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Murray defeat could still be a breakthrough

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Jonathan Overend | 11:34 UK time, Saturday, 28 January 2012

Sometimes with Andy Murray we need to stop for a moment. Stop, take a step back, and consider where he is, what he is doing, and against whom.

We get caught up in matches and tournaments and break points and unforced errors. We get emotionally drained, emotionally torn and, I don't know about you, emotionally wrecked after a match like Friday's semi-final defeat by Novak Djokovic.

Like most top tennis players, Murray is sprinter and marathon runner at the same time, with the skill of a painter, brutality of a boxer, endurance of a triathlete.

Friday provided unequivocal evidence that he possess all these attributes to a world-class standard. He ran the best player in the world so close, over five sets and almost five hours, and is getting even closer to winning one of these big ones.

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But of course I've said that before. We've known about his ability and his potential since the start of his career and he still hasn't broken his duck. So what makes this post-match post-mortem so different?

When he lost here last year in the final, we all tried to be upbeat in the aftermath but the performance was a worry. He left Australia in a downbeat haze and didn't win again until the clay-court season.

This time the mood couldn't be more different. Despite failing to match his final appearances of the last two years at the Australian Open, he should leave Melbourne with so much confidence for the year ahead. The line "...but he still lost..." will only be used by people who either don't care, or who don't understand sport.

Anyone who saw the match will understand its importance for Murray's future, especially the obvious acceptance that he needed to adapt his game to pressurise the big boys.

The purpose behind the groundstrokes, the advanced court position, the patience, the cool head, the victories on many long points, the risk taking on many big points. All of this is major progress from one year ago.

Even at the very start, when he strode on to court, he looked like a potential champion; head up, confident, a man. During the match he got frustrated at times but never let it affect his game. A huge improvement.

And what impressed me most was the boldness and confidence when facing set points in the third set. He hit the right sideline with an ace on the first, the left sideline with a forehand winner on the second, and an audacious drop shot set up the third. He backed his ability to make the shots, something we haven't always seen.

As Nadal commented during his pre-final press conference, the time to press home any advantage he had was a few minutes later, at the start of the fourth set. Dropping serve twice so quickly gave Djokovic belief again and triggered the Serb's best period of the match through until 5-2 in the final set.

But this is why I talk about stepping back and getting a sense of perspective. How can anyone expect to take a lead against the world's finest and not be hit by retaliation? The Djokovic recovery was predictable because that's what he does. We have to look beneath the surface for the real story.

We learned so much about Murray over these four hours and 50 minutes. He grew before our eyes. We got to know him.

He remains the world number four but, in one of the greatest eras of all time, closer to the top three than many suspected.


  • Comment number 1.

    I still get the feeling that one of the reasons he played so well against Djokovic is because he met him in the semi-final, rather than the final. The huge occasion of a Grand Slam final seems to get to him. I think he will inevitably win a slam in the next few years, and once he does, he'll have the self belief to go on and win many more.

  • Comment number 2.

    I reckon this is the best Murray has played since his demolition of Roddick at Queens last year. Definitely the best he's ever played in a Grand Slam against the top 3. Djokovic won by the width of the line, literally. I've never seen Andy look so mature on court. Lendl has helped his on court attitude to no end.

    I've seen many haters on Twitter saying that Murray is 'just another Tim Henman' and that he's 'overhyped' but that's so far from the truth it's laughable.
    I'm not sure about Andy winning a slam this year. A possibility, but I'd go for 2013 for him to make the breakthrough. He *will* win a slam, no doubt.

    Call me a fanboy but it's what I believe.

  • Comment number 3.

    It was a huge improvement, no question. What remains to be seen is whether it's a one-off or the start of something bigger.
    Murray has a habit of firing his coaches. This time he shouldn't: Lendl is perfect for him, a tough-minded fighter who lost his first few Grand Slam finals but recovered to win eight. A lot hinges on whether Murray has the resolve to break his bad habit of firing people and stick with Lendl. I hope he does.

  • Comment number 4.

    Massive improvement from the Muzza, after last year's demolition by Djoko in the Oz final. I believe that if he can keep on improving like this, then with Lendl in his corner, he can win a major very soon. However, I didn't like the way he effectively conceded the 4th set after going 3-0 down. The top 3 seeds don't do that - they always grind it out for every point, and don't 'save themselves' for a final set. If he could have at least clawed it back to 6-3 then he would have served first in the 5th set, and therefore been on the front foot, instead of always playing catch up in the decider. I feel he lost the intensity in the 4th set, after that monumental effort to win the 3rd set, and never really recaptured the momentum.

  • Comment number 5.

    An improvement no doubt, but I still believe the next player from outside the top 3 to win a major will be someone other than AM. He may yet never win one, a case of good but not quite good enough.

  • Comment number 6.

    Agreed! Looking forward for the next one.

    Andy was so near.

  • Comment number 7.


    He won't fire Lendl - Lendl has been the best thing to happen to Murray. In terms of his ability, not much has changed. The shots are all still there. Lendl has infused some steel and belief and that showed yesterday - Murray's main weakness.

    He still couldn't get over the line though when he needed to and he will need to work on this if he is to get through the top 3 in the Big Ones. He will be there or thereabouts this season if he keep the momentum up and continues to develop. Whether he can win one remains to be seen...US Open is his best shot realistically.

