Murray Hype Gains Momentum as He Wins Brisbane

I thought I’d do a summery of the past week’s tennis. Of course Roger withdrew from Doha with back problems and there is some concern for Melbourne. At least Roger made the right decision by withdrawing before his semi-final with Tsonga. It gives him some time to rest and get treatment while he played enough competitive matches to be ready for Melbourne. Tsonga ended up winning the tournament by beating Monfils 7-5, 6-3 in the final. He is certainly a dark horse for the Australian Open. He has already been to the final there once. But the big hype seems to be surrounding Murray, who beat Dolgopolov 6-1, 6-3 in the Brisbane final. It has to be said that Dolgopolov was struggling with an injury, but Murray would have been too good anyway. I was watching the match and the commentators were already making him the new Australian Open champ.

Such is the media hype I guess. On the plus side for Murray is that his partnership with Lendl started off with a title. I guess if there is one guy who can help Murray break through that mental barrier of a first slam title then it is Lendl. Lendl lost his first four slams finals and after hiring a new coach started winning slams. Lendl has said that his partnership with Murray is basically a perfect fit. Having a guy with the experience of Lendl in your corner does not hurt. But one should not get carried away. As I have said on countless occasions, no one that has never won a slam is the favorite to win a slam. You also have to take into account that Murray once again did not face a top ten player on his way to the title. The best players were all in Doha, while Djokovic did not play a tournament. Sounds familiar?

We have seen how quickly Murray faded away after the Asian swing last year as soon as the top three was back. Murray was expected to win Brisbane so he broke no new ground. He needs to win a slam to finally silence the doubters. Nothing short of that will do. He has failed time and time again on the big stage. I don’t particularly want Murray to win a slam but I will try to be a bit more positive about him from now on. I have criticized him a lot in the past but I will give him at least a 50/50 chance to win a slam from now on. Like I said, if anyone can help him win a slam then it is Lendl. So I believe there is a chance that he can do so now. With Roger and Nadal slowing down somewhat it could also help him. In the remaining event in Chennai youngster Raonic beat Tipsarevic 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(4) in the final.

Raonic was struggling with an injury last year after winning his first ATP title, but he seems to be back to his best now. He is certainly one to look out for in Melbourne with his bomb of a serve. The courts in Melbourne are of course pretty slow, but Raonic can do some damage nonetheless. Another youngster who raised eyebrows was Dimitrov, who destroyed Fish 6-2, 6-1 at the Hopman Cup. It is just an exhibition event, but it doesn’t seem like that match lacked any intensity as Dimitrov and Fish exchanged some serious words during that encounter. Dimitrov seemed to be quiet for the most part though, while Fish could obviously not handle being taught a tennis lesson by a guy that is something like ten years younger than him. The other youngster that did well was Tomic who made the semis of Brisbane.

He did lose 6-3, 6-2 to Murray, but the slower hard courts of Melbourne will suit him. So it looks like the youngsters are looking to make a statement early on in 2012. I am looking forward to see how the three youngsters that I mentioned will fare in Melbourne. They all have the ability to cause upsets. So after this week we can draw some more conclusions about who is the big contenders for the Australian Open. Djokovic is still the big favorite for me. The fact that he is not playing any other tournaments than Abu Dhabi doesn’t matter at all. He will only be more rested. Then Roger and Nadal have question marks hanging over them. Roger because of his injury and Nadal because of his form. If Roger’s back problem does not come back in Melbourne I still believe he is one of the favorites. Nadal on the other hand is hard to predict as always.

But he’s not a favorite for me. He has looked too vulnerable since the US Open last year. To win the Australian Open I feel he has to be at his very best. As far as Murray goes he looks in good shape but can’t be the favorite. Then there is Tsonga who none of the top four would want to see in their quarter of the draw. The draw will be important as always. I just hope they don’t fix the draw again and put Roger with Djokovic and Nadal with Murray. I would rather see a Fedal semi for a change and a Djokerer final. But of course it is not that simple. Tsonga, Ferrer, Berdych, Tipsarevic, and the youngsters would all like to stop the top four from making the semis again. It looks like it’s gonna be a pretty open one this year.

