February 15th, 2011
11:45 AM ET

Can Murray become a grand slam champion?

Andy Murray has lost in the final of three major tennis tournaments. (AFP/Getty Images)
Andy Murray has lost in the final of three major tennis tournaments. (AFP/Getty Images)

Some may describe him as sulky, some as dour. Both are sometimes right – but there’s a lot more to British tennis star Andy Murray than his on-court persona.

Not only is he said to be a popular member of the dressing room – and often seen to crack a smile or two - he’s also, as we saw recently at Melbourne Park, a really good player.

You might want to stop me there and question his performance in the final. It’s a valid point because Novak Djokovic was clearly the better player, and Murray simply didn’t challenge him after the first set. But it’s fair to say that the Serb was easily the best player of the entire tournament - look how he took out Roger Federer in the semis. It was impressive. Novak had what my mum calls a "purple patch" for two weeks, and he’s actually been highly impressive for several months!

It was Murray's third major final, and so far he hasn't won a set. Is that cause for concern? Not really. He's beaten all the big guys, won Masters events and is still only 23 years old. He's also developed physically far later than, say, someone like Rafael Nadal.

So time is on his side, and while he won’t win nearly as many majors as the Spanish world number one in the long-run, I am sure he will get on the board – and more than once.

Murray shares many of the same impressive qualities as Nadal. He is unbelievably fit, has an unquestioned desire to succeed, and many believe his service return is the best in the game. At 6ft 3in tall, his serve is getting more powerful ever year, and he has remarkable touch for such a big guy.

My only criticism of Murray is his tendency to sit back and defend rather than step up to the baseline and dictate play, something he has shown on numerous occasions that he can actually do very well. He tends to edge further and further back when he's nervous, and often gets away with it because he's so quick. He can run down shots all day long.

But in the really big matches - the 2008 U.S. Open final and the last two Australian Open finals - it hasn't worked. His opponents Federer and Djokovic did not allow him to step back and succeed. They are both able to find the angles and make the court bigger, which makes Murray’s job impossible over five sets.

It's obvious Murray has a great tennis brain. He can change things up when needed, but when nerves get in the way, as any athlete can attest to, it's easy to revert back to your comfort zone.

That’s why the Scot must now play more aggressively in every match, even when things aren’t going so well. He will take some more losses because of this.

But what's more important? Losing early in a smaller tournament, or giving himself a real chance of a place in the history books? Britain is crying out for a grand slam champion. Mark my words, Murray will soon end 34 years of hurt!

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Filed under:  Tennis
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Ade

    Simply put....NO

    February 15, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Reply
  2. sattller


    but anyone who has been through what andy has would understand that he is not only trying to be a winner and the challenges that go with it but also he is trying to cope with what happened in his past and that as anyone knows whose has had diifiiculties in their past will understand.

    February 15, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Reply
  3. Alex

    Uhhh....no. Killer instinct is either there or not.

    February 15, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Reply
  4. jennifer

    The sooner the better! Just do it

    February 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Reply
  5. Come on

    andy what been through? so those tennis players form emerging countries has been through 10 times what andy been through...

    as no funding no support for sport....

    February 15, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Reply
  6. rubex

    Murray and Djokovic are CLEARLY the next best players after Roger and Rafa HOWEVER those two are FAR from done. It might yet be anywhere from 2 to 5 years before R&R are history and by then Murray and Djoko will be considered veterans and also approaching the finality of their careers.

    Djokovic had a great AO and played brilliantly but he was gifted both the semi and the final by opponents under par. I was at both matches and Rog and Andy were well below their best. Had either one of them one a set, it could well have been a very different story not to mention Rafa's catastrophic luck.

    It was a wierd tournament and we shouldnt read too much into it. Changing of the guard? not quite yet. One thing is certain, this season will be historic. Either Rafa will close in on Roger, Roger will break away, or a new number one may even be crowned...

    P.s – Raonic – watch this space....

    February 15, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Reply
  7. Sachiko

    Hi Candy. Every player has his/her inherent favorite style, and Murray looks most comfortable and natural to be defensive. I like his style of play very much, therefore, though as many say he needs some extra aggressive tactics, basically I want him to cherish his innate talent and skill. Main factor of Murray meltdown at slam may be rather psychological... It would be tough but challenging for him to throw off skepticism after rash of disappointment in slam final, I believe he can do it. The player from country which has so glorious heritage of tennis becoming a slam champion after more than 70 years drought is a great hope not only for British people but also for whole tennis world.

    February 15, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Reply
  8. HarveyfromtheStates

    Although al the points made are accurate and often stated, there is one more that I have not seen made. It is certainly the case that Murray has the ability, the fitness, and the will. However, in a relatively neutral situation in a rally his standard weight of shot is often insufficient to keep the opponenet at bay. To this lifelonbg observer of the sport, the main advantage that Djokovic had in the
    Australian Open final was the weight of shot in neutral situations.

    February 15, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  9. claudia celestial girl

    come on – Come on! didn't you know that Andy was present at the school, as a boy, in Dunblane where several school children were shot and killed by a gun man? It's true that violence is part of many people's upbringing in emerging countries (well and including the US, where the Williams' sister's grew up, and where their sister was murdered). But very few people experience the toll of personal tragedy, the survivor's guilt, and other issues that go with such an experience. The Williams sisters have been very vocal about the fact that when their sister was murdered, both of them suffered the shock, and Serena went into a tail spin from which she only started to emerge in 2007. Even players like Rafa, who's parent's divorce affected his play for the better part of a year (coupled with a serious injury – but many observers count his struggle with the parent's divorce equally), will demonstrate the emotional side effects of trauma.

    that being said – I'm not contending that Murray's childhood is at the forefront of his struggle to become a grand slam champion. I'm just saying - come on, now! sattller (above) has a legitimate point.

