Near misses fuel Murray's belief he can land big one
World No 4 has gone one round further every year at Wimbledon, so this time it must be the final?
The last four months have been difficult, but as Andy Murray prepares for the start of Wimbledon tomorrow he has only one goal in mind. "I think I can win it," the 23-year-old Scot says. "I don't think I'm that far away from playing great tennis."
Life has not been easy for Murray since he played the best tennis of his life to reach the Australian Open final. The world No 4 has not won a title this year, his lack of success evident in the number of times he has been on court. Since losing to Roger Federer in the Melbourne final, Murray has played only 19 matches. In the same period last year he played twice as many and won four titles in the process.
After losing to Mardy Fish last week at Queen's Club, where he had won the title a year earlier, Murray called a pre-Wimbledon meeting of his entourage. "I sat down on Sunday with the guys to make sure we were all of the same feeling – that I can win the tournament," Murray said.
"The last few months haven't been as good as we would have liked, but the belief is still there. It's obviously most important that I believe. If I believe in myself and prepare as best as I can I definitely have a chance of winning. I hope I can do it, but I know it's going to be incredibly difficult because of the guys that are playing the game just now. And that's what's actually motivating. In a lot of ways it will make the achievement even more satisfying when it happens."
Rafael Nadal suggested last week that Murray's mediocre form earlier this year may have been down to the after-effects of Melbourne. Murray is not so sure, but he admitted: "It was incredibly disappointing. It was difficult for me to lose because I thought I was going to win. I don't know if it hurt me really, really badly, but I knew that I'd given it everything I had. Maybe that's why I got emotional after the match.
"It's not just about those two weeks. It's everything that goes into it beforehand in December and January in the build-up. Maybe it was the end of that stretch for me that was very tough to take emotionally and maybe it was just a bit of a release."
Even though he was nervous before the match, Murray feels he handled the challenge in Melbourne better than he had his only previous appearance in a Grand Slam final. Federer was again his conqueror at the 2008 US Open, but on that occasion the Scot had less time to prepare, having beaten Nadal in the semi-finals 24 hours earlier.
"I like being nervous going into matches. It shows that you care and that you're ready. And if you feel like you're going to win, you're going to be nervous. Before the US Open I felt like I could win, but it came round really, really quickly after the high of the Nadal match. I don't know if I was necessarily physically fatigued, but to beat those two guys back-to-back you need to be pretty much perfect. I don't think I was ready then to win a Grand Slam.
"At the Australian Open this year I felt like I was ready, physically, and my game was there to win. I was definitely more nervous for that final, but in a good way. I wasn't feeling like the occasion was going to get the better of me or anything like that."
Murray has gone one round further with every appearance at Wimbledon, culminating in his run to the semi-finals last year, when he lost a tight match to Andy Roddick. His disappointment was such that he felt in no mood to watch the American's subsequent final against Federer.
The key moments of the semi-final defeat are still clear in Murray's mind. "I should never have got broken in the game I lost to lose the first set," he recalled. "I think I was up 40-15 on my serve when I got broken then. That's against someone like Roddick, who plays very well when he's ahead. Against his big serve it's very important not to have concentration lapses like that, which I maybe did at the end of that set.
"The match came down to a couple of points and he got very lucky on one of them in the first tie-break. I had a set point and he hit a volley that came off the throat and bounced short off one of my passes. It was a very lucky shot. The match came down to a couple of points here and there. And if that match wasn't the best tennis he's ever played then the next one definitely was."
Murray believes he has as good a chance of winning at SW19 this year as he did 12 months ago.
"Last year was the first year that I went into Wimbledon with a realistic chance of winning the tournament," he said. "Maybe having had that sort of expectation last year and having come close will help me this year."
Has he ever imagined what it would be like to win Wimbledon? "I'm sure there would be a huge relief, but I don't really want to think what would happen, because I think it would be life-changing. I'm sure it changes the life of someone from another country, but not in the same way that it would a Brit winning. It would be very difficult and something you would have to learn to live with, but I think I want to do it."
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