James Lawton: The day that Andy Murray said 'this just isn't good enough'

After his 2011 demolition by Djokovic the Scot knew he had to get serious or stay a nearly man

If it should happen that Andy Murray fails today to win Britain's first Wimbledon men's singles title in 77 years it will surely not be at the cost of another kind of prize he won some time ago.

This one is not inscribed on silver. Nor it is necessarily registered in the cries and the whoops of a patriotic crowd. Rather it is awarded to those sportsmen and women who have clearly met the greatest obligation that can be placed on anyone possessing superior talent. It goes to those who refuse to settle for anything less than being the very best.

It is the badge worn by the supremely ambitious and it is one Murray can wear proudly on the Centre Court when he goes against Novak Djokovic this afternoon.

Murray has already reached out for achievements which many thought beyond him because of a certain brittleness of nature and the timing of his arrival slap bang in the middle of arguably the greatest vein of pure talent his game has known.

But Murray had the nerve and the guts to retrace his steps and see where he was going wrong. He grew strong at potentially broken places.

No doubt he faces a hugely intimidating task today. There have been times these last two weeks when the world's No 1 player has looked unbeatable in the wake of the swift departures of Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer.

Djokovic's ambition has been so plainly ferocious, his execution so clinical and relentless, he has recalled the nickname of the great Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx. They called Merckx the Cannibal because he devoured his rivals in the mountains. Djokovic has been doing the same to his on the courts, but always there has been one clear counterpoint.

It has been Murray overcoming crisis, producing shots whose authorship any of history's great players would have proudly claimed, laughing when a year or so ago he would have been in a state fit to be tied. Of course, Murray can still get inflamed.

He was enraged on Friday night when officials appeared to have yielded to the pressure of his Polish rival Jerzy Janowicz for the roof to be closed – just when Murray had gained powerful momentum after emerging from a Polish bombardment of 140mph serves and some withering ground strokes.

Murray was angry and said so but plainly he didn't brood. He came back in the artificial light and played with the most authentic conviction. He had performed with similar professionalism two nights earlier while removing the threat presented by the Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, adding more evidence to the argument Murray had indeed looked hard at himself in the mirror in those days before last year's great breakthrough of the Olympic gold medal and the US Open title.

What he did, of course, was something beyond either the will or the inclination of whole generations of male British tennis players and, if we are quite honest, a large slice of the general sports population.

He changed himself and his environment. He enlisted the guidance of the dour old Grand Slam champion Ivan Lendl, who now scrutinises every move made by Murray on the courts to which he brought great talent and unswerving application. Murray didn't settle for being a rich and celebrated nearly man.

He asked for so much more of himself, and the results have been especially evident in this tournament, which might just be claimed for the nation so long after Fred Perry, the combative son of a socialist MP, did it in 1936.

Certainly it is not hard tracing back to the time when Murray knew he had to change. It was in Melbourne two and a half years ago when Murray was not so much beaten in the final of the Australian Open as cut into small pieces.

Djokovic raced to victory in three sets. Murray melted down, competitively, stylistically, emotionally. He yelled at his entourage, he yelled at himself and all the time Djokovic appeared to be occupying another planet.

Murray could be so easily consumed by discouraging circumstances. At Wimbledon two years ago he appeared to have the great Nadal at his mercy, then mis-timed a shot that in his own mind turned from a mishap into a disabling catastrophe.

Today, such a self-inflicted disaster seems so remote it might have happened in another lifetime. After the Melbourne nightmare, he accepted that he needed help, someone to step from outside an admiring circle and deliver some hard judgements.

Lendl was the man and he will deserve great credit if Murray brings down Djokovic today. But then it was Murray who summoned up the help, saw that he had reached a point where he could no longer heal himself.

That was the vital determination – the point where Murray elected himself to the hardest school of thought in sport. If it had a principal spokesman in Britain, the appointment would probably have to go to Sir Nick Faldo, who long before winning six major golf titles declared: "If you want to compete at the highest level, to be the best, you have to remember the really hard work comes when you feel you have reached the top. When I was really competing, I said I would hit a million golf balls just to give myself a chance."

It is something to remember if the formal silverware today goes to the Serb. If Djokovic is the cannibal, no-one can any longer question the appetite of Andy Murray.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee