Andy Murray has time on his side in search for first Major
Those who doubt the British No1's Grand Slam credentials should look to the past, writes Alex Sharp
The dust has settled on Andy Murray’s defeat in the Australian Open final but people are still attacking, assessing and doubting.
The manner of Sunday’s defeat was more disappointing than the result itself. If Murray had lost in a closely-fought encounter it is clear he would have received more sympathy.
But the Scot looked lethargic, gloomy and at times adolescent during his 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 thrashing at the hands of third seed Novak Djokovic.
Former world No1 and seven time Grand Slam champion Max Wilander summed up the majority of opinion on his blog: “Andy Murray, grow up. Mom, lay down the rules.
“Stop swearing at yourself and all of us. When will chair umpire wake up and explain to Andy this is not “cool” and you better stop or be punished. We don’t need this…so put a smile on your face and suck it up.”
Looking past his lacklustre performance in the final, Murray had a superb tournament when others fell way short of expectations. Fourth seed Robin Soderling lost to teenager Alexandr Dolgopolov, for example, but Murray thrashed him in the quarter-finals.
The next step in the career of 23-year-old Murray is crucial but for those criticising him, reminding everybody that he’s yet to win a set in a Grand Slam final, heaping more pressure on those young shoulders and claiming his best chances of winning a Major are over should take a closer look at the facts.
Take two greats of the game Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi as examples. Lendl lost four Grand Slam finals before winning his first in 1984, three years after his first final. Similarly, Andre Agassi lost three finals before winning Wimbledon in 1992.
Interestingly, rumours are circulating that Ivan Lendl’s long-time coach Tony Roche has put himself in the running to take Murray’s game to the next level. The Australian coached Federer for a stint at the peak of his dominance in the mid-00s and has reportedly contacted the Murray camp over a possible role.
Murray clearly likes to be in charge and have a big team around him but one can’t help but think he needs a leader – someone on hand to direct his raw talent and restructure his on-court persona.
Murray’s part time arrangement with Alex Corretja is a bizarre one. The Spaniard didn’t even make the trip to Australia and there is surely something wrong when your coach doesn’t attend the big four.
But despite his performance and coaching matters Murray seemed more upbeat about his defeat than after last year’s loss to Federer in Melbourne.
The pressure to end the British wait for a Grand Slam singles title, he insists, isn’t affecting him. “I said before the final, it’s not something that I lose sleep over at night,” said the Scot.
“I want to try and win one, of course, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. I’m just working as hard as I can. I train very hard. You know, I take tennis very seriously.
“But I love my life away from tennis, as well. That’s why maybe this year, compared with last, I’m very, very happy off the court. I’m enjoying myself. There’s other things to look forward to, too.”
He added: “Anyone who played in three finals would have loved to have won one but I haven’t. I just need to keep working hard and try and do it. But, yeah, I would have preferred to have won one than lost three.”
Murray will hopefully avoid a repeat of last year’s dramatic slump in form that followed his Melbourne defeat which took him months to recover from.
The hype surrounding Murray’s loss once again emphasises the knee-jerk reactions of too many regarding British hopefuls. The most important thing is that he stays positive, adjusts his game to be more aggressive and finds a permanent coach.
Tim Henman carried the burden of British tennis for over a decade and still doesn’t receive the respect he deserves for reaching four Wimbledon semi-finals and No4 in the world.
We know that Murray is by far the best British player since Fred Perry. Other British men including Austin, Lloyd and Rusedski only made a single Grand Slam final – Murray has already reached three at 23.
Federer will only be able to stay at the top for another three to four years maximum – just when Murray will peak- and questions still loom large over Rafael Nadal’s ability to remain injury-free.
So for those who question Murray’s Grand Slam chances: look at the record of past champions, look at the facts. Murray has time on his side.