as far as they could. So far all those decisions have proved correct and indicate he is as smart a tactician off the court as he is on it.
"When I win a grand slam it will be a huge weight off my shoulders and if it was here that would be great but I go into each grand slam regardless of whether it is here or the US Open I put the same pressure on myself to play well. If I win one it would probably make a difference how I perform in the next one. Wimbledon isn't the only tournament in the world, there are a lot of big ones and I will try to perform as well as I can in those."
When he talks about winning slams in the future, there is no reason to doubt him. And so far the evidence does add up to suggest Flushing Meadows could be the venue for the first of those successes. That was where he won the Junior title and also provided the backdrop for his first senior grand slam final appearance last year. Having succumbed to Nadal fairly meekly at Wimbledon a few months earlier, he got the better of him in New York before coming up against a Roger Federer who was just too good on the day in the final.
But the thing about Murray is that he does not scurry into shadows to lick his wounds, he uses those kind of defeats as incentive. He channels his emotions, trains harder, strengthens his weaknesses and he becomes even more determined.
"This year for me has been a very good one but I have probably had some of my toughest losses. I haven't felt I have played poorly in any of the slams and played well actually but just came up against guys who played great, great tennis.
"You have to learn to lose sometimes in sport and I have had to do that the hard way this year because a lot of my losses have come in the big tournaments against guys who have played great."
He recognises that is one of the downsides to being among the top three in the world. His scalping holds great kudos these days. "Regardless of what sport you are in the guys that aren't ranked as high will come for you whether that's in football or whatever. Rafa and Roger have been able to stay at the top for so long and perform so well in the grand slams and that's very special because guys do come out with less pressure and try and play great but the consistency they have shown has been incredible.
"So that is something I need to make sure of going into the slams; I need to bring my A-game."
Since that US Open defeat he has defeated Federer in every one of their subsequent meetings. Three semi-finals and their head-to-head in round robin format at the Masters Cup, and they were all on hard courts. So the Scot's optimism and self-belief can not only be excused but thoroughly explained.
Already this year he has reached the final in four of the six hard-court tournaments he has entered, winning three of them and beating every one of the players ranked in the top seven along the way. But there is no resting on laurels. With Team Murray's help he will build up to his next stint in Miami, working on every facet of his game, while also training in the heat, honing his strength, conditioning and durability.
Stickability is one thing Murray already has in abundance, in points and in matches. He takes things step by step and refuses to give up. On certain occasions he comes up against someone better on the day and mentally he has become much better at dealing with that, he says. But experience has already taught him that the longer he can hang in there, steadily going about his own business, the higher the likelihood that someone else will produce the errors he can capitalise on. It's his thinking in rallies and now his mantra in Grand Slams. Ally that to a brilliant tennis brain, great speed around the court, the best returning in the game, a varied arsenal of ground strokes and an increasingly reliable and dangerous serve and little wonder everyone is talking about his Wimbledon semi-final exit as nothing more than a postponement of the inevitable.
"He's going to break through and win one of these titles and probably numerous ones. He's too good not to," said Roddick, who knows just how much he has had to recommit and improve his game to produce the victory. "It's a matter of time. It's not if but when."