Watching a replay of the Wimbledon final last night on the Tennis Channel, the question inevitably comes up, Will Andy Murray ever win a Grand Slam?
Murray won over the hearts and minds of a lot fans Sunday with a strong(er) performance followed by an emotional post-match ceremony, but unfortunately a good start and a few tears won’t propel him over the top. Often in sports, just because you might deserve it doesn’t mean you get it.
After four misses in Major finals Murray deserves one and he’s the kind of player that I think should get one – If Thomas Johansson and Andy Roddick have Slams why shouldn’t Murray? Murray’s problem, though, is that he plays in a suped-up era with three of the all time greats who don’t seem to want to share the riches with anyone but themselves. How selfish of them!
The good news for Andy is there doesn’t appear to be any future Roger Federers, Rafael Nadals or Novak Djokovic’s on the horizon. Yeah, three is enough! Milos Raonic has a booming serve, monster forehand and an impressive tennis IQ, but a future double digit Slam winner? Doubtful.
Ryan Harrison, Bernard Tomic are going to be Top 10 type players, but they too don’t have that standout next level of game we see from our current Big Three. There is Juan Martin Del Potro and a few other players Murray will have to deal with, yet they too are beatable.
At 25 Murray’s also in the middle of that 24-26 peak window. Federer just won at almost 31 so I’d give Murray at least 4-5 years to win that maiden Slam. Plus, Murray’s game isn’t reliant on one big shot or one skillset. His versatility and his durability – apart from his whinging – should serve him well late into his 20s and early 30s. And he can continue to “learn” to become more offensive minded.
The bad news, however, is the 800 lb. gorilla: The presence of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. If one of them opposes Murray in the final of a Slam I just don’t see how Murray’s going to win a first one against them anymore. And none of them seem to be going away anytime soon, not even Federer.
I remarked on Murray’s expansive game, yet against any of the Big Three – even though he did a lot right on Sunday – that game falls short. And mentally, in Slam finals Murray’s just not there. Not yet, at least.
Murray came out so well against Federer on Sunday, like he was shot out of a cannon. Eventually he came down to earth but he still hung on to win the first.
With the match in the balance in the pivotal second, Murray had an excellent chance at a passing shot on break point. I believe it was 15-40, 2-2 in the second when Federer duffed an approach shot giving Murray a sitter forehand pass for the break. Andy basically gagged, hitting what should have been a winning shot right back to Federer who eventually won the point with a smash.
Had Murray won that point, gone up a break in the second 3-2 maybe he rides that momentum taking the set and with it a 2-0 lead, and likely the title. It’s a big Maybe. But bottom line when the opportunity presented itself he flinched.
Murray had another chance early in the fourth to pull ahead 2-0 with a break, but again he just couldn’t covert the passing shot.
Credit to Federer who served, volleyed and hit his backhand extremely well. Roger won the match. Murray didn’t lose it.
But those misses to me is a sign Andy still doesn’t have it between the ears. It’s those moments like he had on those break points that you have to capitalize on. To be a Slam winner and to beat a great like Federer, in those situations you have to convert easy opportunities.
Had it been a match in Cincinnati or Miami, he probably makes those shots. But on that stage he couldn’t get it done.
No surprise, Federer is now 3-0, winning 9 of 10 sets, against Murray in Grand Slam finals while in ATP-level events Murray leads 8-5. That’s a striking difference.
At least Murray did bring out a more offensive game, one that put him in position to win. Now he just needs to somehow get it right upstairs in the head.
Coach Ivan Lendl lost his first four Slams before embarking on a Hall of Fame career, so there is hope. (Kim Clijsters also lost her first four.) But Lendl in his day brought power, force and mental toughness to the table. I’m not sure what makes Murray stand out that much above Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. That’s the hard part, getting that first Major by having to beat a Big Three.
After all, the Big Three had it easier in their first final wins. Federer beat Mark Philippoussis to win his first Wimbledon. Nadal took down Mariano Puerta at the French and Djokovic outdueled JW Tsonga in Australia.
Where’s Murray’s luck?
That said, I do think eventually things will break right for Murray and one year, likely in Australia I think, he’ll come up with that big win. And we can finally, almost mercifully, put this storyline to bed. Andy Murray Grand Slam champion? Sure, why not.
ADDENDUM: Where’s Murray’s best chance to win?
1. Australia: Best surface for Murray, 2-time finalist, less pressure being so far from England, maybe Big Three are off their game early in year, heat factor
2. US Open: Big Three tired/injured from summer battles, good surface, fan support, Nadal’s worst surface(?)
3. Wimbledon: Too much pressure, would need a lot of luck in the final playing someone like Berdych, Monfils or Lukas Kubot
4. French Open: Too much Rafa, might beat Federer in a SF but couldn’t beat an in-form Djokovic on clay in best-of-5
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