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Murray Mint or Murray Mince?

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Murray Mint or Murray Mince? Empty Murray Mint or Murray Mince?

Post by Ozzy3213 Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:33 pm

On 17th August 2009, shortly after losing the Wimbledon semi-final against Andy Roddick, Andy Murray was sat at number 2 in the ATP world rankings. In the 29 months since that date he has reached one French Open, and two Wimbledon semi-finals, along with two Australian Open Finals, yet he has failed to win a Grand Slam tournament or reach the coveted number 1 ranking spot.

The opportunities have been there for Murray, most notably this week, in the Australian Open semi-final against World Number One Novak Djokovic. With the game into a fifth set, and Djokovic serving with the score at 5-5, Murray edged himself into a 15-40 lead, giving himself two break points for the chance to serve for the match. His Serbian opponent had other ideas, winning 4 straight points on his own serve, to go 6-5 ahead, before breaking Murray's serve in the next game to win the match and progress to the final.

Now, it is no shame to lose any match against Djokovic, nor Murray's other regular opponents for Grand Slam titles, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. They are after all three of the greatest tennis players of all time. There does however come a point where the question has to be asked, why Andy Murray can not beat these guys on the biggest stages of all.

It is surely not a question of ability. In terms of the physical skills required to win tennis matches, at any level, Murray has them all. A dynamic counter puncher with excellent groundstrokes, he also has an excellent first serve, along with being a fantastic service returner, which makes it all the more surprising that he has never won either the Australian or US Open, tournaments where his skill set should be most effective, courtesy of them being played on hard courts.

Therefore, if it is not a physical thing, that can surely leave only one answer, that it is mental, and Murray has a block that causes him to freeze when on the brink of beating one of his nemesis on the biggest stage. In non Grand Slam events, Murray has bested all three of his toughest opponents, including in finals, which shows that he can do it, so what prevents him from performing on the biggest stages of all.

Perhaps there is an over emphasis on the value of the Grand Slam events by the public, and this weighs heavily on his shoulders, given that he is seen by many as the man most likely to become Britain’s first Grand Slam singles event winner since Fred Perry in 1936, some seventy-six years ago. That is a lot of pressure, and it is fair to say that Murray's predecessor as the great British hope, Tim Henman, also appeared to struggle with the weight of expectation placed upon him, in particular on home soil at Wimbledon.

The fact that Murray, in three Grand Slam final attempts, has failed to take a single set against players that he has beaten in other tournaments is a stark one. It does point to a mental fragility that he is unlikely to ever overcome, as he is now an experienced professional with a mind-set and mental attitude which is unlikely to be altered. But is that a fair assessment I ask myself? Remember, these opponents that we speak of are Federer, arguably the greatest player of all time, Nadal, a former world number one and multiple Grand Slam winner, and Djokovic, the current World Number One.

Could it be that rather than any mental block on the part of Murray, he is, despite his obvious talent, simply not as good as these opponents? For those who would argue that he has beaten them outside of the slams, I point you to the fact that Wimbledon beat Liverpool to win the 1988 FA Cup Final. The South London outfit were by no stretch of the imagination a better team than Liverpool, but they had a good 90 minutes, where their opponents were below par on the day. These things happen in sport, and so it may be the case with Murray and the three players above him in the rankings.

Perhaps the rankings are a true reflection of ability, and perhaps the best three players in the world simply do not function at 100% outside of Grand Slam events, and when they do, they are nigh on unbeatable save by one another. Perhaps on occasion, as Wimbledon did against Liverpool, Murray, and others may raise their performance level above its usual ceiling, and beat an opponent who is a better player.

I suppose the question about Murray's mental fortitude and temperament will always be there now, even if he does win a Grand Slam event, as once a label is attached to a sportsman, it is very hard to shake off, even when evidence suggests that it may be incorrect. For what it's worth, having looked into the playing history of the man in order to write this article, my own conclusion is that actually, he may just be unlucky. He is playing in an era where there are three all-time greats for him to contend with, along with numerous other very good players such as Ferrer, Tsonga and del Potro, and opportunities to win Grand Slams are limited. To win one it all has to come together for you at the right time, and with such competition, that will never be easy.

British when he is winning and Scottish to the masses when he loses, Murray will always divide opinion, but he is a talented tennis player, who is clearly working hard at his game. That being the case, this writer for one hopes that at either the 16th arrondissement of Paris, SW19 or ZIP code 98,609 later this year, Murray is being described by all as British, and hopefully laying any demons that he may have about Grand Slam events to rest.
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Post by erictheblueuk Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:47 pm

Blah, Blah, Blah he aint retired yet and he's still improving.
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Post by reckoner Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:49 pm

these are issues which have been argued ad infinitum...


