The world expects India to provide another bravura performance and overpower the men from Down Under, but this is surely disrespectful to the Aussies
29 October 2004. Shane Warne, as he so often did in his career, delivered at the most important moment to give Australia their first win in India since 1970. Many thought that was the moment Australia had figured out the sub continent conundrum. Little did people know that it would be their last victory on Indian soil. No victories in three tours and their last tour was a debacle like no other. The aberration of four players not doing their homework just added salt to the wounds that were given by the 4-0 drubbing. Therefore, it may not come as a surprise that they arrive on the shores of India as underdogs and many expect a whitewash for India. However, sport has thrown up bigger surprises that this before, so why not again?
Pundits and ex players are providing fire to the belly
The past few weeks has seen ex players and commentators giving their opinion on what they think will happen in the series. Rather than giving the standard answer of both teams have a chance, it has been quite clear that the advantage is with India. This is not without evidence though. Over the last few years, teams have found it very difficult to even take a test away from the Indians. However, some players have been particularly scathing in their criticism of the Australians. Harbhajan Singh has called the touring party the “weakest Australian team” to ever visit India. While we will have to wait and see whether this is true, this is surely showing no respect to the Australian team. By criticising them more and more, the motivation and fire will only grow. Write off the players at your peril, they can show you to be extremely foolish come a few weeks time.
Their concentration is only on the process, not outcome
For so long, the confidence and swagger of Australian cricketers has been clear to see. “We come to win every series” is the standard line from captains of the team wherever they travel to. However, this time, Steve Smith is only worried about the type of cricket his team is going to play. It is in fact the opposition skipper, Virat Kohli, who has stated that it is the aim of the Indians to win 4-0. Smith went as far as to say a drawn series would be a magnificent result. While this may show signs of vulnerability, the “playing down” attitude of the Australians is something the Indians must be wary of. The focus is no longer on the outcome, it is simply on the style and brand of cricket needed to perform well in sub continent conditions. We will have to wait and see whether this attitude makes any difference to 4 years ago.
Steven Smith can inspire single handedly
Much like his distinguished counterpart, Steven Smith has taken to captaincy like a fish to water. Some stern questions have been asked of his captaincy, but his batting has seen no downward trajectory since 2015. The most important player for Australia can win games through his batting performances. More markedly, he seems able to bring the best out of the young team he has at his disposal. The players all look up to Steve Smith and David Warner and this only bodes well for the future. His captaincy has also seen great improvements in the last year and this will be put to the test severely on Thursday. While this test may be a step too far for his young side, Steven Smith’s boys can show the world that Australia are on their way to becoming the premier force in test cricket again.
Let’s not lie here, Australia face a huge task just for one victory this tour. The world seems to be against them, but that is often when teams perform their best.
Never has a final been so eagerly anticipated but we shouldn’t be surprised as to why that is
The world number 9 versus the world number 17. A player who hasn’t reached a Grand Slam final in three years versus a player who hasn’t won a title in over a year. The previous two sentences hardly seem exciting for fans as they build up for the Australian Open final on Sunday. Yet, billions of people will be watching the proceedings at the Rod Laver Arena. Like the legend the court is named after, two other icons of the sport will be taking centre stage. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will battle for the 35th time against each other amidst history yet again. Even if fans will be divided as to who they want to win, we cannot deny that tennis is the real winner.
Tennis has missed them
It has been well documented that over the last year, both Roger and Rafa have had their difficulties with injuries. Six months off for Roger and the two months for Rafa made people wonder whether these players had reached the end. Furthermore, amongst the tennis faithful, the end of the year seemed less entertaining and joyful. Even if the battle between Sir Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic for the number 1 ranking reached the final match, the absence of Roger and Rafa was noticeable. That is the power of these two heroes and one wonders what will happen to tennis when they finally hang up their racquets. Two weeks ago, once the Australian Open began, the hype and excitement started to build and Rafa’s opening performance was stunning. This was followed by a masterclass by Federer in the third round and since then, the two leading Grand Slam winners have not looked back. Five set thrillers and genuine world class performances have rolled back the years. People have started to remember the heady days of 2006-2008, where Roger and Rafa played almost every Grand Slam final and played only finals. Their presence brings about a certain magnetism that cannot be expressed in words. The appreciation from the crowds and even in practice, these two cannot escape the attention. It would be an understatement to say that these two are probably the most loved players in tennis history. Thank you for coming back Roger and Rafa, you have reignited the sport yet again.
