Thursday, 27 January 2011

The Moment for Murray?

So as we reach the latter stage of the Autralian Open, once again the question is asked, will Andy Murray win his first Grand Slam title? With his proven track record against the likes of Raffa and Roger, and high technical ability, he's convinced the likes of Virginia Wade and Bjorn Borg that this is the year for Muzza to break his Grand slam duck.  Though poor form and lack of focus after last year's run to the final raises question of whether he's got the mental game that's required of champions?

Last season's runner-up spot to the unstoppable (apart from if your David Ferrer) Rafael Nadal hit Murray hard, leading to an admittance that he wasn't giving full focus to his tennis, consequently resulting in a series of early exits and a drop in ranking from a career high of 2nd in 2009 to 5th in the World at the start of Melbourne this year. That said, wins late in the season at the Shanghai and Montreal Masters 1000, plus the confirmation of Alex Corretja as Head Coach and a decent run at London's O2 Arena, appear to have reinvigorated the Scott, who stated before Melbourne that he is "mentally better prepared than ever to win his first Grand-Slam".

With some blistering performances on the way to his semi-final spot, it's hard to argue with him. Having destroyed 32nd seed Garcia-Lopez and easily accounted for 11th seed Jurgen Melzer, it's hard to see how he'll fail to dispatch with David “Mr Pong” Ferrer in similar style, and reach his second consecutive Auzzie Open final. However, tour veteran Ferrer is eagerly awaiting and primed for battle, confidently stating that he is in “unbelievable” form at the moment. The Spanish no.2 ended 2010 in the top 10 for the first time in 3 years, and halted the 23 Slam winning streak of (an albeit injury hampered) Nadal to earn his spot in the final four. Considering the close head-to-head contest between the pair - Ferrer narrowly on top 3-2, this Friday at 8:30 a.m. GMT audiences are certainly in for a closely fought and enthralling contest.

Should Andy Murray past the Ferrer test, eagerly awaiting him with a 1-0 Melbourne final record, sits Mr Novak Djokovic.  Having just beaten Roger Federer 3-0, and claimed his second Slam semi win in succession over the world no.2, he's come into the final slightly under the radar, though certainly never underestimated. 
Whilst any win over Fed is noteworthy, I'm sure either of the players on the opposite side of the draw were happy to see that the victory was certainly not without faults.  After a fairly sluggish start in which two break points were proffered to Roger in his opening service game, the world no.3 soon found his feet.  After claiming the first set 7-6 (7-3) and breaking early in the second, he was able to capitalise on some poor serving and uncharacteristic framed shots from Federer in a dramatic recovery after going 5-3 down, to take the set 7-5.  In this recovery in particular, he displayed some fantastic creativity and resilient defence and counter punching that has held him at the top of tennis for a number of years, and kept him a force to be reckoned with at any point in a match.  In what was to be the final set of the match, Novak displayed some understandable signs of nerves that he'll hope to eliminate for the final, when failing to consolidate a break at 4-2, though eventually managed to hold on after a further break to claim the third 6-4.

Whilst there are certainly challenges facing Murray if he is to lift the winner's trophy down under, he'll certainly be much more confident with the draw than if his last two rounds were against Nadal and Federer respectively.  With Australian crowd firmly behind the mother country representative, we'll have to wait and see if he can combine their support and his ability to successfully succeed in his latest attempt be the first British male Slam Champion in 75 years, or if the pressure will be too much and break him once again.