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Has it really been 7 years?!

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Aran
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Has it really been 7 years?! « on: August 05, 2012, 08:47 PM »
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It seems hard to believe that it's been 7 years since that remarkable match against Nalbandian in Andy Murray's first Wimbledon.  That was the first time I saw him play, and you didn't have to be a genius to realise what an unusual skillset he had even then.  It looked like such a simple equation at the time - get this lad fit for the game, and he's going to do a lot of damage.  I remember him beating Henman towards the end of that year - it was good to see his will to win, and I can remember thinking that he didn't look as though he'd be a serial loser at the semi-final stage.

What has made the last 7 years so interesting (in terms of tennis watching - a couple of kids is enough to make it interesting all the rest of the time!) is the way in which he has had to battle so hard to overcome his psychological demons.  The fitness stuff turned out to be easy by comparison - it only took him a couple of years to be top 10 - but the fascinating mixture of raw ability, will to win, and a lack of confidence has made his story enormously compelling.

There's a scene in 'The Hustler' by Walter Tevis (the book on which the film is based) in which a shady Mob character tells Fast Eddie that he's a winner, but he's not comfortable with it - so instead of finding ways to win, he's finding ways to live with losing.  I've thought about it during a lot of Murray matches - the way he lost that Wimbledon semi-final to Nadal last year after letting one poor miss change the momentum, the way in which he's kept freezing in Grand Slam finals - and there have been times when I've wondered if he would ever find his equivalent of the belief that made Fast Eddie the best.

But the one thing that has kept me expecting him to do it has been the way in which he always seems to have needed time to acclimatise at each new level that he reached.  The first time he got to the quarters at Wimbledon, he didn't look as though he felt anywhere near being at home - the same in the US Open final later the same year - but heavy losses at each new level spurred him on, instead of teaching him his place.  This has kept me confident that the experience of losing so many finals at Grand Slam events would eventually work like a crucible and mould him into a champion.

Watching him try to acclimatise at the highest level in tennis has been one of the most compelling stories in world sport in the last three years or so.  He's been level-pegging with Djokovic for most of the last fifteen years, with first one and then the other looking stronger - seeing Djokovic achieve what he did last year might have broken the spirit of a less stubborn competitor, but it now seems as though it just made the crucible that little bit hotter for Murray.

For me, the single most frustrating aspect of the last three or four years has been seeing the sheer quality of tennis that Murray can produce - seeing him work so hard on his weaknesses, and develop such a superb all-round game - and then seeing him reach a Grand Slam final, and not play his best tennis.  From what I've read, that's part of what has made so many of you feel in agony - knowing not just that he could win a Grand Slam, but that if he ever brought his A game to a final, he could do it in straight sets, and he could do it on a regular basis.

That was the best part of today for me - no, it wasn't a Grand Slam, but it was a best-of-5 final on Centre Court against Federer, and he finally did what he's been physically and strategically capable of for at least three years, by winning in straight sets.

Of course, there'll be people who'll focus on it not having been a Grand Slam - but everyone in professional tennis knows that by beating last year's Wimbledon champion in straight sets in the semis, and this year's Wimbledon champion in straight sets in the final, Murray has broken through.  It really is a Big Four now, and barring injury, Murray is going to win multiple Slams in the next few years. 

And boy does he deserve it!

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lashurst
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Re: Has it really been 7 years?! « Reply #1 on: August 05, 2012, 10:49 PM »
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I loved to read your post Aran. There is so much summed up there, it brings back memories to me of the early days of Andy career.

What amazes me it the tranformation we've seen in him the last 6 months. His game has strengthened and mentally he has mastered his emotions that drained him and prevented him from winning the big matches.

Since Lendl came on the scene Andy has coped better with losses and hes finding a way through his problems, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.

So looking forward to the future now. Thank you Andy. Smile
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craighateslife
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Re: Has it really been 7 years?! « Reply #2 on: August 05, 2012, 10:56 PM »
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Beautiful post Aran. I also remember back in 2005 and how even watching him for the first time at Queens how nervous I was. Thinking now - it's been a rather crazy journey as I have seen him live on 3 different continents and have nearly watched every single match he has played.

