It’s Andy Murray’s time.
We’ve been saying that so long we’ve gone from sounding like a stuck record to a scratched CD and then to a mis-downloaded mp3 file. Every time he heads into a Grand Slam event, there are reasons to think it might be his chance to claim a maiden major. And when the dream ends in the usual mix of swearing and tears, Murray has generally done enough to convince you the original theory was only the width of a baseline away from being correct.
Andy Murray has a great chance of winning the US Open. There, we said it. Yes, we’ve said similar things before and been proven more wrong than Sue Barker’s flirting with John McEnroe, but the fortnight in New York presents the 25 year old with an excellent opportunity for getting the major monkey off his back.
Hear us out. It’s been an unusual year in men’s tennis. Different, but all the more intriguing for it. We’re on the verge of having four different players winning the year’s four Grand Slams for the first time since 2003. Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have landed the year’s big prizes so far and there’s one notable member of the world’s top 4 missing from that list.
An Andy Murray victory in Flushing Meadows would bring about the ‘four different winners’ scenario. After a dominant showing en route to claiming the Olympic gold medal in London ,he’s got little need for ready-made excuses. Forget about the romance of Murray winning Wimbledon in front of an adoring home crowd fuelled by Pimms and the feeling Britain still owns tennis, the US Open has always been his best chance of winning a Grand Slam. The right surface, the right conditions, the lack of pressure – it’s his best chance. And the absence of Rafa Nadal doesn’t hurt either.
As we’ve seen from Murray in the past, getting your hopes up is a dangerous past-time. But it’s difficult to ignore the stars aligning in his favour. Considering he’s playing in an era of such excellent players, having to beat just two legends of the sport as opposed to three counts as ‘his favour’. It’ll take a lot of unnecessary fist-pumping and screams from Judy for him to go all the way, but victory in New York is a distinct possibility.
Of course ruling out Roger Federer is more dangerous than being line judge at a David Nalbandian match. The 17 time Grand Slam winner is 12/5 second favourite for the US Open. He showed at Wimbledon the can still hit the heights of his best form and the win in Cincinnati last week was a sign he’s in good shape.
The one thing that has characterised the aging process is the difficulty he has in sustaining his brilliance. As he’s gotten older, there’s been the tendency to throw in the odd substandard performance that ends his interest in a Slam. Murray made him work at Wimbledon and obliterated him at the Olympics, so the Fed Express is clearly beatable, regardless of the occasion.
Novak Djokovic’s remarkable efforts in 2011 are still fresh enough in the memory to regard him as in-form. But scratch the surface and it’s being a slightly disappointing year for the Serbian star. In fairness, winning an Australian Open, reaching a French Open final and claiming a couple of ATP Masters title would be enough to make the career of most players. But Nole has raised the bar so high for himself, he expects to be autographing camera lenses in victory a little more often.
The defending champion has looked particularly vulnerable against fellow members of the world’s top four. There’s no shame in that, but in 2012 he has won just five of his 12 matches (42 per cent) against Federer, Nadal and Murray. In fact, he heads to New York on a four game losing streak against his fellow members of the Fantastic Four, so clearly the Olympic champion has little to fear against his long-time rival, even if he is the 6/4 favourite.
If getting the better of those two legends wasn’t enough of a hurdle for Murray, there’s the usual host of less hyped up, but highly talented outsiders. After struggles with both injury and growing a beard, Juan Martin Del Potro (9/1) is showing signs of recapturing the sort of form that won him his title in 2009. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (50/1) is becoming a permanent fixture in the latter stages of the majors and he is a threat when he finds his best form. In front of their home support, the likes of John Isner (66/1), Mardy Fish (125/1) and Andy Roddick (150/1) will think they’ve got a great chance of going far and at least shocking a higher ranked seed or two.
It’s not Andy’s last chance of Grand Slam glory, but it’s one of the best he’s ever likely to get.