Should we hurry Murray?
Should We Hurry Murray?
Nigel Graber checks out the runners and riders for this year’s Wimbledon Championships, including our own boy wonder, Andy Murray
An impressive touch. A natural feel for the game. A surly attitude on court. Little respect for officialdom. A reddish tinge to the hair. Sound like any tennis players you might have heard of? Well, yes. A certain John McEnroe. But the description could apply equally to Scotland’s Andy Murray, of whom the New Yorker has declared himself a huge fan.
McEnroe won a trilogy of Wimbledon men’s singles titles. But, even a sole win from our Andy would be the stuff of dreams — Britain hasn’t produced a men’s champion since Fred Perry in 1936. Unlikely? Well, maybe not. At the time of writing, Murray, who’ll have just turned 20 when the All-England Championships begin in late June, is knocking on the door of the world’s top ten.
If he can increase his ranking (and seeding) to eight, that will mean not having to face The Mighty Roger Federer until at least the quarter-finals, which should help. In any case, the boy from Dunblane boasts a fine career win against the Swiss Meister, in Cincinnati last August.
Of the other recognised grass-court experts, perhaps only Andy Roddick can claim to have genuine title aspirations. This won’t deter Murray, though, who’s flattened the American three times, including a memorable straight-sets dismantling on Centre Court last summer.
Murray’s one of a clutch of young guns, all aged around 20 and all looking to close the ground on Federer, widely seen as the best player ever to grace a court. This posse includes Andy’s good friend, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, the stylish Frenchman Richard Gasquet, Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, and Rafael Nadal, world number 2 and already winner of two French Opens.
McEnroe has his eye on this group: “There’s no question that he’s among a group of young guys on the way up and one of them is going to make the next step this year. I’m not sure which one it will be yet, but it looks as though Murray is the slight favourite. I would definitely put him as the likeliest guy to step up.”
Watch out for Andy playing down his chances. He’ll tell us how awesome Federer is, that he himself is still maturing, and that he’s better on hard courts (as played at the US Open, where he was 2004 junior champion). He’s clearly a canny Scot who knows how to relieve the intense pressure of the home expectation that Tim Henman had to cope with.
So, perhaps we’d better leave the last word to Johnny Mac: “Only certain players have a natural feel for the game — that’s what people said about me, and Murray’s got the same ability to come up with the shots. It’s like his mind is a computer, and he can work certain things out and he can do any number of things which seem real easy, but which are actually a lot more difficult than they seem.
“There aren’t as many people who can play well on grass. I always thought Federer was better on hard courts than he was on grass, but where did he win his first grand slam? At Wimbledon. You could make that same argument for Murray, that it’s more likely to happen at Wimbledon.”