With a grand total of five out of six Brits eliminated on Day One of the Australian Open, British hopes fell solely onto Andy Murray, once again. The World no. 4 had recently embarked upon a partnership with new coach, eight-time Grand Slam winner, Ivan Lendl. Subsequently, much of the British press saw this as reason to succumb to a renewed suffering of ‘Murray Mania’; every article you could find would state that Murray will now win every match he plays, simply because he was able to hire a guy who won a few tournaments – quite a few years ago.
And to his credit, Murray proceeded to enjoy another solid Australian Open campaign. The Scot had made the final at Melbourne for two years running and made his way to his fifth consecutive Grand Slam semi-final on this occasion with considerable ease. Despite losing his opening set of the tournament, Murray saw off the American rising star, Ryan Harris, without any problems. Mid-match, Murray decided to change his tactics and attack Harris’s backhand more – an example of the improvised thinking that is such a valuable asset in tennis. Thereafter, Murray was drawn against two Frenchmen, Edouard Roger-Vasselin and veteran, Michael Llodra. The Scot cruised through these encounters in straight sets.
…took the first two sets…
The original draw suggested a tough route to the semis, with potential games against Gaels Monfils and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga on the cards. However, Murray was spared the opportunity to face four French players in a row as both Monfils and Tsonga were eliminated a round early. Consequently, Murray took the first two sets of his fourth round match, 6-1, 6-1, before Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan, still reeling from the effects of a long battle with Monfils, retired in the third. A similar story presented itself once again as Murray overcame Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 in the quarter-finals.
Thus far, Murray had done what he has proved he can do so many times already – beat the chasing pack and make it to the vital stages.Though, his next proposition was an altogether different prospect: world no.1, Novak Djokovic, winner of three of the last four Grand Slams and the man who so comprehensively outplayed Murray in the final of this very tournament last year. An easy ride so far was about to intensify – to a whole new level.
…best match of his career.
In the Australian heat, Murray duly produced the best match of his career. The first set went to Djokovic, 6-3, but Murray retaliated – taking the next two sets 6-3, 7-6. The rollercoaster ride continued as Djokovic took the fourth set 6-1, taking the match to a deciding set. Djokovic then raced into a 5-2 lead but was pegged back once again to 5-5. However, the Serb demonstrated his nerves of steel once more to complete an epic victory, clinching the fifth, 7-5.
Murray’s tournament was over, but he had nothing to be ashamed of. The Scot capitalised on an easy ride and then produced an admirable display against the world no. 1. Unfortunately, Murray is still yet to break his Grand Slam duck and doubts remain over whether he ever will, but he can leave Melbourne with his head held high. Will Andy Murray ever win a Grand Slam? The forecasts are certainly filled with promise, but only time will tell whether this promise is fulfilled.