Sunday, February 24, 2008


Until he let Britain down when he pulled out of the Davis Cup round in Argentina a couple of weeks ago, for three years tennis player Andy Murray had been hyped far beyond his achievements.
After a career which never quite fulfilled its early promise, Tim Henman was approaching his sunset years on court in 2005 when, like a Young Lochinvar come from the moors and mountains of Scotland, Murray, then eighteen, was hailed by the media as the great new hope for British tennis.
Henman Hill, the small hillock overlooking Wimbledon from which fans had cheered their hero on, was promptly renamed Murray Mount.
Since then Murray has achieved very little at the top level of the game and has never got beyond the fourth round of a Grand Slam. This year he crashed out in the first round of the Australian Open.
His success has been limited to picking up a few trophies at lower level tournaments at venues like Qatar and Marseille.
But until he pulled out of the Davis Cup, pleading the need to take care of a knee which had been injured and with an eye on a tournament in Marseille the following week which, unlike the Davis Cup, could improve his rankings, the hype had continued unabated.
Since then he has been branded ‘Sicknote’ Murray by one daily newspaper and criticised both by his better looking and more likeable brother, Jaime, and former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker for letting Britain and himself down.
‘He said he was injured for Argentina but if he missed it because he was saving himself for Marseille this attitude is not going to win him a Grand Slam,’ Becker said in St Petersburg this week, warning that Murray needs to concentrate on the Davis Cup and Grand Slams if he wants to join the world’s tennis elite.
He also warned that Murray, who parted from top coach Brad Gilbert last year, needs a top coach.
For some time Murray has struggled to be in the world top ten, yo-yoing in and out on an almost weekly basis.
When he withdrew from the Davis Cup he was world No 11. Success in Marseille was vital if he was to get back into the top 10 and he has said that staying in the top ten is his plan for this year.
But days after winning in Marseille he was thrashed by the world No 94 in the first round of a medium level tournament in Rotterdam - leaving the world wondering just what goes on in his head.
Powerful relationships with their fathers have been crucial to the success of top sportsmen like Tiger Woods and Lewis Hamilton. It is Murray’s mother who has been the driving force behind him. And though a pushy mother can propel a daughter to success, a mother-son relationship often does not seem to have the same winning strength.
A Grand Slam champion also needs a mighty will to win and the confidence he can do it.
‘You’ve got to want to beat someone like David Nalbandian on his patch,’ said Becker - a chance Murray missed by abandoning the Davis Cup. ‘From a mental point of view it is great training, putting yourself under the greatest pressure.’
But as he potters round lower level tournaments, struggling to gain at least intermittent entry to the top ten, it just may be that unconsciously Murray’s need to believe he belongs to the tennis elite is far greater than his need to be a Grand Slam winner - and really one of them.
Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2008. All Rights Reserved

Labels: ,