January 31, 2011
Those who are sanguine about the future prospects of Andy Murray winning a Grand Slam are fond of invoking the name of eight-time major champion Ivan Lendl. The great Czech, they say, also lost his first three Grand Slam finals (he actually lost his first four) and it didn't seem to hurt his career.
It's true. It's also true that Lendl won his first Slam after going down two sets to John McEnroe at the 1984 French Open. He also won a set in those first three losses, unlike the Scotsman. While I think Murray will get his Slam eventually, I also believe that all the building pressure on him will make it all but impossible for him to come back in a major final like Lendl did 27 years ago. You saw how Murray collapsed after getting broken once in the first set. In order to win, he'll need to gain confidence early, not summon it late.
I mention this because, for as gloomy as I am about Murray's future today, the British press makes me look like downright bubbly.
Jonathan Liew, The Telegraph:
And yet life is full of these things that promise greatness and bring only disappointment. The British summer. Crab claws. Those stomach-crunching machines they advertise on ITV2 at four in the morning. Any new Woody Allen film. Sticky spare ribs that yield about half a teaspoon of meat but will happily ruin an entire outfit. But only with Andy Murray, to garble that old African proverb, is disappointment utterly guaranteed.
Jonathan Overend, BBC:
With Murray we expect the best, we expect him to win one, only to find ourselves underwhelmed when he doesn't. Maybe next time we should all go in with zero expectations.
Martin Kelner, The Guardian:
If you are reading this in your paper this morning, sir, I am afraid I have to tell you that Murray lost. Actually, even half-cut it would not have been difficult to see which way the match was going. I refer, of course, to Murray's famous body language, which has made Desmond Morrises of us all.
My team of analysts have calculated that we get roughly 27 minutes into a Murray match before the question of body language is raised. I knew the Scot was in with a good chance against David Ferrer in the semi-final because we were nearly three-quarters of an hour in before the BBC commentator Andrew Cotter mentioned the BL issue. "Sometimes he has the body language of a man who's two sets down and two breaks down," said Cotter, when Murray indulged in some characteristic self-excoriation when one of his shots caught the top of the net in the first set.
Neil McLeman, Scottish Daily Record:
It was, quite simply, a case of freezing on the big stage. It is clear he has areas to address - but it will be a pointless exercise unless he is receiving the best advice.
Dan Jones, London Evening Standard:
His fans will bear all the grumpiness in the hope that maybe he's getting closer to his goal. But unless something fundamental alters inside him, that may not be enough. Whence he will get a lease of self-belief only he and his small team can judge.
However, until he does, he is likely to be condemned to disappointment and failure for years to come.
Murray shed no tears after defeat to Djokovic. He wept last year and it was valiant. To weep this year would have been a disgrace. This was Murray's worst performance of his three Grand Slam finals. He didn't earn the sobbers' prerogative.
It must also have been hard to blub when he had been there before. Among all the anger and disappointment, perhaps there is a bit of him that is simply going numb.