    Anyway, Murray's tourney is over and as for the Final, I think Nadal will win in 4. Djoko looks like he is struggling a bit with a few ailments (is there not a doctor out there who can prescribe anything to help it?) and I don't think he has enough in the tank to see of the Spaniard.

  • Comment number 8.

    I was a bit disappointed at how quickly the 4th set went, but overall I was hugely impressed. His attitude was the most noticeable difference - it was Djokovic doing all the whinging.

    I suppose if Rafa wins tomorrrow, Murray can claim an assist?!

  • Comment number 9.

    If AM had known at the beginning of that match what he knew about himself at the end, he would have played a stronger first set. Then there really would have been a match. That's the first time he has really gone toe to toe with one of the big three over 5 sets and 'turned up', and he knows now that if he does that he's going to be close. Other players will be wary of Murray/Lendl, and will want to try to kill him off quickly in the future. That match will have to have affected Djoko's energy reserves for the final.

  • Comment number 10.

    he is almost there. i have commented here before how its his attitude and his personality on court. but the last fortnight its been much more positive. the lendl factor wont just tell in the first few weeks of the year but hes there. the big 3 might just have an addition to their ranks.

    i dont think he has a chance at the french but we will see how his new coach works the clay game of murrays. but i think his major gain could be how he plays between the slams and not have any dips in form.

    murray finally has the team around him to be successful its no longer team murray but murray and lendl with both in my opinion being involved instead of yes man syndrom.

    will be interesting how murray works his year.
    will he play in glasgow next month???

  • Comment number 11.

    If he is going to win a slam, he has to soon. Because it won't be long before a young gun breaks through into the top group of players. I think Murray might even be better than Federer at the moment. Federer is in decline but he has to be able to beat 1&2 and soon because by 2013, 2014 we may have a new player come into the top group like Nadal did a few years back.

  • Comment number 12.

    Andy Murray is Number 4 in the world, he is playing world class tennis, during the careers of 2 or 3 of the greatest players ever to play the modern game, that alone is an achievement worthy of the highest praise.

    When was the last time we had an Englishman at that level, I ask this, because it seems to be when a Scotsman loses, he is a Scot or Scottish, but when he wins HE IS BRITISH, and it is the OPPOSITE when it is someone from England, and this is from a few so call unbiased media sources, as in the BBC etc. He will win a few majors, and when he does, I can guarantee, he will be being hyped as the greatest British Player ever.......NOT, he will be the GREATEST SCOTTISH PLAYER EVER :D

  • Comment number 13.

    Certainly impressed with how AM recovered from going two down in the second. If he won against Nole I doubt he would have won the final because he would have had to do it again against Rafa. I believe he has the ability to win a big one but he probably needs a bit of luck (i.e. not having to defeat two of the top three) before he gets his first under his belt.
    He is performing to a very high standard during a period when the standards are exceedingly high.

  • Comment number 14.

    Wasn't Tim Henman ranked number 4? Admittedly it was over a decade ago but he was playing at the same time as Sampras, Agassi, Courier. Heck, even Becker was still about! He used to keep Fed in his pocket. I'm not saying that ol' Tiger Tim was a world beater (no Grand Slam finals, just 6 semis) but he was never as bad as people said he was and his 'achievements' shouldn't be forgotten.

  • Comment number 15.

    Apparently I'm talking to myself! (Not a first...)
    It should read @12

  • Comment number 16.

    In my opinion, articles like this one are utterly pointless. There is no doubt that Murray is great player, he's always been that. Let's be realistic, his wins at the AO against some third class players cannot and should not be real measure of Murray's strength. We knew he was better than them and that was simply expected from him. And then, he pushed Novak to five sets. But, so many people pushed Nadal, Fed and Novak to five sets in the past, like for instance Verdasco/Nadal. That doesn't mean Verdasco was on the road to become one of the greatest. The reality is, until Murray continuously performs against top 10 players as he performed against Djokovic yesterday, there is nothing that should make us believe that he is stronger or better than he was for the past few years. As for the author and the British press I can only say one thing: give the lad a break, he needs some space to work with his team on his career without having to battle with expectations of the whole nation.

  • Comment number 17.

    Just for once can we leave the Scottish v British thing alone! I'm English and i'm a huge Murray fan, win or lose. He is both Scottish and British, so there is no argument. Its so boring hearing the same old nonsense over and over.

    In terms of his tennis, Lendl seems to have got him playing much closer to the baseline, much more aggressive with the forehand and has got rid of the sulky 'blame everyone but me' attitude.

    If he can get him serving a bit better (second serve in particular) and just get him to believe a little more (he was still a little tentative on those break points at 5-5 in the fifth) and get him to maintain his focus for longer (the 4th set was where he really lost the match, he gave it away) then it is an exciting time for Murray fans like me. Its really small margins now. If he can step up like this in the big matches then he can win many slams.

    Well done Andy, your time will come if you keep on playing like you did for most of that match.

  • Comment number 18.

    Andy is a stong player playing in an era with two if not three of the best of all time and thats the probelm. They all know how to win finals Murray has yet to get over the line and until he wins a big one there are always going to be doubts that he can. Also there is going to be a time when a young kid will come up to challenge the established order Raonic perhaps or Tomic. I'm glad he is still postitive in a differient time he would have won a hatfall of slams.

  • Comment number 19.

    I have been pleasantly surprised by the improvement in the way Murray has conducted himself at the AO - no sign of the flawed character evident when things have previously gone wrong - indeed some flashes of good humour.

    He has booked his ticket for the flight and it is only a matter of time now before he joins the mile high club - on a good day I believe he can beat any of the top 3, he just has to carry it through to a GS final.

    Neither Djokovic or Nadal have looked unbeatable but have battled through with amazing fortitude - I favour Djokovic to maintain his mental hold over Nadal but anything is possible.

    As for Federer don't write him off yet, I found his semi final match quite strange - although he started strongly, he never looked particularly confident and the bringing on of the twins to watch the warm up whilst a nice touch was not necessarily the best preparation. He still has the ability to play the most magical tennis, he just needs to keep his concentration.

    One final point, after listening to Mats Willander's non stop commentary on ES - I really appreciate the pauses and subtlety of the BBC's coverage.

  • Comment number 20.

    I am not a Murray fan, i support Nadal and am generally a tennis fan, and there is usually a lot of rubbish written and said, both by his fans and those who for some reason dislike him.

    Yesterday was a great improvement for Murray, in my opinion the best I have seen, he was far more aggressive but he still has improvement to make. Look at where Djokovic was in 2010 at the Australian open and Rolland Garros, then suddenly he shot from Murray's level (second tier of the top four) to number 1, regularly thumping Nadal and able to beat Federer more times than not. Its an improvement he can make too, but if he is to win a GS then its one he has to make, yesterday was a start.

  • Comment number 21.

    All this "Dunkirk " stuff - victory from defeat and all that good stuff. Here is a slightly chilling statistic ! The kilted one will shortly attain the age of 25 ! - an age when McEnroe and Borg more or less had it. Given that the former has averaged three times more annual expenditure in tournaments played since his arrival on the ATP circuit is it reasonable to project that his chances of winning ONE GRAND SLAM are decreasing every year forward

  • Comment number 22.

    By far the best 5 set performance we have seen from Andy and a great indication of things to come this year. A lot of people seem to forget that until last year Djokovic had one major win and was also 'just' making the semi's of grand slams before losing to the big 2. Djokovic took a big step forward last year and hopefully this is the sign that Andy will do the same this year.

  • Comment number 23.

    Nobody ever mentions that Andy Murray has always seemed to feature in the second semi final. I believe that in each of his 5 semi-final matches, he has been second up. He is at a huge disadvantage as the winner of the first match has the extra day's rest. That said he has to actually win the semi-final first!

    This is an absurd situation and I think that that Murray will never have a fair chance to win Wimbledon due to the fact that his games are always on late in the day. I am guessing that this is due to TV scheduling/ratings.

    Federer is always on court first and has his feet up by 4pm each round.

    It's just not fair on Andy. It's a bit of an elephant in the room and it is never discussed!

  • Comment number 24.

    Andy is easily the 4th best in the world but is still well behind the "Big Three". He's capable of beating them, but currently not over 5 sets, bar injuries or exhaustion on behalf of one his opponents.

    Unfortunately for Andy, even if luck was on his side and the "Big Three" were knocked out or injured during a Grand Slam I can't help but feel that the pressure will still get to him too much and he would miss out to somebody like Tsonga or Ferrer.

    Hopefully he proves me wrong though.

  • Comment number 25.

    Brilliant, brilliant performance. The come back when facing the world number one serving for the match was simply stunning and proves he has the mettle to win a major.

  • Comment number 26.

    16. "That doesn't mean Verdasco was on the road to become one of the greatest..."

    But Verdasco's ranking and performances are nowhere near Andy's. Andy has been beating Fed, Nadal and Djokovic consistently over the past several years, he has been incredibly consistent in Grand Slams and has only been found wanting in a handful of semi's and finals. Absolutely no comparison to an also-ran like Verdasco.

  • Comment number 27.

    Not a huge tennis fan and generally only keep up with what goes on in the major tournaments but it seems that Murray had the game in his hands going into the 4th set and let it go.

    I think the US Open is his best chance of winning his first and from then who knows, it wasn't that long ago that Nadal had only ever won the French was it not, now he's got 10 to his name and could be a serious threat to Federer's haul.

    Like I said not a huge tennis fan but as a sport fan in general do try and keep up with the major events.

  • Comment number 28.

    Male tennis top 4 relations:
    Djokovic is beating everybody but could lose to Federer
    Nadal is wining against Federer but losing to Djokovic
    Fed is losing to everybody at the moment but coud sometimes beat Djokovic
    And Murray can beat all of them but .......

  • Comment number 29.

    No.21. Your argument has a reverse side too. Lendl who won 8 grand slams did not win his first until he was 24, the same age as Murray just now, when he won the French Open. To make the statement about The ages of McEnroe and Borg having their careers almost at an end by 25 is irrelevant and has no credibility in the possible attainments of Andy Murray. Just another attempt to put down our stars as only we can do

  • Comment number 30.

    Re my last where I say "could be a serious threat" it should read "is a serious threat" thats not writing Federer off because he's still clearly a class act but now Djokovic is in the mix and then hopefully Murray too you wonder how many more he can win?

  • Comment number 31.

    It worries me more than ever, that Murray got so close and failed. He pushed Djokovic. How? By outlasting in him rallies for the most part. It didn't really feel like a match of ridiculous winners, but more an endurance contest. And Djokovic STILL won despite admitting to breathing problems. I would say this is an even more worrying loss than last years final, not a more positive one. Plus, he completely gave up at the end of the fourth, and you would NEVER see a (potential) champion doing that, EVER.

