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Rediff.com  » Sports » British hopes fulfilled... Murray can now focus on his career

British hopes fulfilled... Murray can now focus on his career

December 01, 2015 10:42 IST

Andy Murray won just one of his last 11 meetings with top-ranked Novak Djokovic, lost his last seven match-ups against Roger Federer and eight of his last 11 meetings with Rafael Nadal.

He is the only player among the 'Big Four' never to be ranked No.1.

In winning the Davis Cup Murray has fulfilled the hopes Britain had in him. Now, says Bikash Mohapatra/Rediff.com, he needs to live up to his initial promise and consistently deliver results a player of his potential deserves.

Andy Murray of Great Britain poses with his trophy following victory in the Davis Cup

IMAGE: Andy Murray of Great Britain poses with the trophy following victory in the Davis Cup final against Belgium. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

"I'm happy to take as much pressure on my shoulders as is needed.

"I've been in this position I think a lot of times in my career. I think I will be able to deal with it OK."

Those were Andy Murray's comments on the eve of Great Britain’s challenge in the Davis Cup final against hosts Belgium.

It was more of an acceptance of reality than a statement.

Since making his professional debut in 2005, Murray’s career is more about fulfilling the expectations of a nation than personal achievements.

For a country where tennis has historical antecedents, one that dominated the sport in the first half of the 20th century and that continues to host the world's most popular tournament (Wimbledon), Britain’s recent record – especially in the Open Era (since 1968) – is anything but enviable.

The arrival of Murray on the scene, however, raised expectations, as also the pressure, on the player to deliver.

Andy Murray returns to Dunblane following his win in the US Open and his gold medal in the 2012 Olympic games in London

IMAGE: Andy Murray returns to Dunblane following his triumph in the US Open and his gold medal win at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The 28-year-old's response is commendable, to say the least.

At the same time, it is also a fact that Murray has felt the burden of expectation more often than not, the manner in which he succumbed in the 2012 Wimbledon final being a case in point.

It took seven years before he first made Britain proud: his straight sets win over Roger Federer in the final at the 2012 London Olympics gave the country its first gold medal in over 100 years, since Josiah Ritchie in 1908.

A few weeks later he made history again. His five-set win over Novak Djokovic at the US Open made him the first British player since 1977 as well as the first British man since 1936 – and the first Scottish-born player since Harold Mahony in 1896 – to win a major singles title.

Andy Murray of Great Britain poses with the Gentlemen's Singles Trophy next to the Fred Perry statue at Wimbledon

IMAGE: Andy Murray poses with the Gentlemen's singles trophy next to the Fred Perry statue at Wimbledon. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

In 2013, he ended Britain's seemingly eternal Wimbledon drought.

A straight sets win over Djokovic made him the first British man since Fred Perry (1936) to win the coveted title at the All England Club.

Earlier this year, when he reached the final at the Miami Masters, Murray became the first British player to have 500 or more career singles wins in the Open Era.

A month later, his triumph in Munich made him the first Briton since Buster Mottram in 1976 to win a clay-court tournament.

Having single-handedly led Britain to its first Davis Cup final since 1977, Murray not only guided the team to its first title since 1936 but also made it into the record books.

After winning all three rubbers over the weekend, he became only the fourth man – after John McEnroe, Michael Stich and Ivan Ljubicic – to win 11 rubbers in a single Davis Cup year since the introduction of the World Group (in 1981).

The Davis Cup triumph also implied that he met all the expectations Britain had of him.

Andy Murray of Great Britain celebrates defeating David Goffin of Begium to win the Davis Cup during day three of the Davis Cup Final

IMAGE: Andy Murray celebrates defeating David Goffin of Belgium to win the Davis Cup on Day Three of the final. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

However, in fulfilling the expectations of a nation, his career has suffered to a great extent.

Statistics don't provide for a clear picture in Murray's case.

A haul of 35 ATP Tour singles titles, including two Grand Slams and 11 Masters 1000 wins, might have ensured Murray's entry into the 'Big Four' club – one that comprises the top four players in the world and has Djokovic, Federer and Rafael Nadal as the other members. However, it is also a fact that Murray is the weakest link in the group.

For starters, he has a negative record against all his three major rivals. Secondly, he has won a lot less – and lost a lot more – than the others.

In fact, a detailed look at the numbers point out that Murray won just one of his last 11 meetings with the top-ranked Djokovic, lost his last seven match-ups against Federer and eight of his last 11 meetings with Nadal.

Britain's Andy Murray addresses a news conference

IMAGE: Andy Murray addresses a news conference. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

His eight major finals yielded only two titles, and the unenviable record of being the first player to have lost in four Australian Open finals – a tournament he has never won – in the Open Era.

Also, he is the only player among the four never to be ranked No.1 and least consistent of the lot.

All the above details are pointers to the fact that Murray has to cover considerable ground before he justifies his place in the 'Big Four'.

Now that the burden of expectation will no longer be there, it is time for him to solely focus on his career.

While he has done well to fulfill the hopes Britain had in him, only time will tell whether he can live up to his initial promise and consistently deliver results that a player of his potential deserves.

- Davis Cup win caps remarkable year for Britain's Andy Murray

Bikash Mohapatra / Rediff.com