I would like to make something crystal clear from the start; I am not Andy Murray’s biggest fan. I might fly the flag for Scotland myself but the relentless feed of Murray-mania is exasperating, especially during Wimbledon. The BBC doesn’t half butter him up when the Championships roll around. They speak of Murray as if he couldn’t miss a single ball. The Murray media juggernaut is only comparable to a well-done steak making it utterly tasteless.
That said, however, it’s easy to acknowledge the talent and sheer volume of shots Murray is able to produce; his stamina and durability are quite astonishing. A four-hour five-set grueling match with Nadal or Djokovic seems to be his forte. No matter how beat you think Murray might be during a match, set, game or even a point, he always finds a way to hit one more ball. This trait of Murray’s game is very admirable; he seems unstoppable at times.
A 2016 to remember – A 2017 to forget
The highest point of Murray’s illustrious career came late last summer after winning his third Grand Slam and second Wimbledon title. He was on top of the tennis world as he continued to stamp his dominance on the tour by winning Olympic Gold in Rio, blitzing in Beijing, dictating the Shanghai Rolex Masters, Vienna, and the Paris Masters before catapulting himself into the World Tour Finals in London beating his arch nemesis, Djokovic, in the process. He dethroned Djokovic as the new world No.1 on November 6th, 2016 and remained atop of men’s tennis until the summer of this year.
But, as with all great fairytales, they don’t always have a happy ending.
The dream was eventually halted in July 2017 as Murray limped off an eerily quiet Centre Court after a shattering loss in the Wimbledon quarterfinals to America’s Sam Querrey.
‘Is it over?’ the commentators gasped.
As the sun faded on the grounds of Wimbledon, Murray’s future in the sport was in serious doubt. It had been reported leading into the Championships that Murray was suffering from a serious right hip injury. His movement was labored and sluggish, this was most apparent on match point. Murray’s body appeared to fold in on itself like a house of cards as he shrugged his head in defeat. It’s an image that will haunt his fans optimism heading into 2018. Consequently, it appeared that Murray couldn’t possibly bounce back after the type of injury he had sustained. This was further reinforced after the Murray v Federer charity match in early November. The hobble hadn’t improved nor had it become any less obvious. He looked in genuine pain.
New Year, New Murray?
New Year, new Murray? That’s the question on every tennis commentator’s lips as the tennis season approaches. Can Murray return to his 2016 winning ways? Can he produce a similar style comeback to the likes of Federer and Nadal by winning several majors/ masters in the same year? Or will he falter and flat line and slowly drift off into the tennis underworld?
At this point in his career, it’s time to face the undeniable; he’s not as fit nor as much of a threat as he was five years ago.
It is doubtful that regaining the world No.1 ranking is on Murray’s radar. He will want to remain as fit and healthy as possible, burning himself out is not an option next season. Murray turned the ripe old age of 30 this year, which can consequently result in ruin for some tennis careers. Murray will endeavor to make sure he doesn’t suffer a similar fate. In this later stage of his career, conserving his body will be a top priority. Winning matches and tournaments will take priority over the number one ranking.
2018 Will Be Tough
He’ll arrive in 2018 with a very tough task ahead of him. Due to his 2017 being cut short, his ranking has suffered and fallen to 16. It’s therefore probable that he will have to face Nadal or Federer as early as the quarterfinals in Australia… that’s if he makes it that far. The possibility of a third or fourth round exit looms large. To add to the already uneasy ground – Djokovic, Wawrinka, Raonic, and Nishikori are all returning to Australia after their prolonged injury layoffs. So it’s anyone’s guess as to who will prevail. If Murray wants to stand any chance of beating the top players, he has to be aggressive and engage in fast-paced attacking tennis. Hugging the baseline in best-of-five-set matches will do his hip zero favors.
Murray’s most likely chance at glory will materialize on the mowed lawns of SW19. Wimbledon is his most successful slam, with 51 wins to only 10 loses. He’s made it to the quarterfinals or better every year since 2008. Wimbledon 2018 presents a wonderful opportunity for him; he has months of tennis to play first before he even has to set foot on grass. The two months spent on clay before Wimbledon will be a great indicator of how well his body, hip, and fitness are performing. Murray has the aptitude and game to play well on the red dirt as well. He’s done what very few players have managed to do this generation: beat Rafa on clay. He only needs some match wins, maybe a tournament or two before the grass season and his confidence will be biblical.
A word of caution to this tale, Murray’s toughest competition at Wimbledon will come in the form of the all-time great, Roger Federer. A name which just recently was etched into the Wimbledon archive as the most successful male tennis player in the Championships long history. The eight-time champion will be hungry to defend his title at the All England Club and extend his record to nine. Should Murray face Federer, it will be a tough ask for the Flying Scotsman.
2018 will be an intense year for tennis. Who will be atop the tennis podium when the season concludes? One thing we do know for sure is that the BIG FOUR will be back. Expect to see Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, and Murray all do battle for the biggest and most prestigious titles in the tennis calendar. It might take Murray a little longer to re-join the party, but he will be there, flying the Scottish flag.
- Calvin is from Edinburgh, Scotland where he studies Marketing at the University of Edinburgh. He was at the Wimbledon 2008 and AO 2017 Finals between Federer and Nadal, so he is the envy of pretty much everyone else in the tennis world.