The contrasting styles make for a fascinating spectacle
Defence against offence, left hander against right hander and power against grace. If this doesn’t tingle the butterflies in your stomach, then I don’t know what will. After winning his quarter final match, Rafa was asked whether he would watch the semi final between Roger and Stan. “If you don’t watch their match, you are not a fan of this sport.” Well Rafa, many people will be saying that about his 9th Grand Slam final with Roger. However, the head to head between these two isn’t all that close, with Rafa dominantly ahead 23-11. Too many times we have seen the wicked forehand of the Spaniard placed right at the toes of the Federer backhand. The Djokovic-Federer matchup or the Djokovic-Nadal story seems to be closer. But, unlike the brilliant Serb, Roger and Rafa are so universally loved. They seem to bring out the best in each other and that was nowhere better seen than the magical 2008 Wimbledon final. The 4 hour 48 minutes match ended in darkness, but lightened every single crowd member knowing that they had watched the greatest match in the history of the game. While they have maybe never hit those heights together again, both Roger and Rafa gained even more fans and love. We do not expect that level of tennis on Sunday because of their age and condition (coming back from injuries). Then again, they have proved us wrong before.
They actually really like each other
Back in the early 1980’s, tennis had a similar generation of all time greats playing at the same time. Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl all plied their trade during that period to great success and every fan enjoyed those moments. But, it would be fair to say that they all were not best friends. Apart from John and Bjorn, the rest of matchups involved heated exchanges and general animosity during their careers. However, with Roger and Rafa, there has hardly been a moment of hatred. Even in losses, they would talk in glowing terms about the other player. For many people, this is the first time that they have seen two players at the peak of their powers actually appreciate each other’s existence. They both realise that they make each other better and have been brilliant for the sport. Like the amazing 1980 Wimbledon final between McEnroe and Borg, the 2008 final has joined Roger and Rafa for the rest of their lives. People today still talk about that match and it will be recognised in future generations as one of those “where were you” moments. In the last 6 months, Roger helped Rafa open up his tennis academy and that speaks volumes for the friendship they have. We may not see the highest quality match between these two on Sunday, but we will witness an atmosphere like no other.
Andy Roddick has described this match as “the most important in tennis history”, he may not be wrong there. But for a lot of us, Roger and Rafa have taken us back many years to their glory days and we now realise that we are amidst greatness. Regardless of what happens, these two will “meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters the same”.
While tennis has enthralled millions of fans all around the world, the consistency of the “Big 4” has been so extreme that it’s almost taken for granted. Every tournament we enter, we ask almost similar questions. “Will they break record x, get achievement y” is something that is always talked about. In other sports, even if that consistency is shown, there are always new players taking the world by storm. Think Marcus Rashford in football last year. Yet in tennis, fans are still waiting for those stars. As we enter a new year dominated by headlines of a Murray era, could this actually be the beginning of the changing of the guard?
Can Raonic break the door?
