Will Andy Murray win Wimbledon?

By Cressida Smart

Last year, on the Sunday before Wimbledon started, I wrote on whether Andy Murray could win Wimbledon and claim a maiden grand slam. My answer was no. Without wanting to sound like a broken record, I ask the question again and sadly, my answer remains the same. I do not see Andy Murray winning Wimbledon this year. Feel free to jump on the band wagon of critics that have told me to be more patriotic and have faith, but surely there are only so many excuses that can be made before realism takes over idealism.

This year, Murray is seeded No  4 at Wimbledon. His first round opponent is Nikolay Davydenko, the former world number three, current world number 47 and one of the most difficult opponents Murray could have faced outside the top 32 seeds.

Furthermore, his likely second round opponent is grass court specialist Ivo Karlovic. He is also in the same half of the draw as French Open champion Rafael Nadal, with the man who beat him at Roland Garros, David Ferrer, a potential quarter-final opponent. Nadal, seeded second, will open against Brazilian, Thomas Bellucci. On the other side of the draw, world number one Novak Djokovic will begin his Wimbledon defence playing former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero, while Roger Federer plays Albert Ramos.

Other highlights of the first round draw include former champion Lleyton Hewitt taking on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, while British qualifier Jamie Baker is pitted against the three-times finalist Andy Roddick; the now infamous Queen’s finalist David Nalbandian meets Serbian world number eight Janko Tipsarevic.

Andy Murray has made the Wimbledon semifinals for three consecutive years. He lost to Roddick in 2009, and Nadal in 2010 and 2011; he hasn’t performed well in Wimbledon’s most pressure-packed situations. However, Murray is the most likely to benefit if Nadal or Djokovic fall below their best, not Federer. Wimbledon still offers the Swiss his best opportunity for a 17th Grand Slam as he moves so well on the grass and has lifted six titles on the Centre Court.

The dominance of tennis’ titans over Murray doesn’t stop at Wimbledon. He was the runner-up at the 2008 U.S. Open, and at the Australian Open in 2010 and 2011. The U.S. Open loss and Australian Open losses in 2010, came at the hands of Federer. The 2011 Australian Open was at the hands of Djokovic. That’s five losses to tennis’ best players in five huge matches. Currently, Murray is running the risk of becoming one, if not the greatest player in history never to have won a grand slam.

There is no denying that Murray is brilliant player in his own right, but he can’t stand up to the pedigree of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. His misfortune is that he is playing at a time when the game is blessed with three immense champions, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. While it is an imprecise science to compare one era of the game with another — the courts, rackets and tennis balls have all evolved — I now think Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have raised standards to an unimaginable level. They may not bring the mayhem and controversy of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, or the brooding brilliance of Bjorn Borg, but the sustained quality and power of Nadal and Djokovic, and the princely presence of Federer, have entertained and alerted us to possibilities on a tennis court never seen before.

Sadly, against men of such fierce mental strength, Murray has, as noted above, fallen short. He reacted to this by hiring Ivan Lendl at the start of this year. Lendl has to keep Murray focused so that he doesn’t become involved in unnecessarily long matches in the early rounds. He will need all his powers for the second week of Wimbledon. Since Lendl arrived, Murray’s body language has improved. However, he still managed to invite criticism at the French Open for hobbling around holding his back in a match against Jarkko Nieminen, although there was no doubt the Briton was injured.

Murray doesn’t care what people think and rightly so. If he’s not breaking the rules, it’s up to his rivals to take advantage of any problems he has. His job is to take care of business on his side of the court and he seems to be doing that better than ever. Only Federer’s demeanour escapes criticism. Nadal and Djokovic are slow between points and this will not change until the rules are applied more rigidly.

Yet it seems that the odds are stacking up against Murray again this year. Add to this the fact that no British man has won Wimbledon since 1936, that the fans are dying to see a British player win (albeit Murray is fiercely Scottish) and that Murray is seen as a second tier star in the world of tennis and it appears even more unlikely. For the first time in his career, it looks as though Murray may never take home the Wimbledon Trophy. Despite being one of the youngest stars in the competition, Djokovic, who is the same age as Murray, seems to be the better player and Nadal, who many see as Murray’s arch-rival and nemesis, is just one year older. Even Federer, who appears to be on the downturn of his career, is certainly not old.

Andy Murray is considered a favourite heading into this year’s tournament. I beg to differ. This year there are only three “real” contenders in this year’s field.

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