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29 Comments

  1. The Murray hype is a joke. I’ve made numerous comments in the past about this choker, so I’m not going to repeat myself. Suffice it to say that until the dour Scot wins a slam, he will always be the underdog, as well he should be. Dimitrov intrigues me. He has been christened by the press as Federer’s heir, at least in regard to grace of movement and array of shots. It would be nice to see him make a deep run, and perhaps even play Roger—now that would be highly entertaining! Nadal looks vulnerable to me, but like you said, Ruan, one can never tell wether the plodding Spaniard will fold early or win the whole thing. I guess it depends on his injection schedule—just kidding (I think)! The two biggest questions for the Australian are Roger’s back and the Djoker’s form. Will the Serb’s 2011 level fade back to that of 2010? Or will he continue to soar? And will Roger conquer the ravages of aging and make one last charge up the mountaintop? The only thing we can be sure of is that it will all be great theater—the modern equivalent of Caligula’s gladiator games. My thumb is itching for the battles to begin, itching to point up or down to help sway the cruel Emperor’s whim.

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  2. I read Roger is already in Melbourne, so good to know Roger made it to OZ in good spirit…the weather
    will be warmer… and his back will be happier! I have a good feeling about the A.O.
    As for the draws, it´s a waste of time and energy about something that cannot be changed…so we´d accept it graciously and deal with it.Besides a draw on friday the 13th has to be the luckiest!!!

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  3. I like Murray’s decision to take Lendl as a coach. Maybe he finally realized that he needs help… that his mother in his box is not enough. And speaking of his mother, the LTA appointed her as leader of the Fed Cup team. That’s more than a little nudge to help Murray find a real coach ;-)

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  4. Ru-an said: ‘As I have said on countless occasions, no one that has never won a slam is the favorite to win a slam.’

    Really? I would have considered Federer a favorite over Philippoussis in Wimbledon ’03. And Nadal was considered the favorite by bettors at RG ’05 over Puerto, wasn’t he? I expected Andy Roddick to win vs Ferrero at that USO ’03. But maybe I’m misunderstanding your comment.

    IAC, I agree with you things might be promising for Andy Murray with his new coach Lendl.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes as usual you misunderstood. I meant before the tournament. Why bother making a comment if you don’t understand my posts?

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    marron Reply:

    Ouch. That seems a bit harsh. An honest misunderstanding on my part.

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  5. Nice post as always. I am looking forward to an exciting AO.
    As they play on a slow high bouncing court defensive players like Nadal (win), Murray (win), Ferrer (semis) and Monfis (semis) could make a deep run.
    Nadal has been vulnerbale since the US Open 2011. In my opinion he doesn’t play worse than in his best years but the game has moved on. There are now a few players with strong backhands and a second weapon that can challenge his top spin crosscourt forehand tactics.
    Murray will be a treat if he serves well. That’s his major weapon. He needs to serve big above 60% first serves. Mentally Murray is not too strong so I think that Nadal or Djokovic would stop him from winning the AO.
    However, luckily for all tennis fans there are also some offensive players that have great chances to win the AO.
    First there is the huge favorite Djokovic. Although he is not the most offensive player since 2011 he has gone for his shots at the big points.
    Second there is Roger. His back is a big question mark. Even if he is not fully fit he will put up a great fight. However, he needs as many free points on his serve as possible. And here the slow courts, his back problems and Murray’s and especially Djokovic’s return could hurt his chances.
    Third, there is Tsonga. If he is on he will be very dangerous. I like his brutal forehand. For some reason I think that Tsonga will make the finals. Let’s hope he is not in Roger’s quarter. In Roger’s quarter I would love to see Ferrer :-) .

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  6. There will always be hype surrounding Murray, not sure Lendl can provide him help so early in their partnership. Its difficult to assess Nadal’s form now as he always plays underdog card saying he injured, out of form bla bla. As for Roger, I am just hoping he flies under the radar go deep into 2nd week.

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  7. i dont think this AO will be open at all, i think ND is the red hot favorite and it will be a huge surprise if he fails to win it, a la fed in 05 and 08. i believe only fed, tsonga and delpo can defeat him on a hard court and they have to be at their best.
    feds injury is very disturbing… i am now very passimistic about his chances. maybe you were right all along on this one Ruan, maybe we should have no expectations at all from fed at this point. but it is so hard to let go… i cant help but being disappointed when he loses…
    but who knows… of fed will fly under the radar as you say, maybe get a good drawmake it to the semis and from there… well, i am keeping my fingers crossed.

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    booya719 Reply:

    I am always hoping for Del Potro to recover his form because I believe 2009 Del Potro was really something special. He started the year getting destroyed by Federer at the Aussie Open 6-3, 6-0, 6-0. He went on to push Federer to 5 at the French Open. He finally defeated Federer at the US Open with some of the most devastating forehands ever delivered in the game.