  • Comment number 32.

    @ 29 I have to agree with you about the age thing, I think with any professional sport now we are seeing players perform at the highest level for longer than we have before with the advances made in terms of knowing about diet, nutrition and training.

    People will always try and compare one era with another but with most sports now the current era in my opinion has to be considered the best because of the reasons mentioned above which has made the players/athletes stronger, faster, fitter and able to perform at the highest level for a much longer period of time.

    Murray will win one, he's too good not to in my limited but honest opinion.

  • Comment number 33.

    Can I just add something, which appears not to have been mentioned in the last 32 posts? What about Del Potro?
    Unlike AM, he has a Grandslam under his belt, and had a major injury, which took him off the tour for almost a season. I believe he is heading to around a ranking of 10 again, and surely has potential to expand the 4 to a 5...or replace Federer's place should he decide to hang up his racquet (Purely age related, no suggestion I know anything not made public!) Just saying....

  • Comment number 34.

    I've been watching AM for years and can categorically say that this is the most optimistic I've ever been about him. Before, I think he still thought he had a leap to take in order to reach his goals. Now, he'll think it's just a small step and therefore he won't bottle it. I genuinely think that for the first time HE will truly believe he can do it and that'll be the clincher. Here's to a successful year Andy!

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    Lets be honest. Andy Murray is singularly Britains best individual sportsman, like Tim Henman was before. No other British Tennis player troubles the top 150. He is performing at the top end of an incredibly competitive sport where the world numbers 2 and 3 are already legends. The current number 1, realised this and went away and dramatically improved everything (diet, training, technique). With Lendl that is Andys plan. How close was he to getting there in week 2/3? Possibly one break point... Would he have beaten Nadal? I think he would have and I have belief he will get a Grand Slam and the US Open this year will be it.

  • Comment number 37.

    I have a strange feeling that Murray will be the surprise package of the French Open. I just keep thinking back to that match vs Djokovic last year. One of the best matches of the year and Murray looked at home on the clay.

    With Lendl having had plenty time to affect his game, and with the ability of Murray.....I can see him making the French and Wimbledon finals.

  • Comment number 38.

    What is it about you lot?
    Andy Murray is a superb tennis player.
    He has not won a GS........... so what?
    He is still better than everyone on the planet bar 3 the moment.
    That's a fantastic achievement.
    I applaud you Andy.
    Roll on the next tournament.

    As for the sour faced anti Scots out there......... SUCK IT UP!

  • Comment number 39.

    Many say if Andy Murray was born in a different era he would have won some G Slams by now citing the great players like Novak, Rafa and Roger as very big obstacles now. I seriously doubt this supposition. Do we think Andy would have won in Roger's peak form in early 2000s, or Sampras-Agassi peak form of late 90s or Edberg-Becker-Courier's peak form of early 90s? We should not compare his game now with the standard of game of previous years.
    The point I'm trying to make is there are always players who have hit the top form and ruled the tennis world and there always have been players who were just thereabout but never won any Slam. I'm afraid if Andy does not win a Slam in another couple of years, he may end up as one who was always close but never made it. Who knows, he may take the Novak route and suddenly become unplayable. The author's confidence of his arrival on the big scene due to his performance in SF in AO 2012 is a bit premature. It could be just that he may very well be average in the next tournament - patience on us and him will serve well for all.

  • Comment number 40.

    Andy Murray is in an era with one player who has a VERY strong claim to be considered the best ever, another who is probably the best pure athlete the game has seen, and a third who in the last 12 months has found it impossible to actually lose a match.

    Despite that he is consistently getting to semis and/or finals of the slams. I think credit needs to be where its due. Comparing the likes of Jim Courier to Federer or Nadal is just plain silly. Yes, he was world number one briefly, but I can only think of one year he had any kind of run at Wimbledon as he was mainly a clay court specialist.

    On a side note, does anyone else find it laughable when footballers whine about having to put out 2 ninety minute performances in a week, when the top end tennis players routinely put out 3 hour matches every other day in the slams?

  • Comment number 41.

    I have always taken issue with those that have considered Andy as part of the so-called 'Top 4' in men's tennis when he was, simply put, a level below the 'Top 3', so seemed curious to me that anybody could consider him as part of that elite group of players. However, after having seen him play the way he did against Djokovic yesterday I start to believe that with the renewed confidence he has in his own ability, which is self-evident with the addition of Lendl to his team, that many and even himself can start to think about including him in the elite group. The fact of the matter is that Murray has still not yet won a Grand Slam - it's difficult to predict the future with any real degree of certainty, however, I think Murray is more than capable of one if his head is in the right place. Nobody can bring into question his physical ability on the court; it's what happens between the ears that has held Murray back in years gone by. I saw glimmers of a champion yesterday in his match and he should take plenty away from that - all positive. Forget about his other Grand Slam appearances - he lost those before even stepping out onto court -yesterday's match was by far and away the most rewarding, polished and consummate performance of his career. He was that close to winning and that is the next step for Murray - sustaining the high quality right till the very end - and I wish him all the best in eventually winning a Grand Slam - because he deserves it.

  • Comment number 42.

