By Jane Voigt
Let’s just state right up front that Andy Murray is the biggest story of the 2012 U. S. Open. Bar none. Hands down.
Murray actually should be knighted — Sir Andy Murray has a wonderful ring — given his years of gains, declines, and British media abuse for not winning, over and over of course, what the country wanted and evidently needed to restore their pride in a game they consider their own.
Additionally, Queen Elizabeth II should invite Sir Andy, Judy, his mom, and Kim Spears his girlfriend for a get-away weekend at one of the Queen’s private residences, Balmoral Castle. It is in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and fittingly would acknowledge Murray’s culture as the culture to have rightly restored balance to the game of tennis and to Great Britain.
If the Queen’s calendar is chuck full of royal duties, then she should give him the keys and let them hike, fly fish, or watch reruns of the match that will forever be considered the one that changed his career, or at least the way the world perceives it.
The agony and ecstasy of Andy Murray’s professional tennis career has been well documented.
Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption (PTI) once labeled him an athlete most in need of a big title.
Murray was the brunt of sarcastic humor from the English version of ESPN’s PTI after he lost to Novak Djokovic in the semifinal of the Australian Open this year. What happened they asked? Up 5-2 in the deciding fifth set Murray couldn’t convert and ease their pain, which Djokovic tried to accomplish in the final at the Open … come back and spoil the party for Murray and Great Britain. Nope, not this time.
This time Murray was poised. He was ready for all the stuff barked at him from the recesses of mind. People sitting in the first few rows Monday night caught wind of his foul language. That’s where he goes when agitated.
His on-court outbursts were worse. Before hiring Ivan Lendl in January, Murray traveled without a coach for a period. Then an entourage of hangers on grouped around the Scot. They placed him on a pedestal he couldn’t balance. They were ‘enablers,’ as psycho-pop chatter would say. His mother took on the role, too, struggling to find a happy medium of support without letting her emotions interfere. The result was an out-of-control Andy.
He scream obscenities at those unfortunate enough to be in his player box. One time he almost cried at them ‘you don’t love me anymore.’
But Lendl steadied Murray’s emotional outbursts. Lendl softened Murray’s stubborn streak; he wouldn’t accept alternative tactics or strategies if he disagreed. Lendl, though, fits Andy. Lendl’s path has now become Andy’s path. He, too, has finally won his first big shiny silver trophy on his fifth attempt … just like Ivan.
“Hopefully, we’re not anywhere near where Andy can get,” said Lendl, as reported on ESPN.com. “I didn’t come here to have a good time. I came here to help Andy win. He did; so it’s job done.”
But Lendl does have a good time alongside Murray. They delight themselves by pulling practical jokes. Who knew the scowling Czech coach was a prankster.
Lendl told ESPN.com that Murray’s loss to Djokovic in Melbourne was key to the Open win. “Because that was war just like tonight,” Lendl added. “It gave him belief that he can hang with these guys and it showed him what it would take to win.”
Bits of ‘what it would take to win’ appeared first at Wimbledon. Murray won the first set against Federer. It was the last set he won in the match, but his game showed bite. He consistently played aggressive tennis. He did not retrieve. He did not push back. He had arrived at his present form, yet couldn’t sustain it. He did come close though.
Then at the Olympics, Murray blasted through defeating Federer for a Gold Medal. The strength came, in part, by the defeat to Federer on the same Wimbledon lawns that had befuddled him for years and now awarded him.
Murray was the man and projected odds-on favorite to win the Open, in some minds anyway.
Since the 2004 French Open only one player in 30 finals outside the big three — Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal — had won a major. That was Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 Open.
Question is … will three become four? Will Andy be considered part of the top echelon — The Fantastic Four — or will he have to prove more?
One thing is assured, Andy Murray and Great Britain will be tied at the hip forevermore the way newly retired American Andy Roddick will be remembered as America’s guiding light in men’s tennis after he stepped in the shoes of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.
But to gain acceptance from the international tennis fans Murray must post another major win soon, like 2013. Otherwise he won’t be considered an authentic champion — although he is. Instead he will be labeled a strong contender. He could bust up the triumvirate; he has.
The record before the Open read like this, Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic have won 29 of the last 30 slams. Now it reads, 29 out of 31. For complete acceptance Murray should stop 29 from increasing.