Could this be Andy Murray’s equivalent of Novak Djokovic’s Davis Cup moment? After leading Serbia to winning the Davis Cup at the end of 2010 in an emotional Belgrade, Djokovic went out over the next year to win three out of the four grand slams and become the world number one. Now Murray must hope that for him the Olympics in London have the same subsequent effect.
Djokovic had already of course won a grand slam title, but the Davis Cup final success gave him a new level of confidence and the result was that he then produced one of the most dominant seasons ever seen in tennis, including a first Wimbledon triumph. Olympic gold might just do likewise for Murray. He now knows that he can win on Centre Court. All he needs is for it to be completely different from the way it is during the Championships. The Olympic tournament for him really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that brought all his favourite aspects of tennis together.
The London 2012 tennis event had an atmosphere akin to night sessions at the US Open, which has always been Murray’s favourite grand slam. And, as part of Team GB, the support he got in the latter stages of the competition was like the patriotic partisanship of a home Davis Cup tie. Plus it was played at Wimbledon, his “home” slam. Night sessions at the US Open, Davis Cup and Wimbledon all combined into one, in other words. How often does that happen? Then there was the relaxation of the usual rules at the All England Club, with coloured clothing allowed on court. At the Championships next year it will be back to the “predominantly white” regulations.
For this one week, Murray thrived on the less formal attitudes at Wimbledon. He hugely appreciated the Olympic volunteers behind the scenes who were constantly encouraging him, unlike during the Wimbledon fortnight when All England Club employees remain very reserved and in his experience mostly leave the players to themselves.
It was Roger Federer who provided the best insights into Murray’s win. He said that he was always very interested in how sportsmen generally react to winning and losing, with the positive way Murray responded to being beaten by him in the Wimbledon final, a month earlier, impressing him immensely and being one of the keys to taking the gold medal now.
“Don’t forget that he is an amazing player already. I thought he played a very, very good Wimbledon Championships. So for me what I was happy to see is that he didn’t have a letdown, you know, after the Wimbledon final. It’ easy to come back, best-of-3, you know, go out third round maybe. You just feel more horrible.
“But he didn’t do that. He came, he won gold. I think this is how champions react. That’s more what I see, and not just actually him beating me and beating Novak back-to-back. We knew he could do that. He was a threat in a big way. And was anyway going to be at the US Open.”
Federer also picked up on some differences from the Wimbledon fortnight that aided Murray at the Olympics. Including joining with Laura Robson in the mixed doubles, which gave the Scot a useful distraction between singles contests. Rather than tiring him out, it assisted him in unwinding a little bit.
“The build-up I think was completely different. Not that I read the press here. But there’s so many things going on right now in the sporting world that obviously the focus wasn’t just alone on the tennis tournament and on Andy Murray. So maybe that helped him prepare. Maybe the mixed yesterday took his mind off it.”
And this was Federer’s verdict on the recent improvements in Murray’s performances: “It was obvious that Andy was going to become a better player over the years. Obviously, he learned how to play more aggressively. He’s more consistent. All these things are minor tweaks, but they make a big difference at the highest levels.”
However, Federer warned that Murray’s progress does not guarantee a win in a grand slam. The British may have a tennis gold from London 2012, but Federer intends to be in contention again at the US Open, along with Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. All of them hate to let too much time pass between the title triumphs they have got used to. The big four in men’s tennis now have a major victory apiece in 2012. Djokovic at the Australian Open, Nadal at Roland Garros, Federer at Wimbledon and Murray at the Olympics. There should be quite a decider as to who is currently the best, in New York. .