Review of the year: Tennis

Rise of a teenage heir to Henman

From a British perspective, the tennis year was about Andy in Wonderland. Andy Murray, an 18-year-old from Dunblane, experienced a remarkable first season on the professional tour. It was not only a matter of what Murray achieved in raising his world ranking from 411 to 63, but also of what he sampled, first-hand, and gained from life among the sport's élite.

Having arrived on the scene as the 2004 US Open junior champion, Murray discovered how good the players on the ATP Tour really are, and realised that he was able to compete with the best of them. Learning how to beat the best of them will be the crux of his higher education and, crucially, time is on his side.

A back injury caused him to miss the first three months of the ATP season, though he made a successful Davis Cup debut in Israel, partnering David Sherwood to success in the doubles. Murray was unable to go to the Australian Open, where the Russian Marat Safin relieved Roger Federer of the men's singles title, defeating the Swiss world No 1 in the semi-finals and Australia's Lleyton Hewitt in the final. In the women's singles in Melbourne, Serena Williams revived her family's fortunes by defeating her American compatriot Lindsay Davenport in the final.

Murray's debut on the ATP Tour in April gave little indication of the encouraging form he would later display. Although playing on slow clay courts in Barcelona, where he developed his baseline game, he was dispatched in the first round.

Nor was there much to cheer about from his appearance in the junior tournament at the French Open in Paris, where, in the main event, the 19-year-old Spanish prodigy Rafael Nadal won his first ever Grand Slam title.

After defeating Federer in the men's singles semi-finals, the powerful Nadal overcame Mariano Puerta, of Argentina, in the final. Justine Henin-Hardenne, of Belgium, made an impressive return from illness and injury by winning the women's singles, losing only two games against Mary Pierce in the final.

Grass courts may be considered too fast to suit Murray's ground-stroke style, but the lanky young Scot's game came alive when he was invited to play at London's Queen's Club en route to Wimbledon. Murray advanced to the third round at Queen's with an emphatic win over Taylor Dent, an American ranked in the world's top 40, only for an ankle injury to deny him victory against Thomas Johansson, a former Australian Open champion.

His Wimbledon debut was enthralling. He began with a straight-sets win against George Bastl, of Switzerland, the man who ended the great Pete Sampras's Wimbledon career in 2002. Then came another victory in straight sets, this time against the 15th-ranked Radek Stepanek, of the Czech Republic.

In the third round, Murray stepped on to Centre Court for the first time. His opponent was the 19th-ranked David Nalbandian, a shrewd, sturdy baseliner from Argentina who was the runner-up to Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.

Kitted out in Fred Perry sportswear, the company founded by the last British male to win a Grand Slam singles title, he played masterfully for two sets. He won the opening set 7-6 and the second 6-1, and created enough game points to have taken a 3-0 lead in the third. But Murray did not convert those opportunities, and Nalbandian went on to take the set 6-0.

Although Murray rallied in the fourth set, and came close to placing himself in a position to serve for the match, Nalbandian prevailed, and a weary Murray was unable to persuade his legs to obey his wishes in the fifth set, in which he salvaged only one game. Nalbandian won, 6-7, 1-6, 6-0, 6-4, 6-1.

Wimbledon belonged to the magnificent Federer for the third year in a row, and Venus Williams surprisingly won the women's singles for a third time, defeating Davenport in the longest ever Wimbledon women's final, 4-6, 7-6, 9-7, after two hours 45 minutes.

Before the year was out, Murray reached his first ATP Tour final, in Bangkok, where he gave a creditable display in his first match against Federer, who beat him 6-3, 7-5. That was followed by a landmark victory for Murray in his first match against Tim Henman, the British No 1, in Basle, 6-2, 5-7, 7-6.

Murray said Henman had inspired him to make tennis his career. The signs are that it was a good choice.

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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.

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence