The 2010 Championships, an occasion Andy Murray is eagerly anticipating, will present a different sort of challenge for the Scot this time round. A year ago, the 22-year-old surged into Wimbledon at the peak of a devastating run of form.
He had won 41 of his 48 matches in the first five and a half months of the 2009 season and collected four titles along the way in Doha, Rotterdam, Miami and the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club, where in becoming the first British champion there since Bunny Austin in 1938, he surged through the week without dropping a set.
What a difference a year can make in the life of an athlete. So far in 2010, Murray’s win-loss record stands at 11-6 with no tournaments won. The closest he came was at the Australian Open, where six of those 11 victories took him to the final, only to fall in straight sets to Roger Federer, just as he had done in the 2008 US Open final.
“Australia and Wimbledon are the best chances
I will have to win my first Grand Slam”
His last three tournaments, the ATP Masters Series 1000 events in Miami, Monte Carlo and Rome, have seen him win just one match and Murray readily acknowledges that his 6-4 6-4 loss to the 101st-ranked Mardy Fish in Miami was his low point of the year to date.
Yet his optimism and confidence remain undimmed. In his previous four Wimbledons (he missed 2007 with a wrist tendon injury), Murray had always played down his prospects of becoming the first Briton since Fred Perry in 1936 to win the title, saying that grass was not his best surface. That, he insisted, was the hard courts of North America.
Now it seems the emphasis has changed. Announcing his intention of defending his Aegon Championships title in June Murray, who will turn 23 on 15 May, said “Australia and Wimbledon are the best chances I will have to win my first Grand Slam.
“Wimbledon is all about pressure”
The things I can do on grass give me more confidence about being successful,” explained the man who went out in the semi-finals at the 2009 Championships, beaten in four hard-fought sets by an inspired Andy Roddick.
As the lone British man with any prospect of landing the most coveted prize in the game, Murray has needed to prepare himself for the vast weight of expectation which so burdened Tim Henman in his annual pursuit of Wimbledon fame.
“Wimbledon is always about pressure,” said Murray. “Once the tournament starts I don’t care too much, but it is what goes on beforehand. It would be nice this year if people didn’t follow me around or put a camera into my face and speak to me about the pressures of life. When that doesn’t happen it makes things much nicer.”
“When there is no football during Wimbledon the build-up
is always more demanding, more difficult”
On the subject of pressure, there is another factor at the 2010 Championships which he feels will lower those expectations. “The World Cup might make it a little easier for me. When there is no football during Wimbledon the build-up is always more demanding, more difficult.”
Having sparked outrage among the football community by jesting before the 2006 World Cup that he supported whoever England were playing against, Murray is treading more carefully this time. “No more jokes about England,” promised the young man from Dunblane. “If England are successful it will definitely help me.”
Meantime, Murray plans to deal with any pressure by claiming there is no rush for him to win his first Grand Slam after those two runner-up finishes at the US and Australian Opens. “In that respect there is no pressure, time is on my side,” he said.
Though there is little possibility that this year Murray will come back strongly enough to approach his 2009 win-loss ratio of 66-11, he remains fourth in the rankings, the level at which he ended last season.
“Every player goes through a bad patch,” he said. “But if I play my best I’ve got a chance at successfully defending my Aegon title and doing well at Wimbledon. I’m really looking forward to it.”