Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray: Who Is Hungrier for 2012 Olympics and Slam Title?

Jeremy Eckstein@!/JeremyEckstein1Featured ColumnistJuly 18, 2012

KEY BISCAYNE, FL - APRIL 01:  Andy Murray of Great Britain speaks to winner Novak Djokovic of Serbia looks after the men's singles final on day 14 of the Sony Ericsson Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center on April 1, 2012 in Key Biscayne, Florida.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were finalists at the 2012 French Open and Wimbledon respectively, but once again, they had to watch rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer hoist championship hardware.

Djokovic and Murray are hungry. They run along baselines for countless miles, whacking tennis balls and hunting for winners as if they were starving predators.

But they won’t find answers listening over and over to Duran Duran sing “Hungry Like the Wolf.”

The only way to fulfill their voracious appetites is to win Grand Slam championships.


Gonna Fly Now

Andy Murray looks hungry. He is gaunt and rugged like he’s suddenly come out of the Highlands to play life or death tennis. Even his scowl is an imminent measure of his desperate need to win.

He’s arrived at the edge of the grand feast, so close he can taste it, but so far away it might be a mirage. He’s like the mythical King Tantalus, forever doomed to grab at fruit just above his reach and unable to drink water that swirls at his feet.

Murray has reached his career crossroads, similar to the success-starved boxer Rocky Balboa in the first film of the series. He has scrapped and clawed his way to success but hungers for the ultimate glory. At some point, he will either make it or he won’t.

Now is not the time for a letdown, but rather the opportunity to train harder and push through the pain of losing Wimbledon and 12 of 13 sets in Grand Slam finals.

And though Murray must defeat his fearsome rivals like some mythical beast with three heads, his biggest obstacle may be discouragement. Just how many times can he go to the well before he must perish?


Eye of the Tiger

Novak Djokovic has feral eyes when he is in the tennis zone. He glares at his backhand stroke, demanding it to smash the tennis ball with no possibility of return. Occasionally this calls for a racket sacrifice, and if so, watch out. He is even more deadly when desperation calls for his savage best.

Djokovic has already taken his seat at the head of the table and supped at the banquet of champions. His 2011 feeding frenzy left few scraps for the rest of the ATP. He knows how it feels to fulfill his appetite with winning.

But as all champions have discovered, Novak’s time on top became increasingly difficult.

In the opening montage of Rocky III, Balboa is the champion of the world but doesn’t train with the same ferocity. He lacks the lean, hungry look of those who want his title, and he ultimately suffers a humiliating knockout.

Djokovic did not lose his No. 1 ranking because of a lack of effort, but mainly because Nadal and Federer fought back with their renewed cravings for Grand Slam titles.

Once tasted, always desired. Now is the summer to test Djokovic’s resilience. The tennis world should expect nothing less than his unquenchable desire to drink from the victor’s cup.


The Hunger Games

Who is hungrier to win the Olympic gold medal?

Is it more difficult to break through and win the first Grand Slam, or is it harder to reclaim the No. 1 throne once it's been lost?

For Murray, his Wimbledon success must drive him to build on his momentum. He will be performing once again to the expectations and support of London’s crowd and its idyllic courts. A golden victory could establish him as a co-favorite during the upcoming hard-courts season.

For Djokovic, a gold medal would do more than represent his beloved Serbia. This might be the essential ingredient to rekindling his fire. He must prove that his desire to recapture the No. 1 ranking is fiercer than it was upon first obtaining it.

Murray and Djokovic will not be in London to tour the Globe Theatre or spend time with Big Ben.

They possess rare talents to be among the best players in tennis history. The only way they can prove this is to win tennis' greatest championships.

Or they may have to make reservations at the nearest all-you-can-eat buffet.


Click here to see Rafa Nadal's approach to preparing for the Olympics