    Del Potro was constantly improving and learned something new every time he stepped onto a court. He lost to Nadal in Indian Wells, came back in Miami the next week and beat Nadal. He figured Nadal out after that Indian Wells match and went on to beat him 3 times in a row including the US Open SF where he owned Nadal 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.

    I was very impressed with Del Potro’s effort in the Davis Cup against Nadal recently and I feel it’s just a matter of time before he starts beating Nadal again and goes on to do the same with Djokovic 2.0. Del Potro is a player who improves rapidly and learns from every loss he takes. Del Potro hasn’t played Djokovic very often so I feel he still needs a few more matches against him to figure him out. It’s a bit early in the year for Del Potro to win but by the US Open he could really be difficult for guys to beat.

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  8. It is so easy to like Federer because of him being such a nice person, and it is so easy to dislike Murray because of the obvious anger and frustration, all the negative vibes around him. The hype makes it only worse, as you just enjoy his failures even more when there is an immense expectation loaded on his shoulders beforehand. But are we doing Murray justice? Murray’s childhood was marked by a disturbing event: he and his brother were pupils at Dunblane primary school in 1996 when a gunman burst in and killed 16 of their classmates. That must be traumatizing! Besides that, he grew up in a house where his parents were always fighting until they got divorced while he was still a small boy. Difficult childhood, definitely. Others with difficult childhoods become criminals, rapers, murderers, you name it. Murray becomes one of the worlds best tennis players of his generation. I owe him respect for that! And if he becomes a happier person by breaking through and winning a Grand Slam, if this helps him to finally develop some healthy love for himself, then I wish he can achieve it. And if a happier Murray would become a nicer and better player to watch, then I hope it happens rather soon. I have only two reasons not to wish for it: a) I’d rather see RF take a #17, and b) I don’t want the obnoxious English journalists to celebrate ;-)

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Agreed Chris. I’m sure there is a reason for the negative vibes around Murray and I hope for his happiness that he can overcome it by winning a slam. I have been too hard on him in the past.

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    booya719 Reply:

    I’m not sure about Murray, but I feel he may be due for an early loss because he made the SF of all the slams last year. Will he be able to repeat making it to all the semis again this year? I’m not so sure he will do that. Especially here in Australia. 2 finals in a row is a lot. I’m not sure he’s got 3 Aussie finals in a row in him. You never know though. It could work both ways that he could keep having success here and go a step further to win this time.

    In general, I do think he’s capable of winning a slam if the draw favors him. Last year I felt he was dangerous and I was not surprised he made it to all of his SFs.

    Looking back to last year his best effort in the slams was vs Nadal in the French Open SF (of all places) where it was extremely close and played at a very, very high level in every moment of the match. Going into that semi I remember Murray said something along the lines of, “I’m playing Rafa at the French Open but I’m not going to just call it a tournament and be satisfied with making the semi. I’m going to play this semi to win it.” Murray came out and played a great match from start to finish narrowly losing each set and kept his errors low. If Murray would have put the same effort from his French Open SF into the US Open SF he would have beaten Nadal off of clay. Murray’s French Open SF effort is often overshadowed by the other SF between Djokovic and Federer.

    Murray tried again at Wimbledon also and lost quite badly. Although he won a set, he made more mistakes in this match and the wheels really fell off for him after the first set. For this reason I feel his effort in the French Open was much better.

    It really frustrated Murray to lose again at Wimbledon and by the US Open I think Murray’s attitude was just, “I’ve had enough of Rafa in slam semis” and he didn’t put his best effort into the US Open SF. I remember at a lot of stages in that match Murray looked like he’d rather not even be playing. Out of his three semis with Nadal his best performance was in the French Open semi by far because he was focused, playing at a high level, and was trying for the entire match.

    In any other era Murray would have won multiple slams by now, but against Nadal, Federer and Djokovic it’s incredibly difficult to break through. However it could also be said that Murray is even as good as he is now because of the effort needed to be close to those 3 guys and it still hasn’t been enough to win a slam yet.

    I do think if Murray gets Nadal again in his SF he will be mentally fresher this time around and give it a good effort. The chances are there and it’s just a matter of how Murray performs on the key points. He often gets rattled when he makes mistakes instead of just focusing on the next point which has always doomed him in the past. Maybe Lendl can help him with this issue.

