If anyone missed the Federer vs. Murray match last month at Wimbledon, it's okay. If you can recall any of the other Federer-Murray matches, then you know all of the essentials. Murray plays well. Murray screws up. Murray collapses. The End.
Stories like this have been the norm for Andy Murray over the past few years. He'll play well, but not quite well enough to take a Grand Slam over tennis giants like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. However, Murray's dominating performance over Federer in yesterday's Olympic final could be a turning point. It seems like Murray has finally gained what it takes to join the giants.
Murray's never had a problem with his technique or a certain skill. It's his resolve and his mental fortitude that's often come under scrutiny. He always seems ready to fold under pressure; ready to break if things don't go his way. That's why the Olympics final was so incredible to watch. Murray knew exactly how he wanted to play and how to attack Federer. He never wavered, not even for a second. We saw an Andy Murray that we're not accustomed to seeing yesterday.
It seems like the Wimbledon loss hardened him. He seems to realize that no amount of pressure could equal what he faced there. According to Christopher Clarey of the New York Times, Murray told reporters after the Olympic final, “I spoke to Ivan Lendl (his coach) after the Wimbledon final, and he said to me, ‘You’ll never play under more pressure than you did in the Wimbledon final.’ I’m able to deal with the situations better now, and I did. I felt much more comfortable on the court.”
The big question now is whether or not Murray's Olympic prowess will transfer to other events, most notably the upcoming U.S. Open. While it's true that Murray still hasn't won a Grand Slam, there's no questioning the fact that Olympic success currently carries a similar weight in the eyes of tennis players.
Seven-time Grand Slam Champion Mats Wilander recently told BBC News' David Ornstein that Murray, “Knows he can win at Wimbledon, but there will probably be less hysterics at the US Open, less attention. He goes there as one of the favourites and the other players are now going to look at him in a completely different light.”
Other players should look at Murray in a new light. His Olympic victory over Federer appears to be the final piece to the puzzle. He is finally playing with confidence and resolve. For the first time in his life, he will probably be the favorite to win a Grand Slam. And if he plays anywhere near like he did in the Olympics, he will probably be the winner too.