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.

News
people
News
John Rees-Evans is standing for Ukip in Cardiff South and Penarth
news
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
Sport
David Silva, Andy Carroll, Arsene Wenger and Radamel Falcao
football
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.

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'