Wimbledon 2013: Expectations on Andy Murray again to end wait for a British winner
The British number one reached the final last year
Friday 21 June 2013
Andy Murray will be accompanied once again by the ghost of Fred Perry when he walks through the gates of the All England Club.
The Scot may have ended Perry's reign as Britain's last male grand slam singles champion after a 76-year wait at the US Open, but until he wins Wimbledon, the name of the Stockport great will never be too far away.
There are plenty of reasons to believe, though, that this might just be the year when all that changes for Murray, who will start his challenge with a first-round match against Germany's Benjamin Becker.
Of course, it has been said many times before about Murray and Tim Henman before him, but Murray returns to SW19 with two very important bits of metalwork tucked away at home.
The 25-year-old who cried on Centre Court after defeat by Roger Federer was a player who had never won a grand slam title, who had never beaten one of his rivals over five sets in a major final, who still did not know if he was good enough.
The 26-year-old who takes to the court this time will know he has achieved all those things.
Although it was his fourth grand slam final defeat, last year's Wimbledon loss to Federer was a key step in the process.
For the first time, Murray had done himself justice, winning the first set and playing well throughout.
The closing of the roof helped Federer, the master of indoor courts, and after four sets the match had got away from Murray, but he was beaten by arguably the best player of all time playing at a rarefied level.
Murray knew that, and instead of dropping into a slough of despair, he came back to a purple-clad Wimbledon for the Olympics three weeks later more determined than ever.
The competition suited him. In the midst of Olympic fever, he was a side act, and the raucous crowds and the chance to contribute to something bigger than his own trophy cabinet brought the best out of him.
Murray's nerve was rock solid as he beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, and in the final against an admittedly weary Federer he was ruthlessly brilliant, allowing his illustrious opponent just seven games.
Murray had his Centre Court moment, climbing up to the players' box to celebrate with his family, and he desperately wants another one on July 7.
Then came Murray's greatest day as he defeated Djokovic to lift his first grand slam trophy in New York.
Having showed he could win a big final with a brilliant display of tennis, now the Scot had to demonstrate he could win one with heart and nerve.
From two sets down, Djokovic fought back to level, but when it really counted Murray came through.
Being a grand slam champion will not change Murray's forehand, or his vulnerable second serve, or make him less susceptible to injury, but matches are won in the head as well as on the court.
At the Australian Open, Murray lost in a final again, to Djokovic, but in the semi-finals he beat Federer for the first time at a slam.
When he walks out at Wimbledon, he will know there is no one of significance that he has not beaten when it really counted. Most matches at the business end of grand slams come down to a few key moments, and having such a mental resource to draw on can make all the difference.
There are a few question marks about Murray's Wimbledon campaign, not least the back problem that caused him to pull out of the French Open.
The 26-year-old had the same issue last year and was fine on the grass, so skipping Roland Garros should only help. He also claimed his third AEGON Championships title at Queen's last weekend so will head into Wimbledon with confidence boosted.
However, there is also Rafael Nadal, who is very unlikely to lose in the second round again and who Murray has lost to three times at Wimbledon and never beaten.
Murray has been drawn in the same half as the fifth-seeded Spaniard, but he is likely to not have to play the two-time champion until the semi-finals.
The expectation, of course, will be higher than ever, but Henman, a four-time semi-finalist, expects his compatriot to live up to it.
"I always went back a better player and certainly those experiences help you," said Henman.
"I was comfortable in my surroundings, I always loved playing at Wimbledon, it was my favourite place and I think Andy is the same, he deals with the expectations on his shoulders very well.
"On the back of 2012, reaching the final of the Championships and winning Olympic gold, it is going to bring back good memories, positive thoughts and feelings and there is no reason he can't go a step further this year."
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