If there is one player who is giving hope to the rest of the field, it is “The Missile”. The 6 foot 5 Canadian has developed more than just a monster serve over the past few years and his ranking proves the talent. As World No.3, the expectations will be higher than ever and the pressure will be increasing as time goes on. But, looking at the types of decisions he has made over the years shows a very level headed character whose only desire is to become the best tennis player he can. Whether that be the appointment of different coaches or attitude on court, he always seems to make the right decision for him at the time. Whisper it quietly, Milos is reminiscent of the great Pete Sampras in terms of his demeanour on court. Even without him saying much, his desire and passion is clear for everybody to see. The real question now is, can he make the breakthrough at a Grand Slam? The obvious signs are that he will win in time but how long before it is too late. We have seen many players like this in the past. David Ferrer, Jo Tsonga and Richard Gasquet have all been touted to be the next star. For some reason, that prediction never came to fruition and one wonders whether the same will happen to Raonic. However, a Wimbledon final appearance and an astonishing effort at the ATP World Tour Finals last year has given people real hope. While he may not breakthrough at Melbourne Park, don’t put it past him to start his tally of majors this year. Watch out Wimbledon 2017, just a thought.
Zverev will be World Number One Soon
The above statement may raise an eyebrow to some, but to others this may be a minimum expectation. That’s right, Alexander is that special. The 19 year old is the youngest player in the Top 50 and is rising up the rankings at an astronomical rate. Big victories against Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have only enhanced his stature and we should expect more victories of this nature. Furthermore, the pressure that is surrounding the German does not seem to bother him one bit. In fact, like all great champions before him, he is embracing the challenge. Even if his seeding makes it seem the fourth round unlikely, Zverev can make the impossible seem like child’s play. His recent Hopman Cup victory over the Swiss maestro Federer was a real indication of how brilliant his game is. Even if the meaning of the match may have been minimal, it is great to see a youngster take his opportunity against such a legend. To not get overawed by the player on the other side of the net is something he will use to his advantage over his career. The rest of the draw better take notice, because Alexander could go very deep in Melbourne. He has the ability to become the youngest Grand Slam champion since Rafael Nadal and this will happen sooner rather than later.
Is Dimitrov finally ready?
Ever since stepping on tour, Grigor Dimitrov has been regarded as one of the best talents in the game. The similarities with Roger are striking but now, he has moved on from that and to call him a mimic of the great man would do him a disservice. 2014 has been his best year on tour so far, highlighted by a Wimbledon semi-final where he pushed Novak to 5 gruelling sets. People, including myself, expected him to kick on and go from strength to strength. However, for some inexplicable reason, he has tapered off in a fashion that no one expected. So, why are we asking if he is ready now or not? Grigor just won the Brisbane title again to start the year and for the first time in a while, he will not be one of the main names talked about to breakthrough. The underdog story appeals to many people and has made athletes achieve things people never thought they could. The same could happen with the Bulgarian and boy do we hope it does. One of the most exciting players to watch when he is in full flow, Grigor has the ability to beat anyone and regardless of the stage. The question is simply whether his mind will function clearly when the pressure is at its peak. We will wait and see.
While all these signs look extremely promising, there is one thing the “Big 4” and Stan Wawrinka have that no one else has. The confidence to know that they have got the job done before. The belief that when it comes to the biggest stage, they can deliver their best tennis. However, there has to be a beginning for everything. Maybe this is the year we see a new group of stars to dominate. Whatever happens, the year will be fascinating to watch and billions of people are waiting eagerly for Monday.
The departure of him as captain shocked the world, but in a way, it was so typical of Captain Cool
For the last few years, his position had been questioned. Losses in key stages of tournaments lead to more questions being asked of his ability to lead India successfully. But, among the ardent fans, there was still a sense of him being the main man. The skill with which he finished many a game, the wicketkeeping talent he evidently possessed and the cool leadership he showed were all signs that MS Dhoni should still be captain. However, over the last few months, with Virat Kohli’s increasing success with the test side, the speculation heightened. Today, even if people expected it sooner rather than later, MS Dhoni shocked us all by stepping down. Rather than question the decision and look at whether he is failing to deliver at the moment, let us take a moment to appreciate the brilliant moments he has given every Indian over the past decade.