    @24:"Andy is easily the 4th best in the world but is still well behind the "Big Three"." Yes, there's a big gap below Andy, but he is not well behind the other three. Yesterday showed he's very close to Djokovic, who is arguably well ahead of Nadal and Federer. Let's not forget that Djokovic thrashed Rafa every time they played (six times) last year. Fed was unable to beat him as well. And let's not forget that Federer has now gone two years without winning a grand slam final - so, great player that he has been, why still count him as being on a different level from Murray? Would he have got to a tight fifth set against Novak yesterday? He was unimpressive against Rafa. Andy will very likely overtake him soon and get the No 3 spot again. Things are changing. By the end of this year, Andy could well be No 2.

  • Comment number 43.

    I am a huge Andy Murray admirer. So proud of his performance against Novak. My throat is still sore shouting at the TV. If the umpires had the balls to enforce the 25 second rule I believe things would be very different. Andy plays at a sensible, and legal tempo. Novak and Rafa take as much recovery time as they want but are never sanctioned. There were times when Andy had Novak on the ropes, but Novak took up to a full minute to deliver the next ball. Either have a 25 second and enforce it, or strike it from the rules.

  • Comment number 44.

    @42. Fed beat Djok in the French Open semi 2011 to end Djokovic's unbeaten run in 2011, which at that point everyone was raving about. However, I do agree, that Murray should be on Djokovic's level, because before 2011, no one really was talking about this "big three", it was the "big two" of Rafa and Roger before Djok put himself in the mix. Not too sure of Head to Heads, but pretty sure Murray and Djokovic were, for the most part, pretty level as 3 and 4 (apart from Djokovic's 2008 Aus Open) before Djokovic pulled away in 2011. He matured quicker than Murray, and Murray is keen to point out this "people mature at different ages" thing. There really is no time like the present though, and Murray needs to grab it this year while he can, before someone like Del Potro pushes his way back in, or Tsonga.

  • Comment number 45.

    To be fair to Murray I don't think the saying 'in any other era' really stands up anymore. The 4 slams are starting to get incredibly similar, which may be good for tv, isn't good for real tennis fans.

    When Sampras & Agassi were starting out there was a huge disparity between the pace of the courts across the Slams. No way on earth could Nadal win Wimbledon when Agassi did, the courts are ridiculously slow now. Same with Novak, he is a grinder who would have done well at the French & then been home in the first week of Wimbledon.

    The variety is gone from the mens game, if I hear John Lloyd tell me one more time that I am watching the best tennis of all time I will scream. Murray is a top player but who knows what he could have done years back, the fact that the same 4 players make it to the last 4 of most Slams shows you that there is little difference in the playing surfaces.

    I truly believe Nadal isn't even the player he was, it is just neither is Federer which has allowed Novak & Murray to close the gap on them.

  • Comment number 46.

    Also, not sure if anyone's picked up on this yet but "He remains the world number four but, in one of the greatest eras of all time, closer to the top three than many suspected." .........

    except that he's lost a certain amount of ATP ranking points for not making the final like last year, right? And therefore a little further away from the top 3? ;)

  • Comment number 47.

    @23 "Nobody ever mentions that Andy Murray has always seemed to feature in the second semi final. I believe that in each of his 5 semi-final matches, he has been second up. He is at a huge disadvantage as the winner of the first match has the extra day's rest. That said he has to actually win the semi-final first!"

    ...and since he played Nadal in 3 of the GS semis last year, save a thought for Nadal too, who actually played in the finals!

  • Comment number 48.

    @31 How can pushing the best player in the world to his limit be more worrying than collapsing in straight sets?

    That match proved beyond doubt that Murray will eventually win a grand slam. He showed everything that was necessary to win, but he just missed out against a guy who has been at the top since this time last year. And he also had a better attitude than Djokovic, an area which is supposed to be Murrays weakness. If that doesn't show that he is ready to win grand slams, then what will?

    And one more thing: Djokovic had a relatively easy run to the AO title in 2008 ( back in the days when he wasn't world number one), so going into 2011 he had the experience of winning a GS and he had also gotten the monkey off his back. Even Del Potro has won a grand slam. If these guys can do it with a bit of luck, I'm sure Murray can.

  • Comment number 49.

    @ 46: If we're worrying about ranking points, let's see how Murray does in the American 1000 events - events which he has traditionally dominated, but exited early last year because of the resultant loss of form that followed defeat in Australia.

    Today's match might well have a bearing on Djokovic's form in those hard court tournaments, which I expect to be fought out between Djokovic and Murray. Federer these days doesn't seem able to raise himself to their standards for anything less than Grand Slams, and I make Djokovic and Murray favourites over Nadal on a hard court.

  • Comment number 50.

    There is a lot of stunning whimsy and poetry about the comments on this page. Whilst you have to agree that Murray played extremely well you have to draw caveats everywhere.

    The first is the choke from a 2-1 set lead to lose in 5. The second is that disgraceful 4th set and the last is his two break points in the 5th which were essentially match points, all of which he squandered. Whilst Murray is a standard apart from the rest of the rankings, he simply doesn't meet the quality of Djokovic, Nadal or Federer.

    I agree, hugely, with an earlier comment that the meeting stage performed extremely well for Murray. He has always lost heavily in finals, but this being a semi, it provided a less pressurised back drop for him to really have a go. He pushed Djokovic, but the Serb is a winner. I remember distinctly in commentary, the foolish John Lloyd and repugnant Andrew Castle commenting that Djokovic 'doesn't think he can grind this one out'. That is precisely what he did, and exactly what Murray could not do. I do feel that Murray is going to have to wait until Federer's retirement to get consistently into the top 3.

