Andy Murray has received much media scrutiny after failing to make a grand slam final this year, will he lift his first major in 2010 ?
2009 promised much. Murray had made the 2008 US Open final and seemed to have a significant psychological hold over Roger Federer after a number of key victories. All the matches had been close but when it came down to the business end it was Federer who would crumble and the Swiss was visibly rattled on and off court. Murray had also won several big matches against Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the latter stages of major tournaments. He was the man in form, the crown prince in waiting just as Djokovic had been before his major breakthrough in 2008. The stage was set for Murray to deliver.
As a result the Scot entered the 2009 Australian Open as the title favourite. He was also many people’s pick to win Wimbledon and the US Open. After Rafael Nadal’s shock early exit in the French Open, most pundits had Murray as a cert to make the final. However none of it materialized. Murray’s camp will point to small gains made – best ever runs in the French Open and at Wimbledon but the bottom line is, Murray has ended 2009 with more question marks than when he started.
He needs a strong showing at the Australian Open to prove some of the doubters wrong. It’s a tournament where British players have traditionally struggled in recent years. Neither Tim Henman or Greg Rusedski made it past the last sixteen down under and Murray has also yet to overcome that hurdle.
As one of the very best hard court players in the world Murray should be there at the business end but this is a tougher nut for him to crack than the US Open. Murray has had plenty of success in the warm-up tournaments but for the past three years he has opened the year in Doha where on-court conditions do not compare to the often brutal heat of the Australian summer.
Murray’s fitness regime always leaves him in outstanding physical condition but the past two years he has visibly wilted in the intense heat of a day session match against big hitting opponents in equally good shape who aren’t going to be worn down by his counter-punching style over five long sets – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Fernando Verdasco. Murray looked very jaded by the end of both encounters and you wonder if he he had faced Verdasco in a night match the result might have been different.
However unfortunately for Murray he’s going to have to win a crucial day session match against a top player in the latter stages of the tournament to get to the quarters or beyond and to do that he’s going to have to play out of his comfort zone and look to shorten the points. Opening the year with the Hopman Cup instead of Doha is a wise move and will make a difference but whether Murray is willing to make the necessary adjustment to his match tactics will determine how far he goes.
One thing is for sure, Murray will not have the favourite tag on him again this year, something which will certainly suit him more. However Federer does seem to have developed a more successful game plan against the Scot and has won their past two matches fairly comfortably while Juan Martin Del Potro is at his best on medium paced hard courts. Novak Djokovic looked every inch a world beater for most of the indoor season and is now back as world number three. As for Nikolay Davydenko, if he builds on the form he showed to win the ATP World Finals, then who knows !
Murray should reach the semis but I don’t see him in the form right now to upset Federer, Djokovic or Del Potro on a good day. Wimbledon or the US Open could be where his time comes.
Murray is currently 11/2 equal second favourite along with Juan Martin Del Potro to win the Australian Open with Boylesports