His batting never saw a letdown
Historically, captaincy has burdened many a player to be able to perform their primary skill effectively. Even if Virat Kohli, Steven Smith & Kane Williamson are proving otherwise, the pressures of being captain has taken its toll. The greats Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid fell victim to this and there will be many more a player to have this experience. However, MS was probably one of the first players who became even better after becoming leader. He took the responsibility for his team and gave match winning performances for his country. Indian fans across the world can reel off moments that Dhoni has saved the team from defeat and given victory. His ODI average simply shows the excellence with which he performed on a regular basis. Even his wicketkeeping went from strength to strength and is arguably better now that it ever was before.
Ice cool demeanour helped his teams
The image he portrays on the field is really how MS Dhoni is in real life. Throughout his career, he has faced criticism from various people. The media, ex players and even the general public have not let Dhoni evade from their wrath. But, like the champion he is, he actually embraced the challenges put in front of him and delivered day in day out on the cricket field. Even in the most high pressure of situations, it always seems that he has the answer. Be it him chasing 100 in the last 10 overs, or defending 40 in 10 overs. He always knew what to do. Furthermore, if his plans didn’t work, he had plan B and also the ability to think outside the box. Awkward field placing and unusual batting stances have all been done by Captain Cool. And, the impact was so brilliant that he is the only captain to win all ICC tournaments.
Bold decisions were never far away
When becoming captain, it is inevitable that you will have to make difficult decisions. Dropping players, asking players to do unusual jobs and deal with the media’s scrutiny. However, many people would fear making those decisions because of the image you would have. But, MS Dhoni never cared about image and his own personal records. He always thought about the benefit of the team and for the benefit of Indian cricket. The most classic example would be the World Cup final in 2011. Despite having a lacklustre tournament, he backed himself to go up to bat at No 4, and boy did it pay dividends. A magnificent 91* gave India victory at home and like so many occasions, he was the reason India has been so successful for the past decade.
Thankfully, we will still see the legend play in Indian colours. But, on behalf of every Indian, thank you MS Dhoni, you have been an inspiration for billions.
The historic achievements of the American cannot be undermined, especially after all that he has gone through
When the lifetime achievement award was announced at SPOTY last night, there was a palpable sense of awe and admiration amongst the crowd in Birmingham. The towering figure, standing at 1.93m, walked up to the stage from the first row to receive his award. It almost seemed as if Michael Phelps was holding back the tears again, just like he did in Rio this summer. Still, the trophy and recognition given to the American is not enough. After all, like his coach Bob Bowman said, this is an athlete that will come along every 10 generations, not every 10 years.
Four years ago, it would have been inconceivable that Michael would have got the respect and adulation he receives today. Yes, he was the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time with 18 gold medals. But, the way he exited the sport he had graced for so many years left people wondering. “He doesn’t seem happy” was the talk amongst journalists and by his own admission, he wanted “nothing to do with the sport”. After his exploits in Beijing 2008, he stopped training and started living. Missing practices now became regular, where for a six year stretch before Beijing, the man did not missing a single day of training. Arguments with coach and father figure Bob became more intense and his lack of motivation was clear. How he won four gold medals in London is beyond belief. That just highlighted the talent of The Baltimore Bullet. However, champions of this kind should not exit in that manner. He finished on top in 2012, but he knew there was something more to give.
After his first retirement, he finally had time to do things he wanted to do. Travel the world, play golf and hang out with friends. All those moments he missed as a young man while chasing his Olympic dream were now a thing of the past. But since the age of 11, Michael only knew the dimensions of the pool. He was shielded against the wider scope and challenges that life can offer. Moments of boredom and laziness led him to comeback in 2014. While this was met with appreciation from the whole world, one important person did not want this to happen. The most important person. Bob Bowman did not want to go through the trauma he had with Michael during the build up to London. More significantly, it seems as if he wanted Phelps to change as a human being. The way this happened was probably not what he wanted, but it certainly made a difference.