Last edited by reckoner on Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:49 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : sp again doh)

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Post by newballs Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:58 pm

Andy's lost 6 x SFs with three fours setters and one five setter here.

Obviously in his 3 x finals he has to win a set.

Those stats would suggest he's still a fair way from winning a slam although there was no disgrace in losing this five set match to Djokovic. The biggest problem remains Djokovic himself. The guy is on fire and could possibly clean up this year with Nadal taking hgim on each time in the final.

That means he's going to have to beat both Rafa and Novak in all likelihood some time soon and that's a big ask of anyone.

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Post by carrieg4 Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:59 pm

newballs wrote:Andy's lost 6 x SFs with three fours setters and one five setter here.

Obviously in his 3 x finals he has to win a set.

Those stats would suggest he's still a fair way from winning a slam although there was no disgrace in losing this five set match to Djokovic. The biggest problem remains Djokovic himself. The guy is on fire and could possibly clean up this year with Nadal taking hgim on each time in the final.

That means he's going to have to beat both Rafa and Novak in all likelihood some time soon and that's a big ask of anyone.

He may or may not achieve it but I will enjoy watching. Here's to a great year of tennis Bubbly

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Post by Ozzy3213 Sun Jan 29, 2012 5:20 pm

erictheblueuk wrote:Blah, Blah, Blah he aint retired yet and he's still improving.

Thanks for the constructive input Wink
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Post by Henman Bill Sun Jan 29, 2012 6:47 pm

Must admit seeing a poster name I hadn't recognised swooping in with a jokey title after a Murray defeat, I expected a wum or hater article but actually a surprisingly excellent one which I agree with fully.

My only criticism might be that you are adding little to the debate, but you do provide a good summary of the current situation.

Yes either mental or bad luck or not as good a player - or a mix of these perhaps.

I still think Murray should bag 1 slam, profitting from 1 or more shock defeats of other players, or injuries, or playing an above average performace one time, or the top players having an off day against him.

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Post by Ozzy3213 Sun Jan 29, 2012 7:22 pm

Definitely not a WUM Henman Bill. In truth I don't post on the tennis board generally as it is not one of my most watched sports, but I do follow results closely and have strong opinions on various aspects of the sport.

As far as my contribution here goes, it was a little bit of a means to an end article. As you may or may not be aware the administration team are trying to expand the forum into more than just that with the advent of front loaded sports journal site http://www.v2journal.com/ where articles are put up with links to direct people to the forum to debate the articles.

Hopefully through this the forum can grow beyond it's current membership.

As regards Murray, and his standing, I can only echo what I said, and what you seem to agree with, he will need some external factors to fall his way if he is to ever achieve the dream of winning a Grand Slam title.

OK
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Post by break_in_the_fifth Sun Jan 29, 2012 7:26 pm

Depends on how far he can go with Lendl. If he can stay rooted to the baseline on all surfaces other than clay, then with his own consistency and attacking shots he may be able to get the better of the top 2 at some point.

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Post by Henman Bill Sun Jan 29, 2012 8:31 pm

he will need some external factors to fall his way if he is to ever achieve the dream of winning a Grand Slam title.
________________________

I almost agree with that, what you say is realistic, but there is still some chance, maybe smallish but certainly possible that,

---Murray plays at his absolute peak to topple two of the big three back to back even though they don't play badly

OR

---Murray actually improves his game significantly, maximised his peak and actually becomes as good or even better players than the others

Neither seems hugely likely at the moment, but they do also remain possible

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Post by Ozzy3213 Sun Jan 29, 2012 8:43 pm

Realistically, with the way seedings fall, he will need to beat 2 of Raf, Djoko and Fed to back to back to win a slam. As you say, he will need to either improve on his current peak or hope that they fall below theirs do so.

Thinking about it, either of those scenarios could happen in the next couple of years. Federer is 30 now and unlikely to get any better, and if anything his top performance level is likely to decline. Nadal, despite only being a year older than Murray appears to me to have hit a bit of plateau, so if Murray can improve his only levels of performance then he has a chance, although this does not take into account any other players who may well improve their performance levels as well, along with anyone who may suddenly burst onto the scene.
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Post by JAS Sun Jan 29, 2012 8:59 pm

Small point that seems to have been forgotten in an otherwise fairly well thought out analysis...Murray did beat Nadal in the semi at Flushing in 2008. He should have kicked on from that and to be fair, to a point he has...it's just that Djoko has kicked on harder.

Has there ever been a time in tennis when the world Number 4 had had 3 players above him with 30 slams between them.

