Andy Murray’s third-round defeat by Jeremy Chardy in Cincinnati this week will have led plenty of people to question whether the new Olympic champion is likely to be a contender at the US Open, which begins a week on Monday. Murray would undoubtedly have liked to have done a little better in Cincinnati, where he has played well over the years, but he said he was not worried about his form going into New York.
And nor should he be. Over the past couple of years, Murray has made it clear he is trying to peak at grand slams, or the biggest events (including the Olympics). He lost his first match at Queen’s Club this year and then went on to reach the final at Wimbledon and of course won gold at the Olympics a few weeks after. He won Cincinnati last year and made the semis at the US Open but found Rafael Nadal too hot to handle and in other years, he has won tournaments before grand slams but failed to produce his best; in others, he has won it and gone on to do well.
In short, at least where the top players are concerned, so long as they have a good bulk of matches under their belt and feel good about their game, it doesn’t really matter whether they have actually won the last tournament leading into the slam or not: the best-of-five-set format at the slams plays into their hands. No matter what Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Murray do in the build-up, beating them over five sets is another matter altogether.
Though Nadal won the Rome Masters just before the French Open, Federer didn’t win Halle (before winning Wimbledon), Djokovic played the Hopman Cup exhibition event before taking a third Australian Open title and going further back, he didn’t win in Cincinnati before taking the US Open last summer.
In the men’s game especially, it is all about confidence, fitness and feeling strong. Murray played superbly at Wimbledon and the confidence he got from winning the Olympics will be a massive boost. He will head to New York earlier than expected and be raring to go come August 27. The same goes for Federer and Djokovic, whoever wins Cincinnati this weekend. Their eyes are now on one prize and one prize alone.