Andy Murray: The model professional
Andy Murray secured a place in the eighth Grand Slam Final of his illustrious career earlier today and whilst the destination of the Australian Open title won’t be decided until Sunday, the timing of this article is entirely intentional. Win or lose in the Championship match is somewhat irrelevant; in my eyes Murray is a phenomenon who is every inch the modern day sports star, not always receiving the credit he deserves.
Rewind one month to Murray’s last competitive match of 2014 and even the most ardent Murray supporter would have admitted that the outlook was bleak for the man from Dunblane after he was dismantled 6-0, 6-1 by Roger Federer. It was a painful, almost humiliating defeat that raised questions about Murray’s standing at the top of the men’s game. Some doubted whether Murray had the character to bounce back and he has answered with his racquet in the most emphatic way possible.
‘Murray has openly talked about his desire to be remembered’
If there is one thing Murray enjoys doing, it is proving people wrong. A feature of his matches is that he tends to produce his best tennis when he is behind in the score and this is mirrored in his life as a whole, where he sees adversity as a challenge rather than a road block. His was the lone voice after his humbling at the hands of Federer, emphasising that a lot can change over the course of a month in sport. He was right.
Outwardly he portrayed this optimistic view heading into 2015, but there is a big difference between saying things can change and making that change happen. Murray’s commitment level to his profession is second to none. He came out fighting after a difficult year both on and off the court and you have to admire him for that. The change in his game, but also his demeanour, have been clear to see.
Hiring a Female Coach
Those who were quick to question the choice of Amelie Mauresmo as Murray’s new coach are strangely quiet right now, but Murray is unwilling to forget the negative feeling that surrounded his decision. He chose the post-match interview of his semi-final win, a very public platform, to express his gratitude towards Mauresmo, crediting her for the “brave” decision.
That in itself is a bold statement from Murray and illustrates that, for one reason or another, there is still work to be done on the attitude of the tennis world toward female coaches. It was painfully clear that people were looking to judge Mauresmo for any of Murray’s shortcomings in 2014, when Murray himself acknowledges that his disappointing year was more personal than anything else.
Those who do not enjoy Murray as either a tennis player or a person often resort to picking apart his personality as the foundations for their case. From this angle I am more hesitant to defend Murray, but not for the reasons you might think. I genuinely believe the way he carries himself is as close to that of a model professional as you can get, most of the time.
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However, the beauty of sport is that you don’t have to agree. The variety of personalities in men’s tennis allows everyone to throw their support behind a player that they find the strongest connection with. Those who think Murray is needlessly negative are fully entitled to dislike him for it.
To me it is refreshing to see an elite athlete who doesn’t crave the limelight. Though the showmen and the entertainers have their place, it is equally fantastic to see a player who is fully committed to being the best he can be at his sport, worrying less about how he is perceived and focussing fully on his performance.
Working under the albeit risky presumption that Murray triumphs on Sunday and lifts the Australian Open trophy, he will be on the verge of a feat that is highly coveted in the tennis world. Achieved by only two male players in the history of the sport, the Golden Slam consists of winning all four majors along with an Olympic gold medal in the men’s singles event.
Both Nadal and Agassi, two indisputable greats of the game, are the names Murray would follow into the annuls of history if he were to achieve this. Granted, the French Open has been his weakest Grand Slam and he is yet to win a single title on clay, but buoyed by his new lease of life and focussed by the prospect of greatness, it is hard to say that it is beyond the Brit.
Murray has openly talked about his desire to be remembered and it is clear that this has been a huge motivating factor in his career. It is this kind of open and honest assessment that gives more than a glimpse into the mindset of Murray, who ultimately is striving to leave his mark on the strongest generation in this history of the game.
World Number 1
The Golden Slam goal has probably not even been considered by Murray himself, as he tends to be brutally realistic t the points of talking his own chances down when speculating on his potential future successes, acutely aware of the golden generation that his is surrounded by. Similarly, talk of reaching the elusive World Number 1 ranking is often brushed off by Murray and so far in his career this is understandable.
Despite rising to the lofty heights of number 2 in the world in 2009, he has never mathematically nor realistically manufactured any real threat on the top spot. When he has achieved a consistent year in the majors, the lesser events tend to have taken a back seat and vice versa.
It will be fascinating to see whether Murray can carry his current momentum through 2015, as if he were to do so, he could well be entering the World Number 1 argument at the end of the year. Personally I believe that it is within his capabilities, but if you hadn’t already guessed by making it this far, I have a lot of belief in the current World Number 6.
By the end of the Australian Open, the Big Four will be restored to the top four places in the ATP World Rankings, with a satisfying order being restored to the men’s game that has treated us for so many years. The four guys who have dominated this decade have brought so much to the sport and for Murray, he continues to prove that he won’t just be a footnote when all is said and done.
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