    Although, can Murray beat Djokovic or Federer in the final? That’s another question altogether. Even if he gets by Rafa in the SF it’s still not yet enough to win the tournament. He would have to come up with an even more amazing effort to win the final.
    (I’m taking for granted that the draw semis will be (1)Djokovic vs (3)Federer, (4)Murray vs (2)Nadal)

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  9. It sure will be interesting what will occur in Australian.Agree that Murray is not the favourite to take the title.As for Nadal I am not so sure,he has after all looked vulnerable before a big win,example was before the Australian Open when he lost to Monfils;like this year,but we all know what happened against Verdasco and Federer.It`s so strange how he can transform himself so miracalously when people count him out,doping or not.His mental focus is impressive.As for Federer,I think he will be back,but we have to hope that the time has not come for him to catch a Nadal-like injury(which has never happened so far in the slams)

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  10. Chris, good thoughts on Murray, except when you imply that others who experience childhood trauma become “criminals, rapers, murderers, you name it.” If you are saying that a majority of childhood trauma victims go down these dark roads, than you are mistaken. Studies have shown that the majority heroically transcend their painful pasts and gradually move on to build constructive lives for themselves. Granted, their is a significant minority of victims who do go down the ominous path of revenge. And sadly, they get all the press. Hence, the cruel stereotype is continually amplified, negating the quiet courage of billions.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    That is interesting Balthazar. The press does have a lot of power and influence our views. Just look at what they do in tennis. I was a trauma victim myself and although I have struggled immensely, going down the dark road was never for me. It can take an awful long time to get over the past but going down a dark path just doesn’t seem like the logical thing to do. I think the human spirit is extremely resilient.

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    Chris Reply:

    Did I imply that a majority of victims become criminals? I did not mean to.

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  11. Ruan, sorry to hear about your past misfortune. If it’s any consolation, experts in the health professions estimate that about one third of all humanity suffers severe childhood trauma; this includes everything from sexual and physical abuse to acute neglect and aberrant psychological torture. So you are not alone, nor is Murray. I am glad you saw the light regarding the false allure of the dark path of retaliation. And you are so right—the human spirit is incredibly resilient. As I’ve said before, when personal suffering is viewed (in retrospect, of course) as a purifying fire, then half the battle is already won, easing the way to healing. I’m glad Chris wrote of Andy Murray’s past traumas—I was not aware of them, and this helps explain his pscyhological issues on the tennis court. So I will go easy on him now. However, it isn’t really Murray that bothers me. It’s the media’s fixation on him as the Next Big Thing, played out incessantly like a stuck record while his results on the court simply don’t warrant such hype. They should just leave him alone. If they did, he’d probably win a Major right away.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Balthazar. The problem with the dark side is that you bring even more suffering upon yourself, which is why it never appealed to me. That does not mean I haven’t been extremely angry and negative in my life. But in the end that only brings more suffering. I had enough suffering as it were. I mean it was completely overwhelming, and sometimes still is. But you do get better with time I think. I totally agree with your view that suffering purifies like a fire. I have learned a lot from it and in some ways I am much more mature than most people. I have also noticed that I have a lot in common with other who have suffered because they have a certain depth of character about them.
    Agree with you about Murray too. A lot of the irritation for me comes from the incessant media hype. It’s like they never learn and like you said they put pressure on him as well.

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  12. Murray’s problems in recent years have tended to be mental; he struggles with being the favorite and, as so many others observe here, he shows that for all his talent he is still a choker. Can Lendl change that?

    Murray is always saying that he needs to “get stronger” – as though playing tennis and training for twenty odd years doesn’t give you that. I remember the puny youngster who turned up on the tour only a few years ago – remember the skinny young man that Federer trounced in the 2008 USO? Well, like so many players now, Murray has packed on huge amounts of muscle and moves around the court like a Ferrari when he once used to blow in the second set of a match. Like Nadal (who also used to have stamina problems when he came on the tour – and Djokovic until last year, mmm) he is now everywhere that the ball is, driving his opponents crazy till they hit the error or allow him back into the point for him to win it.

    It is very much the modern game, or where it is going, and I would bet my bottom dollar that it is all about doping. I hope Lendl isn’t helping him with that.