A second DUI (driving under the influence) offence in 10 years led Michael to the darkest moment in his life. He locked himself for five days and to the people close around him, it felt like it could be the end. For an athlete who had won more than any other, self confidence and esteem was shattered. Advice from fellow Baltimore icon Ray Lewis made Phelps seek help in rehab. The Meadows in Arizona was the location where Phelps would stay for a 45 day period. The text message to his mother before entering just highlighted the frail condition of this champion. “I am scared for the first time in my life”. Constant reminders on television of his suspension did not help the cause and in front of others there, the process was made more challenging. Somehow and from somewhere, he regained the courage and strength he has always had. He went back to North Baltimore Aquatic Club and Bob Bowman could see a marked difference.
The national championships in 2015 were a sign that Phelps found his mojo back. World leading times in the three individual events he would swim in Rio showed he still had it. To have that at the age of 30, similar to the age of 60 in golf, is quite frankly astonishing. Perhaps more importantly, he became a much more fulfilled human being. He felt and seemed happy with the way his life was. With so many athletes, if their personal life looks full of light, their sporting career goes from strength to strength. The Rio Games were billed as being the perfect swan song for Michael. Boy was it that. Even if the medal haul was smaller than Beijing, some of the performances were arguably the best of his career. His leg in the 4×100 freestyle relay “ate the other competitors alive” and the 200m individual medley win gave him his fourth straight gold medal in that event. Words are not enough to describe this man’s achievements.
As 2016 comes to a close, we hope that 2017 can give us more joyful moments in the world of sport. But, just as his coach said, it is unlikely we will ever see another Michael Phelps ever again.
The tennis year of 2016 started with a few questions, but leaves us with more for next year
The end of the tennis year last week at the Davis Cup brought an end to one of the most intriguing we have ever witnessed. It was really a year defined by four players, in terms of headlines and performance. If ever domination was too weak a word, that would be the case to describe Novak Djokovic’s level of play in the first half of the year. Serene and scarily stunning would be a better description. Other players showed good form and in Andy Murray’s case, even challenged the Serb to great lengths. But the world’s best player (at the time) was too strong to be beaten. This culminated in arguably the greatest achievement in 47 years. To hold all 4 possible Grand Slam titles at the same time. Could Djokovic make history by becoming the first man to achieve the “Golden Slam” (all 4 Grand Slams and the Olympics Gold Medal in the same calendar year)?
As soon as those predictions were beginning to enter people’s minds, Djokovic crashed out in the third round of Wimbledon at the hands of Sam Querrey. How could Novak lose? Why did he lose? All these questions were asked in the press conference. Djokovic did not elaborate much, giving praise to the American giant. But, it was clear that “personal issues” were rife in his life and were to blame for his loss. Since that Saturday in July, the Serb has seemed subdued in his matches. Despite reaching the US Open final, where he was stunned by an inspired Stan Wawrinka, inconsistency creeped into the “well oiled machine” of Novak. Still he couldn’t lose the number one ranking, could he? As he lost more, Andy Murray won more and reached the pinnacle of the game (but more on that later). The final individual men’s match of the year pitted the world’s best two players against each other. As much as people are proud of Murray for the win, Novak will know the match was decided by his poor play. All the expectation was for the year to be the crowing jewel of his career. It has rather become a year that people see as a disappointment for the 12 time Grand Slam winner.
Just this week, Novak announced that he had split with “super coach” Boris Becker after a very successful three years. There can be no doubt about the success. To turn an athlete from losing 5 out of 6 Grand Slam finals between 2012 to 2014, to an athlete who won 4 Grand Slams in a row takes a special effort. But as so often in sport, the midas touch became less effective towards the end. During the ATP World Tour Finals, several incidents of a fractious Djokovic was on show. In the press room and even in matches, where he attempted to hit a ball towards his camp. The more we speculate, the more it will hurt Djokovic. However public this fine athlete may be, his private life is private. More importantly, rather than criticise, we should appreciate just how stunning his achievements in the last few years have been. To dominate the most special generation of players for a couple of years has been nothing short of spectacular. But, is it over for the champion? Can he defeat the curse of turning 30? We shall find out starting in his favourite hunting ground, Melbourne Park.