Tonight we rejoice yay
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Philip
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Re: Has it really been 7 years?! « Reply #3 on: August 05, 2012, 11:30 PM »
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A great post Aran. I also look forward to seeing Andy being a multiple Grand Slams winner with maybe the 1st one at the USO this year !!!
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blueberryhill
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Re: Has it really been 7 years?! « Reply #4 on: August 06, 2012, 07:20 AM »
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All about confidence and self-belief  yay Oh and better serving and forehand Whistle
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Aran
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Re: Has it really been 7 years?! « Reply #5 on: August 06, 2012, 09:39 AM »
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Cheers, folks...Smile

Yes, it really does look now as though the Lendl deal has been critical - perhaps it was almost a way to borrow the belief - and it certainly accelerated the process of maintaining focus on court.

But from now on, the belief will be rooted in reality - and Murray + real belief is going to be a serious handful for everyone else for the next few years.

It also shows how critical the end of the second set was in the Wimbledon final - if he'd gone 2-0 up there, it now looks as though he could well have closed it out in three.  Oh well - next time...Wink

[Edit: am I right in thinking that was Federer's worst ever defeat in a best-of-5 match on grass?]
[ Last edit by Aran August 06, 2012, 10:05 AM ] IP Logged
blueberryhill
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Re: Has it really been 7 years?! « Reply #6 on: August 06, 2012, 10:25 AM »
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Apparently someone asked him if he'd ever lost 9 games in a row and what he thought about it and he replied he'd rather not think about it lmao
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Aran
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Re: Has it really been 7 years?! « Reply #7 on: August 06, 2012, 02:25 PM »
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Apparently someone asked him if he'd ever lost 9 games in a row and what he thought about it and he replied he'd rather not think about it lmao

Took someone with guts even to ask him, fair play!  He's been badly beaten up in Paris by Nadal a couple of times, of course - but I can't imagine that he's ever lost 9 in a row on grass before.

I must admit, I thought it was going to take a nerve-wracking 5 set victory in a big final before Murray found the belief he needed - I never really thought he might skip that stage altogether and just go for a plain old 3-0 as his first win in a best-of-5 final...Wink
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blueberryhill
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Re: Has it really been 7 years?! « Reply #8 on: August 06, 2012, 02:26 PM »
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I told him he just needed to think of it as a 3, with 2 added on to annoy him...Wink
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teejay1
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Re: Has it really been 7 years?! « Reply #9 on: August 06, 2012, 03:06 PM »
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I told him he just needed to think of it as a 3, with 2 added on to annoy him...Wink

Funny that, I told him the same lol.
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teejay1
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Re: Has it really been 7 years?! « Reply #10 on: August 06, 2012, 04:07 PM »
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Hi All,

I feel like a proud parent watching her baby going off to 'big school'. What Andy did yesterday on Centre Court was the realisation of everything that I've truly believed him to be capable of, and yet it feels like there is more to come, so much more.

I've said it ad nauseam, but I will just never forget seeing him on TV when he played Queen's in 2005. There he was, this long string of raw talent, who, in the nicest possible way, and with respect, was clearly more John McEnroe than Tim Henman. There was just something about him, something that made me realise that what we'd got with him was something different, something exciting. He wanted to win, he clearly loved to compete. I did sense that there was something about him that would rub a few people up the wrong way, mainly, and ironically, that desire to compete rather than just 'take part'. Not terribly British is it, old chap? Still, it was patently obvious he was the real deal.

There have been frustrating times. The biggest problem with Andy was his ability to get so down on himself. Sometimes it was as if he was trying to beat himself before an opponent could do it. Looking back, it was that fear of losing I think, rather than the enjoyment of winning, plus his desire to always be perfect on court all the time, which no one can - Smugfed might testify to that now.......

I actually think the change with Andy began last year, before Lendl came on the scene. For me the pivotal moment was that semi with Nadal at Wimbledon. As we all know, he was a set and a break up on Nadal when he missed a forehand. That led to him getting frustrated, which led to another mistake, and before we knew it Nadal was back in the match and it was game over. I have to admit to having been distraught, not by the defeat, but the manner of it. I couldn't shift the feeling that he had been part of his own demise there, not with his game, with his mind, which, rather than regrouping, had gone awol when he needed to get a grip and move on.

However, after that something seemed to change. I wonder whether something began to click for Andy, maybe the realisation that he couldn't go on like that and expect to win at the highest level. I don't know, and I certainly can't prove it, but it seems to me that from that point on something was different.