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    Wilfried Reply:

    These days some players at the top are turning tennis unfortunately into a strength sports: they increase muscles mass, speed and power either by daily interval training outside and exercises in the physical fitness room or by using stuff, or by doing all of them, to exploit these qualities on court when facing their opponents. In the past tennis players in general used to do special physical exercises only when they were recovering from injury, and their practice sessions were more meant to improve their technique and precision than to increase their power and speed. Andy Murray seems to me technically at least as gifted as Djokovic and Nadal, is as fast as them, but seems to have a bit less power in his shots. I think Ivan Lendl has the potential to become a good “running mate” for Andy Murray, but I hope it will not be by focusing too much on his relative lack of power, but by rather aiming on his lack of concentration and mental resilience when things don’t run the way he wants, by improving his offensive abilities, and by maximizing and exploiting Andy’s exquisite technical gifts. Andy Murray doesn’t need to become a copy of Nadal or Djokovic, but needs to find the best in himself.

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    neil Reply:

    Wifried, players in the past didn’t just hit tennis balls – they did conditioning training that included distance running, sprints on court and strengthening exercises. Famed Aussie coach in the 50’s Harry Hopman was noted for the demands he placed on his charges – Laver, Rosewall, Hoad, Roche, Emerson, Newcombe and others. They typically trained – on and off-court -as many hours in the day as the body could cope with. That is how they became the best of their era. In the 70’s, Borg hit for 6 hours on court every day in the lead up to his Wimbledon triumphs. His speed and stamina were legendary. Yet none of those great players had the physical resources of even today’s journeymen (and women). If players are so muuch faster and stronger today, and can train harder than the top athletes of the past and yet recover more quickly there is really only one explanation. But it is not the one that most people want to hear.

    (By the way, Nadal has said he and the top players train “2-3 hours every day”, and that is why they “are so fit”. Yeah, right. I know club juniors who train harder than that. So what really is Rafa’s – and all those others – astonishing secret?)

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    Wilfried Reply:

    Thanks for the informative reply, Niel; if doping is really the only explanation for these exploits, than we’re heading completely in the wrong direction in tennis. But as you mentioned once in a comment on a previous post, some tennis fans are also partly responsable for this apparent evolution in tennis, because they prefer gladiator type of contests instead of a normal tennis match. I feel a bit sad when I think about all this, because it shows me that in our society a lot of people put their personal profit above everything else and prefer agression above the well-being.

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    neil Reply:

    Wilfried, you may find this interesting. It is from an article written by 1983 Wimbledon singles finalist Chris Lewis on training with Hopman in the 70’s.

    “Players who visited his tennis camp knew they were going there to work. A typical day there for me would begin with 10-15 minutes of warm-up exercises, followed by 2 ½ hours on court. These sessions would always be very physical but also very interesting. Harry Hopman had hundreds of his own drills, and there was always something different to keep players interested.”

    “After this workout would be a lunch break of 90 minutes, followed by more exercises, and the another 2 ½ hours on court.”

    “At the end of the day, players were given the option of playing practice sets or going for a run.”

    http://www.expert-tennis-tips.com/harry-hopman.html

    You might ask yourself what are today’s “tireless” players doing to become such wonder athletes. Are they too training up to 7 hours a day, as Hopman’s charges were? Or does going “gluten-free” now do it?

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  13. By the way, I think Murray is fulfilling his promise to “get stronger”: his power at Brisbane was impressive. He is still fundamentally a retriever/counterpuncher by temperament but he is hitting the ball harder than ever. The match commentators said he was playing like “a heavyweight” – bigger (and not just physically)in every department. That’s not the Andy we have come to know and love. He will be very dangerous in Melbourne.

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  14. Strange things happening out there: Simon Reed just blogged that he expects RF to win the AO. Ru-an, is he reading your blog and learning? I think he should keep writing nonsense and Eurosport should pay you and publish your blogs ;-)

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Unfortunately that’s not gonna happen Chris, even though I’m ten times the writer that fool is.

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    FeddyBear Reply:

    SR thinks RF is going to win AO…????
    wow, that is a big surprise.
    i still think this will be ND’s championship but i prey i am wrong and reed is right!

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  15. Murray has gotten by the far the hardest draw of the top 4. If he makes it to the finals…boy he’s earned it. Harrison 1st round, Malisse 2nd round, Gulbis 3rd round, Monfils 4th round, Tsonga QF, Djokovic SF.

    It’s the first time since the 2008 French Open that we’ve got Djokovic and Federer on opposite sides. Maybe someone from the tournament was reading our posts and the message finally got through to the tournament organizers.

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