What now for Andy Murray?
The Scot will be back at Wimbledon in three weeks' time in a quest to land the 'ultimate' sporting prize
There have been times in the past when Wimbledon would be the last occasion for many a month that the British public would expect to see Andy Murray. This summer, thanks to the Olympic Games, the Scot will be back at the All England Club in less than three weeks' time.
After his defeat to Roger Federer in last night's Wimbledon final, however, the Scot will take his time before thinking about his next challenge. When asked when he would return to the practice court, Murray said: "Not until my mind is right. There's no point in going on the court until I'm ready to go out there and learn and work hard and do the right things in the gym and in practice.
"I'll wait and see how my body recovers after the next few days. I fell a lot of times in this tournament. I've got a lot of bruises all over my body, so I need to take a few days off, let everything heal, recover, and then see. But I won't be on the court next week, that's for sure."
In the longer term, the Scot will have to lean heavily on the experiences of his coach, Ivan Lendl, as he continues his quest to become Britain's first male singles Grand Slam champion since Fred Perry in 1936.
Lendl is the only man in the Open era who has won a Grand Slam title after losing his first four finals. Last night's defeat was Murray's fourth. Although tennis has become a sport in which players do not usually reach their peak until their late twenties, the clock is ticking for the 25-year-old Scot. Most Grand Slam champions win their first major title in their early twenties.
For the moment, however, Murray's next focus will be on the Olympic tournament, which begins at the All England Club in 19 days' time. When tennis first returned to the Olympics in 1988 many of the leading lights were ambivalent about it – only 11 of the top 20 men played in Seoul – but today the Games are an automatic stop for nearly all the world's top players. Every member of the men's top 10 will take part in this summer's tournament.
In the build-up to Wimbledon, Murray was frequently asked about the significance of the Olympics and he never underestimated how important they are. "In sporting terms, I would say that winning an Olympic gold is bigger than winning a Grand Slam," Murray said. "Everybody knows what an Olympic gold is. Everybody understands that. Everyone on the street knows about that anywhere you go. I think most people know what a Grand Slam is but I don't think that everybody does."
The addition of the Olympic tournament has interrupted the normal tennis calendar, but it will revert to a more familiar pattern once the London 2012 tournament has finished. The Olympics is followed immediately by back-to-back tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati in the Masters Series, which is the next level down from the four Grand Slam events (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open).
Given the tightness of the schedule it remains to be seen whether players involved in the final weekend of the Olympic event will play in Canada. Murray, nevertheless, has a good record in the Masters Series events in the build-up to the US Open, having won both titles twice.
Murray has geared his year's training programme around the busy summer schedule. "That period after Wimbledon will be very important," he said. "I looked at the whole schedule a year in advance and planned what I was going to do, where I was going to be off, where I was going to be training.'"
He added: "If it isn't done properly, guys could mess up their season. The schedule this year is the most important it has ever been."
After a week's break towards the end of next month, the circus will move on to the US Open, which has been one of Murray's favourite tournaments ever since he won the junior title there eight years ago. Murray loves the quick, hard courts at Flushing Meadows, on which he reached his first Grand Slam final four years ago.
Murray will remain at No 4 in the world rankings following Wimbledon, though he has closed the gap on both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. After the US Open he will have to defend a large haul of ranking points he won on last year's Asia swing, when he won the titles in Bangkok, Tokyo and Shanghai. In the long term, the world No 1 ranking has always been a goal. "I want to win majors and get to No 1," he said earlier this year.
As Britain do not have another Davis Cup tie until the start of next year, Murray's only other appearance on home soil in the latter months of the season will be in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at London's O2 Arena in November. Murray has played in the year-ending finale, which features the season's top eight players in terms of ranking points won, for the last four years and looks sure to qualify again.
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