Andy Murray and Perhaps Roger Federer: Winners in a Year When Many Have Lost
Three Grand Slams in and two Masters 1000 events away from the last major of the year and deciding whose year it has and hasn't been isn't particularly easy.
Novak Djokovic added to his slam total by winning the Australian Open. Rafael Nadal, expected to win at least the French Open, won the French Open title. Roger Federer, expected not to figure at the tail end of slams, has more or less done just that and Andy Murray, vetted for a supporting cast role, has been, as expected, the best supporting actor out there.
So, why has no-one really grabbed the onus and taken the fight to the others?
Well, the first and most obvious answer is that they can't. Such is the parity at the top of men's game currently that it has become extremely difficult to be consistently successful outside one's core surface.
Secondly and finally, despite all the talk of the top players' versatility and adaptability, the rate at which the players make changes to their games have slowed down considerably. Djokovic's losses on clay to Nadal were predictable, Federer's semi-final exits in Melbourne and Roland Garros were telegraphed and in a way Nadal's and Murray's early exits at Wimbledon and Roland Garros respectively were a long time coming.
The question then is: Who has achieved the most tangible outcome so far?
Certainly not Djokovic, that's for sure. He lost his Wimbledon crown, a number of his Masters 1000 titles and his Olympic bronze medal but those would have meant nothing had he not lost his aura of invincibility along the way.
Is it Nadal? Well, while he gained a lot by halting Djokovic's momentum against him, he's negated most of that by losing the Australian Open final, getting dumped out early at Wimbledon, missing the Olympics and looking set to have a bad run-in into the US Open.
Which top player has lost the most ground so far in 2012?
Is it Federer? To a degree. Yes, he's added another slam title to this name and he now has the record number of weeks at number one, however there's the issue of the absence of Olympic gold. Of course, it means nothing to his legacy but, just to silence naysayers, it would have meant the world to get it. As such, the chip remains.
Murray? Surely not Murray? Well, the guy has beaten Federer and Djokovic back to back in a best of five sets match, on his home turf and with all the pressure that entails (something he's struggled to do in the past). He feels confident because he feels he's on track (important!) because, just like his coach, he's won his first major title after losing his first four Grand Slam finals.
In a year where many have lost, it is imperative to be the one who wins. And many have won in their own way, but the real winners are the ones who win in such a manner that their opponent's loss is not more important than their gain. That's Andy Murray.
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