Ironically I think another pivotal moment was the French this year. All those disgusting insults that came his way after the Nieminen match must surely have pushed Andy to prove his detractors wrong, and he has.

I do think Lendl has made a huge difference to Andy. He is calmer on court, he regroups much quicker. That instinctive irritation with errors is still there, I think it always will be, but it doesn't get out of control now. I'm sure Lendl has had a lot to do with that. It isn't just his mind though. His tennis has seen the benefit. His forehand is much improved, even to this total non-expert, who couldn't tell a good one from a bad one really lol. His first serve, when it goes in, is such a weapon. However, that leads me to the biggest change. His second serve. I think his second serve is a total revelation this year. The points he was winning behind it during the Wimbledon Championships was phenomenal. It was a major asset yesterday too.

For my mind Andy also seems to have another gear to go to in matches. He has always been brilliant at what I think of as Houdini tennis, the 'I'm in an effing hole, get me out of here', type of thing, but now he seems to be able to tap in to other resources, lifting his game, looking for ways in, rather than a way out. Maybe it is because his thinking is clearer on the court. He is such an intelligent player, he knows the court, seems to know instinctively where the ball is, what the opponent is going to do, (his anticipation is second to none) but at times he has thrown that intelligence away, or not used it in the right way. Now his mind, the part of his brain that tells him to run like bloody hell in the other direction, does not seem to be cancelling out that intelligence, and it has freed him up.

In the light of yesterday all the improvements Andy has made will surely be backed up by belief. He must surely now realise that he can win at the top level, that he belongs at the very top of the game, that it is not a 'big three', but a big FOUR. My own personal feeling is that when Andy has time he should take a photograph of that gold medal and keep it in his bag. That way, when he has off days in matches, which can happen, he can take out the photo and see what he has done, and then use that to push him to the major wins that I am convinced are his destiny.
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Aran
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Re: Has it really been 7 years?! « Reply #11 on: August 06, 2012, 04:57 PM »
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Great post, Teejay...Smile

I have to admit to having been distraught, not by the defeat, but the manner of it.

Yes, it was a really low point.  When he'd frozen in finals before that, I'd always thought that he would eventually grind his way to enough experience to be able to deal with the nerves - but that Nadal game really made me wonder if he would always find a way to choke even when he was playing well.  It was surprising that even playing so much better than Nadal, and going a set up, still didn't convince him he was actually good enough to finish it off.

The US Open after that didn't really do much to change things in my eyes - same old story, losing to Nadal in 4.  For me, it was the Australian semi-final loss to Djokovic that made it clear something had changed - because he did the same thing in terms of getting ahead and then choking, but then he came back to make the fifth set genuinely competitive.  I thought that was the first time he genuinely put himself in the mix - a little luck would have got him through - and although it was only a semi-final, it was a semi-final against a man who'd apparently forgotten how to lose.

If a little luck had got Murray through there, I now think we might have seen his 'arrival' performance in the final against Nadal, and Wimbledon would have been a different story.  But hey, what's six months between friends?...Wink
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Tasmanian Devil
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Re: Has it really been 7 years?! « Reply #12 on: August 06, 2012, 05:43 PM »
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What amazes me it the tranformation we've seen in him the last 6 months.

This recent transformation reminds me of the great leap he made from scrawny youth to genuine contender a few years ago.  If that was his physical boost then this is surely his mental boost.
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teejay1
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Re: Has it really been 7 years?! « Reply #13 on: August 06, 2012, 05:50 PM »
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This recent transformation reminds me of the great leap he made from scrawny youth to genuine contender a few years ago.  If that was his physical boost then this is surely his mental boost.

That seems spot on to me. Funnily enough I actually said that to someone this morning.
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Aran
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Re: Has it really been 7 years?! « Reply #14 on: August 06, 2012, 06:12 PM »
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This recent transformation reminds me of the great leap he made from scrawny youth to genuine contender a few years ago.  If that was his physical boost then this is surely his mental boost.

Yes, I think that's a really good summary.  I think what we'll see from now on will be a clear step above the last two or three years in the same way that they were a clear step above the period when he wasn't physically ready.

So what price Murray in the finals at Wimbledon next year looking to hold all four Grand Slam titles?...Wink
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