Casual sports fans will no doubt claim to be unsurprised about Andy Murray’s loss to Novak Djokovic in this year’s Australian Open, probably citing another ‘typical’ British disappointment. Whilst it is true that it can be hard putting a positive spin on Murray suffering another upsetting loss, this is not an instance that calls for immense dissatisfaction, but instead is one that should be greeted with enthusiasm and eagerness.
The main reason behind this assertion is that he managed to negotiate his way into the Open final relatively unscathed (minus the blisters!). Federer took him to 5 sets in the semi-final, yet Murray won all of his sets comfortably, whereas Federer struggled to earn his in tie-breaks. This dominant performance against the Swiss ace should really fill Brits with a sense of optimism.
Add this victory to the form he enjoyed last year where he won the US Open, as well as Olympic Gold and Silver, and you are looking at one of the best tennis players in the game who is set to get even better. It has already been suggested that if Murray were playing tennis in any previous decade, his abilities would assure him the title of ‘World Number 1’.
…roughly 2000 points behind Federer…
However, unfortunately for Murray and much of Britain, he happens to be playing in one of the most competitive eras of international tennis and his 3rd place positioning in the ATP rankings typifies this. Currently, Murray is roughly 2000 points behind Federer in 2nd and 4000 points behind Djokovic. Sadly, with Nadal set to return from injury this year, Murray is unlikely to move up the rankings even if he is serving up the form of his life.
Nevertheless, rankings are not everything as they do not guarantee titles; performances exhibited throughout the year are by far the more indicative measure of how he compares to the other elites. If his latest tournament is anything to go by, it would appear Murray definitely has the potential to be classed as the world’s number 2, though the gap between himself and Djokovic for now seems insurmountable.
…he can overcome this looming barrier…
The true challenge will be whether or not Murray can still reach Grand Slam finals when Nadal returns to full fitness. If he can overcome this looming barrier, we should begin to expect Murray to start filling his trophy cabinet with something other than runners-up trophies.