Why Andy Murray Is Demanding The Tennis World's Attention
For every tennis player, the goal is to win a Grand Slam, however elusive. But until they reach that goal, slam hopefuls occupy the infamous list of “the best players without a Grand Slam.” Most players suffer the fate of being touted as the next big thing, only to end their careers as the player that just couldn’t seal the deal. Andy Murray was dangerously close to being just another one of the guys. But he has etched his name into grand slam history, and I’m sure his name will be on a couple more trophies.
Following this year’s heartbreaking loss to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final, Murray went through the customary post-game interview. But the usually stoic and cold Murray just couldn’t contain his emotions anymore. Murray cried into the microphone and cried into the people of England. It was as if Murray was apologizing to the crowd, feeling remorse for failing once again to bring Wimbledon a home-grown champion. For most of the crowd another year of waiting was about to begin. Waiting for a champion from Great Britain, waiting for the superstar, waiting for the next Fred Perry. But the interview seemed to change our attitude from criticism to sympathy.
Although Murray is heavily criticized for being quick-tempered and somewhat detached from the game, he has a different charisma compared to the rest of the Big Four. He doesn’t have the genius and shot selection like Federer, the physical presence and tenacity like Rafael Nadal, and certainly not the fan interaction and passion like Novak Djokovic, but there’s something about Murray that makes you want to root for him. He went 0-4 in Grand Slam finals, and watched his junior compatriot Novak Djokovic have arguably the greatest seasons of all time while he was struggling to win the big matches. There’s a human aspect to his struggles.
Every loss seemed like a step backward until that Wimbledon final. You just knew that Murray would do something big soon, whether that was going to be at the hallowed All England Club or at the U.S. Open. After acquiring Ivan Lendl as a coach, Murray began to take the initiative in his matches, starting to bring the matches into his terms instead of relying on opponents’ errors. At a level of tennis where players are often stubborn with their style of play, Murray went above and beyond. Many began to ponder if hiring Lendl was even worthwhile following the Wimbledon loss, but there was an apparent change to his game. He was playing like a champion.
But the most glaring difference in Andy is his eyes. These are the same eyes Kobe has when he’s about to sink the game-winning shot, the same eyes Tiger has when he’s about to go for a birdie. The eyes of a champion. This isn’t the Murray who would look up at the coach’s box every time he missed a shot, and certainly not the Murray who would mope around the court as if waiting for the match to simply end. He appears determined to do whatever it takes to win a match. And as every reputable coach would tell you, the last set comes down to who wants it more. And after finishing the fourth set quite dominantly, the world is watching Djokovic once again coming back late in the match with sheer grit and determination. But to many, it seemed like Novak runs out of steam and quickly surrenders the match to Murray. That’s not the case. Murray squeezed all the steam out of him. The concentration coming emanating from Murray was apparent even to viewers watching at home, and Novak just folded under the pressure.
Tears fall down Andy Murray’s cheeks, but these are finally tears of absolute triumph. It’s not the fact that Murray won that is the most important. But the fact that it went five sets and he was able to come out on top of a player with more championship experience. Now many may just brush this win off as slightly illegitimate because of Rafael Nadal’s injury, but it’s a changing of the guard. When Federer was labeled unstoppable, Nadal began to show up on his radar. Although experts and analysts were saying that Nadal could never beat Federer at Wimbledon, in 2008 he beat Federer in what many say was one of the greatest matches of all time. In that match, Nadal also had the eyes of a champion. But more importantly, it signaled a changing of the guard. Each of the Big Four has proclaimed at least one year as his own, and I believe next year will be Murray’s to claim. Playing on his own terms, playing for that championship, and finally taking him off the “best players without a grand slam” list. Move over Henman Hill; it’s time for Murray Mania.