  • Comment number 51.

    It is slightly odd celebrating so much for a defeat.
    It was surely a great match but Murray lost. We knew already that the difference between Murray and Djokovic is not big (see the 2011 semifinal in Rome, as well a great match).
    Let's not forget that, very likely, in order to win a Grand Slam title he will need to win two such matches in a row.
    All in all it is surely possible for Murray to win a Slam title but so it is the contrary.
    The cat is not in the bag yet, and a few wonderful defeats do not make a victory.
    The celebration of defeat it is not the best attitude to win one of the Big Four.
    The very good point for Murray is the new coach, Ivan Lendl. A great champion. Surely Murray needs Lendl more than Lendl needs Murray. It is always good if the coach has an edge on the player.

  • Comment number 52.

    Murray had a virtual cake walk into the semi final and still blew it. All these "what if's" and other excuses fall on deaf ears now. He may well be the best Scottish tennis player of all time but he certainly isn't the best best British player of all time. Fred Perry easily eclipses Murray.
    Hopefully another great champion will appear from Britain one day but it isn't going to be Muzza and his mummy !

  • Comment number 53.


    You have to take your hat off to these top 4 guys, they are incredible athletes just them against their opponents for 4 to 5 hours at a time [unless of course you count Uncle Toni] - having to not only play the physical but the mental game.

    Very few sports can compete with this.

  • Comment number 54.

    Many observers have commentated that it is Andy's misfortune that his time at the top has coincided with the peak performance periods of several of the greatest players ever

    Couldn't agree more . Think how Andy would have dominated in earlier times -say in the 1890s when surely his superior fitness would have mesmerised his opposition

  • Comment number 55.

    Murray is a great player but he is unfortunately not the same as the big three.
    He probably will win one slam before he retires but will still be considered behind those three. Unless somehow he can produce multiple slam victories or consecutive wins.
    Del Podro is a US Open winner and still only 23. We know Murray is better than him but winning one slam doesn't mean number one or the best. People are getting too ahead of themselves about Murray dominating in future. If Murray win Wimbledon and another slam this year, then it will be different story.

  • Comment number 56.

    #54. If Murray was in the older era, surely his fitness would not be the same as today. Different diet, different regime. So if Borg, Becker, McEnroe competed today in their prime, they would just go drinking and smoke cigarettes like in the past? Of course not they would be in similar fitness programmes as Federer, Nadal, Djorkovic and Murray and be supreme athletes.

    It's like footballers. You cant compare the past with present. We know players in past are not as fit as today. But Pele, Maradona and co would do just as well if still playing today. This applies in all sport including tennis. Sure maybe Borg etc wouldn't dominate as much if Nadal, Federer etc played against him but would definitely have won a few slams none-the-less

  • Comment number 57.

    I think it is just a matter of him getting used to the length on playing from about 3 metres nearer the net. When he gets fully adjusted to this new length he'll reduce the errors and he will will a grand slam.

  • Comment number 58.

    #37 I had the same thought as you about Murray having a good chance at the French, and am very tempted by the 20:1 odds being quoted for him to win there. Its 14:1 against anyone but Nadal or Djokovic winning; Del Potro is shorter odds for Roland Garros than Murray.

    The bookies see Wimbledon differently Djoko favourite, followed by Nadal, Fed and Murray - best price for AM 7:1, which might also be a tempter.

  • Comment number 59.

    Let's face it, Andy Murray came as close against Djokovic as Rafael Nadal, whom no-one would describe as a choker, a nearly man, a fourth amongst equals. I look forward to reading the comments of Simon Barnes and James Lawton, great champions the pair of them.........

    There are some matches in tennis which, whoever the loser is, they know they could have won. Today's final is a case in point. Had Djokovic lost, he would have cursed himself. Yet Nadal was 4-2, 30-15 in the 5th and missed a sitter. We've all heard the Murray haters on points like that, calling him a loser, a choker, you name it. Nadal's a supreme champion and still he missed. We are all human, after all.......

    Murray's match against Djokovic was the same. Both had it to lose, one had to lose in the end. This time it was Murray, but Djokovic knows full well that it could have been him......

    All I saw this fortnight is that there is precious difference between the top 4, which means that Murray has every chance to win a slam this year.

    So long as he can toughen up even more mentally, that 1 or 2% which is the difference between fighting like a tiger to stay in it, which he proved to the world in spades this week, and being the assassin closing it out against the World Number One or World Number Two and going on to win a title.

    That's where he is at, much closer than before, but still awaiting a first Grand Slam title.

  • Comment number 60.

    Let me cut to the chase - I don't like Murray's tennis game and I don't like Tennis commentators who are so partisan when he is playing it becomes disrespectful to his opponent, even one as great as Djoko.

    When he earns his stripes by winning the big ones, instead of flattering to deceive in the journeyman tourneys, then people can big him up. Til then he's just another tennis player - move over and make room for the real geniuses of the game.

  • Comment number 61.

    Spin it any way you want, BBC, he still lost AGAIN to one of the big three in a Grand Slam. Come to think of it, has he ever beaten one of the big three at any stage in any Grand Slam?

  • Comment number 62.

    Like some others have already mentioned on this blog ... a huge improvement in terms of physicality, mentality, and his general approach to the game in a best of five setter against one of the Big 3.