Talking about 2016 without looking at Britain’s greatest ever sportsman (debatable, I know) would be a huge injustice. For the first half of the year, in spite of his best clay court season ever, it looked to be the same old story. He could beat the rest of the field, but not over the monstrous hurdle of Djokovic. The French Open final was a classic example of their rivalry. Murray seemed to have found the magic answer, playing flawless tennis for a set and a half. But, as Djokovic had done with so many opponents in the past few years, consistency and power reaped rewards. He rolled through the next few sets to win. Of course, the departure of Djokovic so early at Wimbledon will have helped Murray’s cause. But as the old saying goes, “you can only beat what is in front of you”. Boy did he do that. The one scare against Tsonga gave the audience the dose of drama required, otherwise, it was simply beautiful. For the first time, we saw a British sportsman win with ease, rather than grab victory from the jaws of defeat. From his third Grand Slam triumph, his year got better and better. He became a two time Olympic gold medallist with his breathtaking victory against Del Potro. The one aberration at the US Open was not enough to deter him off his path. His destiny became reality and is revenge sweet? A match to decide the number one ranking against your arch nemesis. Murray convincingly won and as Djokovic said, Murray was deserving of the ranking. Could this be the start of the Murray era?
Now, the two biggest icons in the sport have not been mentioned. Why? They were simply not able to have a significant impact due to injury and form. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal both struggled through the year with injury and in Nadal’s case, sometimes a lack of confidence. Is age starting to take its toll? Both are now over the age of 30 and in recent history, only Andre Agassi has been successful after that age. Mere mortals like me are nobody to write off champions like these, but it will be fascinating to see how these two shape up come the start of next year. Roger Federer will be seeded 16th or lower in the Australian Open, which means he is likely to play the best players in the world from round 4, rather than the semi finals. How will he adapt if he has to play Novak in round 4? Furthermore, he may even have to play on the outside courts in the initial courts due to his seeding. He stated that if he was playing on Court 25 or others like that, he would have quit a long time ago. Will next year be his last as a professional? Rafa’s case is somewhat different. Since the end of 2014, something has been lacking in his game. Again, injuries have played a part but his confidence, which was maybe the most formidable we have ever seen, has been waning. No one is sure of how Rafa will play next year, least of all himself. Can he show the world how great he is again?
It seems as if we end every year with the same question. Can anyone break the stranglehold of the Big 4? Of course, the Swiss Stan Wawrinka has proved us wrong on three occasions now. Who is to say he won’t win Wimbledon next year. But his inconsistency makes the Big 4 still the force in tennis. But two players seem as if they are closer than ever. The Canadian Milos Raonic made giant strides this year and his last match of the year just proves how close he is. To take Andy Murray to the brink of defeat shows how talented this young man is. Whether he will win a major is another question. His drive and commitment should see him go far in the game and all the signs are very positive. The other man is the much loved Juan Martín del Potro. Having comeback from another long layoff with injury, the Argentine looks rejuvenated. The emotional Olympic final brought tears to his face, but the year did not end in pain. A staggering win in the Davis Cup gave solace to the man everyone admires. Can he rekindle memories of his US Open triumph seven years ago?
As we head into 2017, many fascinating storylines are to be written. However, the most interesting one has to be Novak Djokovic. Can he defeat so called “father time” and become arguably the greatest player ever?
With yet another stellar achievement stamped on his CV, do we realise that we are watching a genius at work?
When Miami is mentioned, we think of the beautiful art buildings, the dazzling sunshine and the happening nightlife. When Miami is mentioned to Andy Murray, there is most probably one thing on his mind. Well, three things actually. Blood, sweat and tears. Hours of practice, endless fitness sessions and relentless effort are characteristic of Murray’s training block in the city. However, all this hard work is pointed towards one desire. To be able to compete at the pinnacle of the sport he loves. To win against some of the greatest champions tennis has ever seen. Throughout his career, Andy has been able to prove his critics wrong time and again. Winning the US Open when people questioned his ability in the biggest matches, ending 77 years of pain at Wimbledon a year later and winning the same title 3 years later to prove his majestic talent. Now, with him achieving the No.1 ranking, should we not feel privileged that we are watching possibly the greatest British athlete of all time?