I can see him continue to improve physically, Lendl to toughen/smarten him up mentally. As that happens Federer will get further into the autumn of his career, Nadal (although I would never wish it on him) will teeter on the brink of injury because of how hard he pushes his body. Djokovic? imperious at the moment but cleaning up the slams is historically very very difficult.

So...if Murray keeps progressing he WILL have opportunities to win slams. Bear in mind a certain former world number 1 with 8 slams lost the first 4 slam finals he made....and look where he is now!!

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Post by djlovesyou Sun Jan 29, 2012 9:21 pm

"British when he is winning and Scottish to the masses when he loses"

Doesn't happen at all. Sorry about that.

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Post by Danny_1982 Sun Jan 29, 2012 10:08 pm

Mats Wilander said the other day, in terms of tennis he's as good as the other 3... But he doesn't have the mental courage of the other 3 and isn't as strong physically as Djokovic. I agree with him on both counts.

He is extremely fit, but if he had taken one of those break points at 5-5 in the fifth, I don't think he could have competed like Djokovic did today...

The positive is that if those are the two things he needs to improve to win slams, then he has the perfect coach in place. Already so much has improved. I think the future is really bright for Murray.

Apart from 2 matches against Nadal, he had never played that well against the big boys at slams... Until Friday. If that's how he's going to play in these matches in the future then Murray fans have a lot to look forward to.

I'm still sure that he'll win at least 1, and maybe 3 or 4.

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Post by carrieg4 Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:09 am

Danny_1982 wrote:Mats Wilander said the other day, in terms of tennis he's as good as the other 3... But he doesn't have the mental courage of the other 3 and isn't as strong physically as Djokovic. I agree with him on both counts.

He is extremely fit, but if he had taken one of those break points at 5-5 in the fifth, I don't think he could have competed like Djokovic did today...

The positive is that if those are the two things he needs to improve to win slams, then he has the perfect coach in place. Already so much has improved. I think the future is really bright for Murray.

Apart from 2 matches against Nadal, he had never played that well against the big boys at slams... Until Friday. If that's how he's going to play in these matches in the future then Murray fans have a lot to look forward to.

I'm still sure that he'll win at least 1, and maybe 3 or 4.

I agree thumbsup

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Post by CaledonianCraig Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:24 am

An interesting enough topic but titled rather weirdly.

Murray Mint? Perhaps not as yet but there is time.

Murray Mince? Well if mince is used in the term it is understood in Scotland then no way. Multiple Masters Cup win, reaching No.2 in the world when a GOAT is present in tennis, multiple slam finals and slam semi-finals is already way beyond being mince.


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Post by legendkillar Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:42 am

Murray is a quality player. I think he has the weapons to be great. I wish he could apply weapons far more efficiently than he does. Get rid of the 'low risk' shackles and really go for his shots.

Achievement wise he is miles clear of Greg and Tim before him and in a supposed 'weak era' too.

It is frustrating for me to see him so high in the game and not get the Slams he so rightly deserves.

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Post by carrieg4 Mon Jan 30, 2012 6:11 pm

Murray positive for the future according to his AO blog - I really hope Lendl provides that last bit of confidence he needs

http://www.andymurray.com/#/home/news/post-oz-blog/

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Post by dummy_half Tue Jan 31, 2012 11:47 am

The thread title does highlight a tendency of British sports fans, to see our players / teams as either world beaters or absolute rubbish. This black and white distinction is clearly wrong, and Andy is a prime example of this - he is an extremely good player who has the misfortune to be playing at a time when there are three players around him who are just a little better and who stand in the way of him winning a slam title. Also, as both this loss to Djokovic (from break point up to lead 6-5 in the 5th) and Nadal at Wimbledon (dominating for a set and a half before one bad error and folding) show that the difference is fractional other than on clay (where Andy has improved, but where the SF is the limit of his realistic ambitions).

Now, it is a reasonable question to ask what the differences are: mental, physical, tactical, technical or just inate ability.
I don't think it's inate ability as a shotmaker, as Andy probably has the second broadest repertoire of shots in the game (behind Federer), and his good shots (backhand, cross court forehand, serve return) are serious weapons at world class level.

Technically, it would still be good to see improved placement and power on the second serve, and while the off forehand has improved in the last year or so, it is still not as effective as the top 3. So some scope for improvement in these aspects.

Tactically, there are signs of the changes many of us want to see - playing the ball earlier and closer to the baseline has got to be a good thing for Murray, as he doesn't have the sort of crushing power of a Del Potro or Soderling who can lash a winning forehand from 10 ft behind the court. Also, playing on the baseline allows Andy the opportunity to move into the front court and utilise his volleying and touch shots, where he has a clear advantage over Nadal and Djokovic - OK, he can't do this all the time because of the quality of his opponents passing shots, but it is something that he probably should be more willing to do, including occasional serve and volley points behind a good first serve.
Perhaps though, as with Federer, the repertoire of shots available to Andy may actually make him less effective, as he can choose the wrong shot - compared with Nadal in particular who has a relatively simple game plan but just executes it with great efficiency.