    February 15, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Reply
  10. Agustin Diaz

    At the top level, differences in the game are so hard to see. I think in the end it`s a matter of mental strength. Check the record of Federer after winning 2 sets, he has never lost a game when this happens. Or Rafa struggling with personal issues, same for Djokovic.

    February 15, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Reply
  11. John Murphy

    Was it not Andre Agassi who said early on in his career that "I am never going to a world champion if I don't go out and attack, I will probably lose games I could have won but I will develop better and hopefully win them later on"

    I am writing from memory, hope I am not too far wrong.


    February 15, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Reply
  12. Horllaitan

    congrats!all the very best.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Reply
  13. Kenwin DeSmith III

    Andy will go far, and when I've seen him off the court he's been an excellent guy with a great sense of humor.
    Come on wee laddy!

    February 15, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Reply
  14. Bobby

    The reality is, at this level of tennis the task is hugely mental. In slams Murray has yet to show he has the head for it. He seems to play better outside the slams when you could argue there is less pressure and hopefully this will change.

    Regarding his game style and strokes. At the grassroots level he is a counterpuncher who is much more comfortable defending than playing attacking tennis. As you say, when the pressure is high, players revert to type – and that will hinder him. Changing your mentality is harder than changing any other aspect of your game and Murray will need to put some significant effort – mixing things up for a year or so and taking the losses which will come with it – in order to climb that hurdle.

    Regarding his serve. The saying "you're only as good as your second serve" is no truer than for Murray. A great first serve doesn't matter when your second serve is as fallible as Murray. He consistently gets schooled by the better returners there and, on days when he's not getting enough 1st serves in his game seems to fall apart more than any of his close peers. He needs to fix that in order to be challenging for slams.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Reply
  15. Don Heath

    Whatever the sport, the game between your ears is usually the hardest to win. If he can get his inner problems worked out in the next two years, he may become a monster, Otherwise, he becomes another could have been.

    February 16, 2011 at 1:22 am | Reply
  16. sharon

    Bwah Agustin Diaz. Where do you get your stats from? The FedKAD manual? Federer has one of the worst 5-set records on tour. He's somewhere down around 97th place (Rafa is first, Djoko is second). Of course if you're talking about 3-set matches, you're correct because if he's won two sets he's won the match.

    February 16, 2011 at 10:12 am | Reply
  17. Eric

    Of course he could.There is just such a strong field of players to compete against.
    I do think nerves take over. To be the greatest he has to combat that if he can.

    February 16, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  18. Al

    Hi Candy – interesting point about Murray being too defensive. I think you are right! He makes finals becuse his opponents make more mistakes because the pressure he puts them under but that doesn't take him past the final. Nadal, Federer and Djovoich (when he fancies it) are just too good.
    I would like to see Murray being more aggressive. Let's hope he gets the right support and buys intothat approach, because He has great talent and really could deliver if he could raise his game just a little bit more!

    February 16, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Reply
  19. Dick

    He'll never win a Major. He's a choker and a whiner, but he doesn't have the killer instinct like Fed or Rafa.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:48 am | Reply
  20. Margaret Rayner

    I don't agree totally with Candy re Andy Murray. We so want a British player to step forward, he is our only candidate but I think there are a lot of questions re his game. Mentally he is not sound on the big occasions, he is not able to change his game. He is prone to injury – wrist again pulling out of Dubai and also having his mother around all the time is not in his favour as Becker has said and others; also I think he is too pig-headed and not prepared to listen to others, hence no proper coach. He needs to speak to a psychologist.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:40 am | Reply
  21. jrocean

    My take on this is simple: NO, he will not.He just does not get it together in really REALLY big matches.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Reply
  22. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Young Andy Murray is gathering experience. He should be able to stand on the Grand Slam winner's podium soon. Best wishes

    February 19, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  23. jorgen friis

    Andy Murray is still young and growing. I am sure at one point he will win one. But he is inconsistent, mentally fragile and also seem to have some health problems. Fact he can run down balls is fine and dandy but may cost him,eventually, as we have seen with Rafa, Hewit and others whos playing style is hustling & bustling around the court thus putting an enormous amount of pressure on legs (knees) hence, if he wont or cant change his playing style he may run into same problems later. Add to his mental pressure is the English media's repeated demands for a British champion. If they really wish to see Andy as a champion they should support him by avoiding building him up. Remember the taller they are the harder they fall

    February 20, 2011 at 6:24 am | Reply
  24. alehandro

    Andy Murray's biggest obstacle to winning a slam is Andy Murray. He appears to lack confidence in his own ability to win when the stakes are highest with the result that's it's a self fulfilling prophecy. So unless he gets it right between the ears he'll continue to be a talented tennis player with little to show for it..

    February 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Reply
  25. Wanrahbok

    It will a take a few more year for Murry to lift the Grand Slam Tittle...physically..emotionally..he is not fit..compared with Fed-Ex,Djokovic and Nadal..sorry bro(Murray),You still need to work hard so that you can achieve your dream:-).

    March 8, 2011 at 3:38 am | Reply
  26. Mayra

    Murray needs a real coach, attitude and mental change! I am tired of hearing how he is a favorite and he never delivers!!!

    March 13, 2011 at 2:22 am | Reply
  27. chinedu

    murray can win

    April 9, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Reply
  28. chinedu

    murray can win dats it

    April 9, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Reply
  29. David

    Its so easy to be critical. He is, as the article says, only 23. I believe after his first slam( at the US Open) the rest will follow.

    April 14, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Reply

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