Thursday, 17 November 2011
It was a final before which, many tennis pundits believed that Murray was destined to win his first "Grand Slam" but instead, he trooped off the court disconsolately knowing that he had once again failed to rise to the occasion.
Worse still, he had for the third time in his career failed to win a set in a Grand Slam final which prompted the inevitable questions as to whether or not the Scot has the ability to win one of the sport's four most prestigious tournaments.
It took Murray several months to get over that defeat, poor performances followed in Rotterdam, Indian Wells and Miami and it was not until April when he reached the semi final in the ATP 1000 Masters in Monte Carlo on clay that he began to rediscover his form again.
By the time of the French Open in May, Murray had come to terms with his game, he recognised that Djokovic, who at that time was 'sweeping all before him' had made a few small adjustments to his game and it was those that had helped the Serb improve so dramatically. Murray knew that he needed to work on his game and became buoyed by the prospect.
As 2011 unfolded, Murray began his comeback, first came a semi final at Roland Garros, followed by a first win of the year at Queens then a third semi final running on the grass again at Wimbledon, which although disappointing by not winning, saw Murray put in a much improved effort.
The return to the hard courts in the summer saw him win in Cincinnati before he reached a third Grand Slam semi final of the year at the US Open which he followed up taking three titles on the trot in Bangkok, Japan and Shanghai.
These tournament wins put him ahead of Roger Federer in the world rankings at number three and although he was beaten in the Quarter Final in Paris last week, his game was back on song and his confidence fully restored.
The 24 year old will now play in ATP World Finals in London next week, where he will be looking to end his year on a high before launching his 2012 Grand Slam challenge in January at the Australian Open.
Given a different generation, Murray would have probably already a "Grand Slam" but he is playing at a time when three of the greatest players of all time are around. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won 30 ‘Slams’ between them, the latter two are very much a similar age to Murray while Federer, proved last week by winning in Paris, that he is still a major force to be reckoned with.
However, with a few improvements to his game and ensuring his head's in the right place on the biggest stages, there is absolutely no doubt that Murray has the game to beat any one of these three on a given day; moreover, he has the game to beat them regularly.
He has beaten Nadal five times in the past, Djokovic four times and Federer eight times and although his record against the big three in the Grand Slams leaves a lot to be desired, Murray knows that with a strong mentality and playing at his best, he can make his breakthrough and 2012 could be the year!
Written by Rod Crowley