    I'm also inclined to agree that part of the reason why Murray did show these signs of encouragement, was because it was indeed a GS Semi and not a GS Final, and in some regards, there was less associated pressure on him to perform because it wasn't for the trophy, it was for a place in the Final itself.

    I've never doubted his remarkable tennis talent and ability to produce something of out nothing, and the statistics in this tournament don't lie either. Lendl has made a substaintial difference in his short but colourful tenure as Murray's coach thus far. He's standing much closer to the baseline during intense rallies and gives him a strong base of which to build a much more attacking style of play from. I'm much more optimistic about his future as a potential No.1 and a GS Winner if he continues to adopt this approach to each match.

    I acutally thought his match against Nadal in the 2008 US Open Semi-Final still stands as his greatest GS Win to date, but the manner in which he fought and dug himself up through the troughs in his match with Djokovic, given what's happened to him in the past couple of years, in some respects, is even more of an impressive accomplishment. It represents growth and a willingless to learn from mistakes made ... something which he didn't show signs of doing throughout last year.

    Here's hoping Lendl will provide the final piece to the Murray jigsaw puzzle.

  • Comment number 63.

    At 16:22 29th Jan 2012, jimbob5555 wrote:

    Spin it any way you want, BBC, he still lost AGAIN to one of the big three in a Grand Slam. Come to think of it, has he ever beaten one of the big three at any stage in any Grand Slam?


    He has indeed. Nadal at the US Open 2008 SF and 2010 Australian Open QF.

  • Comment number 64.

    Too soon to judge Lendl. After watching the Nadal/Djokovic classic this morning/afternoon, Murray must realise just what a mountain he has to climb.That must make his loss in the semi even more difficult to swallow.
    And far too soon to declare yet another Murray 'a breakthrough'

  • Comment number 65.

    Well, the fact that Murray, like Nadal today took a Djokovic to 5 sets, matching him shot for shot in the main, would indicate that some progress has been made. The improvement on his forehand and the pace generated is noticeable this year, but there's still work to be done on his inside-out forehand and his second service.

    I think you'll see the fruits of his work with Lendl in and around Wimbledon or the US Open.

  • Comment number 66.

    AO 2010 Lost to Federer(1)
    FO 2010 Lost to Berdych (10)
    WO 2010 Beat Tsonga (10), Lost to Nadal (2)
    USO 2010 Lost to Wawrinka(25)

    AO 2011 Beat Ferrer (7), Lost to Djokovic (3)
    FO 2011 Beat Troicki (15), Lost to Nadal (1)
    WO 2011 Beat Gasquet (17), Lost to Nadal (1)
    USO 2011 Beat Lopez (25), Beat Isner (28), Lost to Nadal (2)

    People keep going on about how he's made 5 consecutive semi finals, but look at the top 32 players he's faced in that time: Troicki (the biggest choker on tour, who should have beaten him), Gasquet, Isner and Lopez.

    His slam form really isn't that great. He's had joke draws in almost every tournament, which has allowed him to make it to the latter stages. But when it comes to playing the top players, he has an atrocious record. He showed signs of that changing when he played Djokovic, so I guess we'll have to wait and see.

  • Comment number 67.

    Sorry, I meant to say... that's his slam record since he beat Nadal in AO 2010. He beat Cilic (14) too. Not trying to skew stats or anything, just wanted to take a look at his performance since then, which was obviously a great result and achievement.

  • Comment number 68.

    Ok my turn.
    Murray did not lose he was beaten. A big difference. He stretched the best player in the world to his limit just like the second best player did today. The difference between those 3 is minimal and Federer now is falling behind. No one knows if Murray will win a slam but he showed for the first time he has the mental fortitude required to do so. Will someone younger reach this level before he does? a valid question Raonic looks very dangerous.
    You can not compare era's there is just no way to judge. hard, grass and clay courts at the majors do play very similarly now but to use this to the modern players detriment is unfair. Laver won all his slam titles on grass with the exception of the French No one is critical of him.
    Who Murray beats to reach semi's and finals are the same players Djokervic and Nadal beat to get there another pointless criticism.
    Mats Willander is a multi-slam winner and i would rather listen to him than Lloyd and Castle who achieved zero in the sport. (Lloyd won a major doubles title, not good enough)

  • Comment number 69.

    Simply cannot believe that there are already articles saying this match may have been the 'greatest ever'. It plain and simply, wasn't. A good show of athleticism, but drama, no, and quite simply it wasn't anywhere near the standard or spectacle, nor should it recieve comparison to, the Wimbledon final 2008 when Nadal finally usurped Federer. Men's tennis was at a more exciting time then, because we were seeing ONE dominant player finally be stripped of his powers. The game seems more open now, with talk of "the fab four" I heard mentioned by John Lloyd or Andrew Castle today. As tantalising as it is, it doesn't equate to the drama that the changing of the guard win of Nadal in Wimbledon '08 had. That match truly was a "where were you when that happened..." moments.

    However, great match today ( even though I missed the 2nd and 3rd sets! :( ) ... I was rooting for Nadal in the end, but Djokovic was just unbelievable. True gladiators, the pair of them! Just the long wait til the French for more 5 set action now .....

  • Comment number 70.

    (With a few minutes hindsight, the above comment probably shouldn't have been made here, considering it's not relevant to the article. I just wanted to voice my disapproval of today's final overshadowing the much more impressive duals Federer and Nadal have had, where more history has usually been at stake too!)

