James Corrigan: Murray is far from ready to be put out to grass
The Last Word: The US Open will present the Briton's first chance to show the doubters he is still on an upward path
Sunday 03 July 2011
Of course there are two ways to look at everything, but only one of them happens to be right. That much was confirmed to any observer who peered into the blackened eyes of Andy Murray on Friday night as he was reminded of his excellence in this year's majors.
Garry Richardson doubtless meant well when he listed a final appearance in Melbourne and semi-finals in Paris and at Wimbledon. But as Murray's gaze focused ever more intently on the ground, the BBC man might as well have been a judge reading out a charge sheet. You really weren't helping, Garry.
But then, at least Richardson had the grace to analyse this latest humbling in the context of a season of close calls. That will be the reason for the frustration burning inside Murray, not the continuation of any phoney Wimbledon curse. Yet seemingly everyone else in Britain could only view his defeat by Rafael Nadal in the context in a lifetime of anti-climaxes. "We've seen it all before," goes the lament. Yes, for the majority,tennis is over for another year.
Yet there are 57 days until the US Open. This is the only period of time occupying Murray's psyche. His life doesn't start or end in the first week of July and neither does his ambition. On the surface he has to be seen to care, but deep down he won't be greatly interested in the fact that his country hasn't had a Wimbledon men's singles champion in 75 years. What obsesses him is the fact that Andy Murray hasn't lifted a Grand Slam title in 24 years. And a fairy tale in New York would be as sweet as anything SW19 could ever serve up.
Naturally, Murray would declare Wimbledon glory as "more special". But as the right thing to say was reverberating through his tonsils, he would be aware it is impossible for anything to be "more special" than the realisation of a dream. Mere geography wouldn't come into it. That is why proper Murray fans will not leave their support on ice for 12 months, and will follow his progress to the hard courts with genuine hope rather than insulting resignation.
There is absolutely no justification in writing off his chances, regardless of the brilliance of Nadal and Novak Djokovic, or the suspicion that Roger Federer has one or two left in him. Nadal expressed his sympathy for Murray not because of his loss in front of a desperate "home" crowd but because of the individual's body of work in 2011 thus far. The Spaniard acknowledges the blindingly obvious– Murray is close and getting agonisingly closer – and would be the first to say that "sometimes it isn't meant to be" is claptrap of the most nonsensical order.
What exactly is this based upon? Tim Henman? He wasn't good enough. Murray has reached three more Grand Slam finals than Henman did and he has done so in a stronger era. By this evening, Nadal, Djokovic and Federer will have won 25 of 26 Grand Slams between them, a remarkable ratio considering that the previous 16 had been spread around 12 players. It is enough to deepen the weariest of glooms, but there is, at the very least, one ray of light. Murray is on his way up, while one of the fearsome threesome is palpably on his way down. The vicissitudes of form and fitness say that there will be a hole to be filled, and that is what must drive Murray forwards. Thankfully, we can rely on that.
His sum-up in the grim aftermath was one of sport's more honest assessments. It was different in circumstance and tone to Rory McIlroy's Masters soliloquy in April but, to my mind, it was no less commendable. While Nadal bemoaned Murray's luck, the man himself spoke of the need to improve by 10 to 15 per cent and of "working three per cent harder". The maths didn't add up, because Murray couldn't work 15 per cent harder. That is just one reason why we should give praise and not indifference to our lone tennis hero.
Remember, he has got there by himself, not because of a nation's rich tennis heritage and certainly not because of the Lawn Tennis Association. British tennis is having a run for its money that it doesn't deserve. Yet still they wail. Why? Only Wimbledon comes to its conclusion today. Nothing else and nobody else is finished. The shows go on and Murray goes on. Don't presume his destination. Simply cheer him on his way.
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