28 July 2012

MANY SUPPORTERS of the twenty-five year old six-foot-three, one-eighty-five pound Scot Andy Murray believe that the greatest impediment in his professional career was the time of his birth that has positioned him in the very same chronological sequence as the ‘Big Three’ in tennis. 

For five years in a row he has been ranked number four behind Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. He has also appeared in four grand slam finals and lost all of them. Is it by coincidence that historically his current record is at par with that of his coach Ivan Lendl?

Like Murray, Lendl had also lost four consecutive grand slam finals until he broke through in Roland Garros casting aside John McEnroe who squandered a two set lead. The comparisons, however, doesn’t end there. Both were raised in environments close to industrial towns, Murray in Dunblane near Glasgow and Lendl in Ostrava not far from the Polish border. Both picked up their early tennis lessons from their mothers who were both good at what they were doing. Judy Murray was ranked number one in Scotland and Olga Lendlova was number two in Czechoslovakia. Murray had maneuvered the change of coach tactic quite a few times in his seven year professional career, yet Judy had been there for him living up to the demands of her son’s predicaments during such interims.

Unlike Tim Gullikson’s relationship with Pete Sampras (When the news arrived during his quarter final match against Jim Courier in Australia that Tim had been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer he broke down in court and could not continue to play and Courier graciously agreed to resume the match the next day; it was also reported that a lone voice from the audience called out to dedicate the match to Tim.) the association between Lendl and Murray is measured in numbers rather than emotions. Tennis is no more a game where you wait for the opponent to make an error for you to take advantage of and finish the point. Instead you have to learn to create opportunities on your own. Lendl also says though it certainly hurts when you lose, if you had put up a good fight it makes you feel better like never before only to fix the next day in practice what you could not deal with the previous day. Murray also appears positive about his new found liaison with Lendl, “Ivan has made a big difference in the way I prepare for the majors, which is something I felt I needed or was may be missing.” 

As in 2009, tendinitis in the knees has caught up with Nadal again as a consequence of which he has withdrawn from Olympic competitions in London. Djokovic is also not playing the kind of tennis as he was in 2011 that could be seen at Roland Garros and more recently in Wimbledon. The imperial Roger Federer can match any one at any given day, but then he can also throw a scare in Mirka and the twin girls by giving away the match after winning the first two sets as in the Quarter Finals in Wimbledon last year. 

The British, perhaps best of anyone else in the world, are better prepared to present special events like a Royal Wedding, the Royal Ascot, the Wimbledon, and now the Olympics. Tennis competitions will kick start at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club’s center court on July 28 with Serbia’s Djokovic the top seed playing the first match. Hardly three weeks ago at the very same lawns after letting his volley sail past the net and land in the tramline offering his adversary championship point, the Scot choked before the audience and with a quivering lower lip heaved a sigh. Regaining composure as if he didn’t care he then attempted to laugh.. Will it be his last as the underdog? Will his role not be reversed to the champion that he deservedly is? Only time will tell.

This article appeared in the daily newspaper ‘Khaleej Times’ published from Dubai on 28 July 2012.

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