  • Comment number 71.

    I am afraid people are confusing length with quality - both players can play better but it was an epic, as was Murray's match against Djokovic.

  • Comment number 72.

    The final was thrilling but the end outcome (5 set epic) rather flatters Nadal - Djokovic had a clear edge for most of the match and it really should have been over in the 4th (5-7 6-4 6-2 6-4).

    Hard for Nadal to win another slam unless Djokovic has a problem (kind of like Federer can't seem to overcome a 100% Nadal in a best of 5).

    Re Murray, yes looked very good. A slam this year? Maybe, but a less than 50% chance. I do think he'll end the year ranked number 2 to Djokovic.

  • Comment number 73.

    I really cannot believe some of the comments, is winning really everything? It's a sport, it is about competition. Murray a failure, for not winning a slam, that is laughable.

    The comparison to Federer and his time, why does it always come back to that, you can judge the age of may posters by there insistence that so and so was the greatest. They will still be saying it in 40 years, they will get stuck in a groove. I go back to Laver's day but accept that each era has different qualities and I take them for what they are and enjoy the spectacle provided.

    Don't confuse the quality with the length of the match is another comment. The final had some top quality tennis, was it the greatest ever? Who knows, it depends on the criteria for the greatest final ever. What I do know is, two guys gave their all in a match that will be remembered for a long time.

    You can pick holes in anything and see it whatever way you want but at the end of the day, for the spectator it is about entertainment and judged on that alone the final lived up to the praise.

  • Comment number 74.

    to win a slam, Murray must play an opppnent not playing final before like nadal againstPuerta at roland garros 2005 and Djokovic against tsonga at australian open 2008. if he'll win this one, he can add other slams againt the big three.

  • Comment number 75.

    Lendl is probably the first coach that Murray has the utmost respect for - Lendl's been there, done it. He's a role model and no doubt a 'hero' to Murray. These aspects can only be positives and it shows on-court already. Less outburts, (particulary at his coach!) - less mood visual swings. His whole demeanor seems a bit more mature.

  • Comment number 76.

    I haven't read all the previous comments so forgive me if this has been said before. I think Djokovic almost gifted the semi to Andy because he is so much better than the Scot and didn't want to embarrass his good mate.

    1st set: Djokovic played down to Andy's poor level and scraped the set.
    2nd set: Djokovic continued at a lower level than his best (even feigning exhaustion!) and wasn't worried about Murray taking it.
    3rd set: Djokovic intended to win this one and gon on to win the 4th set but he couldn't raise his game enough to cope with Murray's improved play.
    4th set: When push came to shove, Djokovic turned up the heat to make sure of winning this one comfortably.
    5th set: Should have won it comfortably but was taking a chance letting the match go this far and almost let Murray off the hook.

    In summary, I think Djokovic could have won this in straight sets if he had come out with that intention. When they next meet up in a Slam I don't think he'll give Murray anything because it's too dangerous a game to play.

  • Comment number 77.

    I've followed Murray's career for many years and that's not just the slams, that includes the many masters series tournaments he's played and to me he's still the same creature he was many years ago.

    I have no doubt he'll head back stateside, get in shape and probably comfortably beat one or more of the likes of Nole, Rafa or Roger over three sets in Miami or another 250, 500 or 1000 Masters series tourny. It's when he's on the big stage that he crumbles under the pressure...

    Let's not forget that he is practically the same age as Novak (Nole) and was beating him comfortably in back to back matches only a few years ago. Now Novak has raised him game, gone on the attack and conquered his demons to become a real long term force in tennis.

    As for Andy, I think he blew his chances years ago at the US Open and no doubt, hungrier, fitter players will soon emerge to step into his place whilst he will be known as the best player we had who should have but never won a slam because he was too afraid of winning.

    He can have who he likes in his corner. Lendl, Gilbert... anyone. The fact of the matter is, when you're out on the court, its you and you only who can overcome these major psychological hurdles. Andy's temperament has been his worst enemy on the biggest stage of all, causing him to play passive tennis at the worst moments, hence his 4th set collapse and many others in Slam finals gone by.

  • Comment number 78.

    RE: post 76, it's laughable that Djokovic didn't want to embarrass Murray and deliberately lost set 2!

    Djokovic was clearly having struggling in set 2 from health problems, he had spell in the final against Nadal too. That said there was no problem with his overall physical shape, given us performance in the 5th set of both.

    I dno't doubt Murray would have won a grand slam playing at other times. Afterall through much of the 70's and early 80's many of the top players didn't play the Ausie Open at all - I don't think Borg ever played it after he first won the French & Wimbledon, he was only going to play it if the grand slam was on, it never was as he never won the US Open of course.
    McEnroe didn't play the Aussie Open until his later years (late 80's), even Agassi gave it miss early on.

    Certainly lesser player's than Murray have won slams, he's still a decent chance of winning one this year. At the moment he's the level behind the big two, I don't think Federer can claim it's a big three at the moment - he's not won one of the last 8, despite his clearly legend status in the game, with 16 slams and the most technically pleasing game.

    Bookies are supposedly offering 20-1 the field outside Djokovic and Nadal for the French - any takers?

    Maybe it's only since it became the first grand slam event (don't when the change was), that it's increased importance. Even then, there's been the odd strange winner, Johansson 2002 - don't recall him uprouting any trees at too many other slams?
    Certainly though right now, the Aussie Open has equal footing to the other 3.


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