Murray Must Turn Olympic Gold Into a Grand Slam

Posted on August 8, 2012

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written by Robert Pollard

Olympic Gold should act as springboard to greater success

With the expectation of an entire nation on your shoulders, it would easy to fold under the pressure. That’s what Andy Murray had to deal with going into Sunday’s match with Roger Federer yet he produced a truly magnificent performance in the final of the Olympic men’s singles event at Wimbledon, winning 6-2 6-1 6-4 on a packed Centre Court; a victory Murray must use to secure his maiden Grand Slam title. The win left those in attendance stunned at the ease with which it was completed.

The details of the final have been poured over already, with Stephen Moss’ analysis a particularly thrilling read. I won’t go too much into the details of the final here other than to say it was a fine performance from Murray. To beat Federer in straight sets in an Olympic final, on Centre Court at Wimbledon, is a remarkable feat – the finest moment of his career to date. He had some luck but he also had answers to everything Federer threw at him. The man with the most illustrious tennis career in the history of the game was reduced to a bystander for large parts of the match as Murray destroyed him in almost every aspect of the game.

What then are the implications of this victory in the context of Murray’s career?

The most obvious answer to this is the confidence boost this win will surely provide. Talent wise, Murray lacks very little, but when compared to Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, the three most dominant players in the modern era, he has often appeared less mentally robust. During the really big matches, Murray has repeatedly given the impression that he doesn’t believe he can beat his opponent. His self-doubt can also manifest itself into visible displays of on-court frustration that can blight his performances. One hopes that his Olympic gold medal will now see a period of self-belief from Murray.

Murray is the best counter-puncher on the tour but he has often lacked the requisite amount of aggression against the very best players in the game.There are signs that he is beginning to address this, taking the game to his opponent and stamping his authority on proceedings, regardless of who he is playing. If he can do this consistently, and hopefully this win will provide the confidence to do that, he will surely reap the rewards at the biggest tournaments. He is a brilliant player who must now prove it more often at the top table of the game and win a Grand Slam if his career record is going to reflect his talent.

This year’s US Open provides a great opportunity for Murray to do just that. He is comfortable there. The US crowd love him. He reached his first Grand Slam final there. He also has a good record at the two events that immediately precede the US Open: the Toronto and Cincinnati Masters. If he can take his form into those two events and do well, he will arrive at Flushing Meadows in supremely confident mood. With Nadal struggling with injury, and his recent victories over Djokovic and Federer, few would bet against another good showing from Murray.

He starts his assault on the Toronto Masters on Wednesday and he has a great chance of success once more. With the withdrawals of Nadal and Federer, the field looks fairly clear. He won the tournament in 2009 (in Montreal) and 2010 and he will fancy his chances again this year, with Raonic, Isner and Berdych looking like the most difficult obstacles standing between himself and a place in the final.

Cincinnati is another happy hunting ground, and he goes there as defending champion after he defeated Djokovic in last year’s final. Two good showings in North America and Murray’s hard court season will be flying before he arrives at Flushing for the big one. Whisper is quietly, but Andy Murray 2012 US Open champion is a real possibility.

Another important factor in Murray’s home successes of the past month is the tide of public opinion beginning to turn. An off-hand anti-England football comment coupled with a demeanour non-compliant with the expectations of a modern sports ‘personality’ has meant Murray has accumulated detractors from inside his own country. At one stage, it seemed like almost universal dislike for a man whose talent should have been celebrated. That’s not to say he’s ever struggled for support at Wimbledon. Serious tennis fans in this country have long recognised his talents but the average Brit would often have no problem articulating their contempt for Murray. That seems to have altered now. Quality back-to-back performances in high-profile tournaments, and some genuine displays of emotion, mean his fan club is growing. This can only be a good thing for Murray’s hopes of future success. If he is to be as successful as he can be, the backing of his home nation would aid him significantly.

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Posted in: Tennis