In between all this World Cup madness, probably the hottest ticket in town (in this country anyways) will be for Centre Court, Wimbledon on Monday 23rd June 2014 as Andy ‘Muzza’ Murray returns to the scene of his greatest triumph and the best thing is, its guaranteed play with the roof. It seems like an age since that balmy Sunday July afternoon when he bested Novak Djokovic in straight sets (though the match was most definitely NOT a straightforward affair). But what are his chances of a repeat performance this year???????
Well since his historic victory things have not gone as smooth as may have been envisaged. He followed up his win at SW19 (after a well earned break) with third round and quarter fimal defeats in the Rogers Cup and Cincinnati Masters in his preparation for his defence of his US Open title – http://www.biggishmouthblog.com/muzza/ – and potential back to back slam victories. Comfortable progress was brought to a shudderring halt with a comprehensive straight sets defeat in the quarter finals by Stanislas Wawrinka. Despite this disappointment he still managed a trip to Croatia to help secure a return to the World Group for the Great Britain mens team in the Davis Cup. However it was soon annouced that this was to be the end of Andy’s season as it was decided that he would undergo back surgery (for an ongoing problem which he had been playing through pain with – he had missed the French Open due to this) which would keep him off the court until the new year.
Murray returned at the Qatar Open in preparation for another assault on the Australian Open. However a second round defeat to Florian Mayer cut short the potential competitive match practice. In Melbourne he managed to reach the quarter final, where he lost to Roger Federer in four sets. What followed was an up and down period for Murray. As he had not played at the end of 2013, he did slip down the rankings and he only managed to reach one semi-final at that was at the Mexican Open on hard court where eventual champion Grigor Dimitrov beat him in a very close three set contest. After missing the French Open in 2013, Murray had a decent clay court season culminating in a semi-final appearance at Roland Garros where unfortunately for him he was up against Rafa Nadal in unbelieveable form and was defeated in straight sets only winning six games (though no one would have lived with the Spanish maestro on that day – imperious).
One thing to note is that Murray split (amicably) with his coach Ivan Lendl in March of this year. It was only during the latter stages of the French Open that it was announced Amelie Mauresmo was to join Team Murray with her first contact with the Scot being at the Aegon Championships at the Queen’s Club, London, a tournament Murray had won three times and which had been an important part of his preparation for Wimbledon for a number of years. A routine straight sets second round victory over Paul-Henri Mathieu followed. Next in line was the veteran Radek Stepanek. The first set went to a tie-break where Murray squandered a number of set points (four in a row at one point) – Stepanek took full advantage of the Briton’s lack of killer instinct, something that the double Grandslam champion has acknowledged and the fact he needs to be much more clinical when in a position of strength. The Czech player did this himself, sniffed blood and ran away with the second set condemning Murray to his first defeat on grass since he lost the 2012 Wimbledon final to Roger Federer (a run of 19 unbeaten matches on the green stuff ended).
So where does this leave Andy Murray. This early exit from his Wimbledon warm up is not the disaster that people may think it is. In 2012 he lost even earlier but still made it to the final at SW19. Obviously its a big disappointment to lose so early but a good run in Paris may have contributed to some fatigue and lets be honest Stepanek was a worthy winner and sometimes you just get beaten by the better man. More of a concern for me is the fact that Muzza has not actually won a tournament since his Wimbledon win, in fact he has not even contested a final which is unheard of for him in the last few years. The back surgery was obviously one reason but I’m sure he’d have thought at some point in 2014 he would contest a match for a title at some point pre Wimbledon. I would think his target for the rest of the season is to secure a tournament win and contest more finals especially in the two remaining Grandslams.
Maybe just maybe he will time it right and secure back to back Wimbledon triumphs, being seeded 3 is a massive bonus as is a favourable draw . He admitted himself that last years win was extremely overwhelming and maybe a return to the green grass of SW19 will be the catalyst to show off his best tennis since then once again. With a new coach in place and time being had to integrate and work on new ideas to move forward – on Sunday July 6th we may be hailing, KING MURRAY THE SECOND, the next couple of weeks will let us know – COME ON MUZZA.
Let me know what you think – you can also tweet me @biggishmouth or go to my facebook page at www.facebook.com/thebiggishmouth