Since his days in the juniors, Andy Murray was held in high regard and was expected to do big things once he turned professional. Winning the US Open juniors in 2004 did not help to lighten the burden of expectation. Furthermore, signs were rife at Wimbledon that this boy had something special. Standout performances in the 2005-06 Wimbledon Championships saw him reach the third and fourth round respectively. Cracking the world’s top 10 at the age of 20 underlined the huge potential. The next year, he reached the final that he wanted to, a Grand Slam final. However, a rejuvenated Roger Federer denied Murray the chance to make a meal of the match and handed him a clean thrashing. Still, he was only 21 and Britain was proud to have a young superstar in the form of the Scot.
You would have expected the public to endear themselves to a player of Andy’s potential. After all, British tennis have struggled to have players who could make a real mark on the game. Only Tim Henman before Andy was able to sustain a period of consistent brilliance, but that Grand Slam title remained elusive. Contrary to the expectation, the public began to have a divided opinion over Murray. Some people were staunch supporters, whereas others wanted to see success at the highest level before giving him some of their attention. Furthermore, the media did not help Murray’s cause to be loved. We all remember the infamous “Anyone but England ha-ha” quote given by Andy when asked who he will be supporting in the World Cup. But, no one realises the journalist asked Andy that question because he knew full well that Scotland had not qualified. There are still people who criticise Murray because of these comments. Criticise him if he is not trying hard enough, not if the journalist asks him a provocation question.
If his media image was patchy at best, his tennis popularity was also not what you would expect it to be. Despite solidifying his position in the Top 4, he was not able to get over the line against the other three in the most important matches. Everyone liked to throw the statistic that Murray had not won a set in his first three Grand Slam finals, being completely outplayed. However, these three players we are talking about are probably the greatest three to have a graced the court. For Murray to have consistently put up a challenge was admirable in itself. Yet for fans around the world, this was not enough. Could this perception of Andy in the public domain ever change?
If there ever was a chance to put the critics to bed, it was on the grandest stage in the sport. Sunday July 8 2012 was the date for the Wimbledon final. Across the net from Murray, his nemesis was ready and waiting. This match felt different from the start and Murray looked a different player than he had been in the past. Roger Federer looked uncomfortable and Andy took full advantage, winning the first set 6-4. Even the second set looked to be going Murray’s way. However, his failure to convert break points cost him dearly as Federer produced two points of genius to win the set and level the match. From then onwards, Federer began to show why the common consensus around the world is that he is the greatest tennis player of all time. He rolled through the next two sets to win the match and deny Murray again. In the on court presentation, Murray gained something he never had before. Rather than that being the gold Wimbledon trophy, he got the admiration of the crowd. The tears rolling from his face endeared him to an audience who had never seen this side of him. The crowd now knew that if they played their part, they could inspire Andy to get over the final hurdle for the first time.
Since that Sunday, it has looked like Murray has changed as a tennis player and more importantly, as a person. With the added confidence despite the toughest loss of his career, the results also showed an upward trend. An Olympic gold medal at SW19 and a US Open triumph capped off a stunning year for the Brit. The Wimbledon victory in 2013 is one of those iconic moments in history and everyone will remember where they were at that moment. A lean period for the next two years in terms of the trophy cabinet was not healed by persistent back problems. Once he became fully fit, he was able to challenge again. The Davis Cup triumph in Belgium at the end of last year was as described by Murray himself, “the most special moment of my career”. This has catapulted him to achieve the amazing things he has done this year. Furthermore, in all likelihood, this world No.1 ranking will not be the last star on his CV. He will continue to show Britain and the world how great he really is. Therefore, my pledge to fans is simple; admire and respect Murray, not ridicule for his past.