Andy Murray’s time to unleash his best tennis has arrived. His focus will now turn to the hard-courts of North America over the one month when he attempts to relive the fond memories of the 2012 summer, when he won the gold medal for GBR at the London Olympics and followed that up with by becoming the 1st British male since 1936 (Fred Perry was the last British male to win a major – 1936 US Open) to win a major by holding the 2012 US Open. He also became the 1st British male winner in the Open-Era (Singles). Can he get back into the scheme of things following the gut-wrenching disappointment of his Wimbledon semi-final defeat to Roger Federer?

Andy Murray entered this hard-court summer season eager to get on with the business of finishing the year ranked No. 2 in the world (behind all-but-certain No. 1 Novak Djokovic) for the first time in his career. He let everyone know he was committed to the task when he showed up in Washington, D.C., about a week early, more like some eager beaver wild card than an elite player and the ATP 500 tournament’s top seed.

“I haven’t hit a ball on a hard court since Miami,” Murray told the ATP media last week. “That’s in March, so it’s been four or five months. That’s a while, especially coming from grass [at Wimbledon]. The conditions are humid [in Washington D.C.]. It takes a long time to get used to it, which is why I arrived on Tuesday. It’s the earliest I’ve arrived for any event the whole year.”

As if Murray needed any extra incentive, about a week ago, current No. 2 Roger Federer pulled out of the Canada Masters 1,000 in Montreal. Given Federer will lose 600 points when that tournament ends, Murray was looking at a net gain of 1,100 points with a win in Washington. He trails Federer by 1,825.

But the master plan took a shocking hit last Wednesday night, as Murray was upset by the ATP’s No. 53 player, an on-fire Teymuraz Gabashvili. The Georgian slugger played with reckless — but flawless — abandon in the critical late stages of the match. He won 85 percent of his first serves. Television commentator Jim Courier described Gabashvili as a “poor man’s Marat Safin,” but there was nothing impoverished about the game that eliminated the top seed. And it wasn’t even humid.

But never mind. Murray has plenty of time to recover from this false start and all kinds of reasons to feel good about his chances to finish the year in second place in the Big Four pecking order. Let’s start with one that Murray fans would rather not spend a lot of time on. Federer himself couldn’t care less about this particular race. No. 2? You’ve got to be kidding. Been there, done that.

For Federer, it’s all about the majors. He practically counted out those 1,100 points by hand and placed them in Murray’s palm by pulling out of Montreal, and he did it without a second thought, because Roger Federer cares about one thing only this summer: doing whatever it takes to improve his chances to win the US Open.

Federer’s attitude doesn’t diminish Murray’s effort or his talents, which take on a special glow at this time of year. Perhaps it’s because once Wimbledon is over, Murray’s life becomes much less stressful. How could it not, given the pressures he deals with so successfully — and uncomplainingly — during Wimbledon? Murray is clearly the junior member of the vaunted Big Four. His combined record against the trio he’s in with is 25-47. More to the point, he’s lost four straight to Federer and his past eight to Djokovic. Murray is 3-3 in his past six matches against the floundering Rafael Nadal. Yet if you look just at Murray’s summer Masters 1000 record, he seems the equal of all but Federer.

Murray has won Cincinnati and Canada twice each. Nadal has three wins in Canada and one in Ohio. Djokovic also won Canada three times, but he’s winless in Cincinnati despite making four finals. Federer has six in Cincinnati and two in Canada, but at 33, he’s got about five years on Murray. Also, Murray is just warming up at about the time that most of his cronies are winding down. He habitually does some of his best work in the fall. Murray has won more than a quarter of his 34 singles titles in the fall — a disproportionate number for an elite player. But it’s unlikely he’ll outdo his performance of 2014 anytime soon.

Desperate to qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals last year, Murray barnstormed through seven events in five countries in the post-US Open period. He achieved his goal, but he was so gassed for the London grand finale that Federer was able to pulverize him in the round-robin portion, 6-0, 6-1.

 

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Last Wednesday, Murray must have felt frustrated, seeing 500 potential points slip through his fingers. But surely he’ll remind himself that, if the past is any indication, there’s plenty more where they came from. This year at Wimbledon, Murray was thumped in straight sets in the semifinals by Federer. It was The Mighty Fed, but straight sets is never fun. So bring on Montreal; let’s have a ball in Cincy again. Hello, U.S. Open.

In the big picture, Federer may have no great reason to panic—No. 2, No. 3, what’s the difference, if you’re not No. 1? Been there, done that. But for Murray, reaching No. 2 would constitute a career high, renewed validation of his place among the Big Four, and it would position him for the same mission that must be on every ATP pro’s mind—making a run at Djokovic’s top ranking in 2016.

All eyes on now on Sunday’s showpiece final when Novak & Andy battle it out to take home Canada’s biggest tennis prize!! (Andy’s lost the last 8 to Nole)

 

 

About The Author

I am an avid tennis player an also a passionate and ardent writer about Tennis. I'm an expert in Men's and Women's tennis and updated with all activities and events happening in the ATP as well as WTA tour. I can contribute stats as well as expert opinions on Tennis Shyam is a guest contributor to the WWTA.Today site. His options are his own.

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