Physically, Andy is up there with the best in terms of court coverage, fitness and durability. It wasn't fitness that swung the Djokovic SF, although I'm not convinced Andy would have been able to then slog his guts out for nearly 6 hours against Rafa 48 hours later. I don't think though there are any significant gains for Andy to make just by working even harder on his fitness - technical and tactical changes are more likely to bring an improvement in results.

So that just leaves the mental side of things - Andy has beaten Rafa in 5 set matches, and I would fancy his chances agaisnt Federer on a hard court in anything other than a slam final. It will be interesting, following the hair's breadth loss to Djokovic last week, to see how Andy reacts - he played at a very good level in most of that match and showed great mental strength to turn the match from 5-2 down in the 5th to be a point away from leading 6-5 and with the opportunity to serve it out, but he still ultimately lost. Can he take that as a positive for his confidence that he can get so close to the current best player in the world, or will it be another scar to overcome, in that yet again he came up short in the big event (although nowhere near as short as he did in his slam finals)?

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Post by socal1976 Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:32 pm

Nice post Dummy well measured and informative. Andy certainly has a lot going for him at the moment. The biggest thing holding him back is that second serve. He won less than 30 percent of points on his second serve against Novak. But Novak is the best returner in the world bar none. Still 30 person on second serve is attrocious for any non-wta match. He has the ability, but there are a couple of technical holes in his game when compared to the other top 3 guys. One would be the second serve and the other would be that his forehand while looking like its getting better and better maybe a bit behind the other three.

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Post by carrieg4 Tue Jan 31, 2012 7:05 pm

dummy_half wrote:The thread title does highlight a tendency of British sports fans, to see our players / teams as either world beaters or absolute rubbish. This black and white distinction is clearly wrong, and Andy is a prime example of this - he is an extremely good player who has the misfortune to be playing at a time when there are three players around him who are just a little better and who stand in the way of him winning a slam title. Also, as both this loss to Djokovic (from break point up to lead 6-5 in the 5th) and Nadal at Wimbledon (dominating for a set and a half before one bad error and folding) show that the difference is fractional other than on clay (where Andy has improved, but where the SF is the limit of his realistic ambitions).

Now, it is a reasonable question to ask what the differences are: mental, physical, tactical, technical or just inate ability.
I don't think it's inate ability as a shotmaker, as Andy probably has the second broadest repertoire of shots in the game (behind Federer), and his good shots (backhand, cross court forehand, serve return) are serious weapons at world class level.

Technically, it would still be good to see improved placement and power on the second serve, and while the off forehand has improved in the last year or so, it is still not as effective as the top 3. So some scope for improvement in these aspects.

Tactically, there are signs of the changes many of us want to see - playing the ball earlier and closer to the baseline has got to be a good thing for Murray, as he doesn't have the sort of crushing power of a Del Potro or Soderling who can lash a winning forehand from 10 ft behind the court. Also, playing on the baseline allows Andy the opportunity to move into the front court and utilise his volleying and touch shots, where he has a clear advantage over Nadal and Djokovic - OK, he can't do this all the time because of the quality of his opponents passing shots, but it is something that he probably should be more willing to do, including occasional serve and volley points behind a good first serve.
Perhaps though, as with Federer, the repertoire of shots available to Andy may actually make him less effective, as he can choose the wrong shot - compared with Nadal in particular who has a relatively simple game plan but just executes it with great efficiency.

Physically, Andy is up there with the best in terms of court coverage, fitness and durability. It wasn't fitness that swung the Djokovic SF, although I'm not convinced Andy would have been able to then slog his guts out for nearly 6 hours against Rafa 48 hours later. I don't think though there are any significant gains for Andy to make just by working even harder on his fitness - technical and tactical changes are more likely to bring an improvement in results.

So that just leaves the mental side of things - Andy has beaten Rafa in 5 set matches, and I would fancy his chances agaisnt Federer on a hard court in anything other than a slam final. It will be interesting, following the hair's breadth loss to Djokovic last week, to see how Andy reacts - he played at a very good level in most of that match and showed great mental strength to turn the match from 5-2 down in the 5th to be a point away from leading 6-5 and with the opportunity to serve it out, but he still ultimately lost. Can he take that as a positive for his confidence that he can get so close to the current best player in the world, or will it be another scar to overcome, in that yet again he came up short in the big event (although nowhere near as short as he did in his slam finals)?

Fully agree clap

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