For many, this summer has been the summer of getting over the hump for Andy Murray.
The Scottish tennis star struggled early in the season, and a back injury during the clay-court season seemed to dent his chances for the French Open, where Murray missed out on a Grand Slam semi-final for the first time since the 2010 US Open.
However, as spring turned to summer and the red clay transformed to green grass, the World No. 4 changed, as well.
As rival Rafael Nadal, who had bounced Murray from Wimbledon in both 2010 and 2011, bowed out from the tournament in the second round, Andy raced into the semi-finals to face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the eccentric Frenchman who was making his second consecutive final four appearance at the All-England Club.
Murray, who had fallen one hurdle short of the final on three previous attempts (he lost to Andy Roddick in 2009), finally got past that mental block and defeated Tsonga in four sets.
Next came another baby step for Murray.
The Scot had failed to capture a single set in his previous three Grand Slam finals appearances: the 2008 US Open (lost to Federer), the 2010 Australian Open (Federer) and the 2011 Aussie Open (Djokovic). However, in the opening set of major final number four, once again against Federer, Murray played great tennis and delighted the home crowd, breaking the Swiss' serve twice and winning, 6-4.
However, once the Centre Court roof closed, Federer upped the ante, leaving a tearful Murray to settle for second place.
Back at Wimbledon less than a month later, this time to compete in the 2012 Olympics, Murray went a step further.
The Scot rolled to the semifinals having dropped only one set. Once there, Murray ran into World No. 2 Novak Djokovic.
In a tougher-than-the-score-indicates match, Murray outlasted the Serbian star, 7-5, 7-5.
In the championship, Murray faced Federer. This time, however, Fed, exhausted from a demanding semi against Juan Martin del Potro, could do nothing to slow a Murray onslaught, in the end succumbing, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.
Instantly, Murray was being tipped as a hot favorite for the US Open, which begins 27 August.
Nadal is unlikely to be at his best, and Murray finally cleared the "mental block" that hindered him in big matches.
After disappointing and injury-shortened showings in both Toronto and Cincinnati, Murray's attention turns to New York, where, despite his poor showings on the US hard court swing, he is still among the favorites.
However, his chances to win his first major are being overblown a little.
Murray has always been an excellent player at all events. However, his biggest problem has been winning majors.
Each of his past two big tournaments have ended well for Murray, they have both been steps forward.
I was impressed that Murray got into the Wimbledon finals, but in reality, in the past the World No. 4 has faced players that are simply better than him. Murray had a great showing in 2011 against Nadal, but Nadal was just the superior player.
This year, Murray entered the semis as the favorite and dully delivered.
He played exceptionally well in the final, clearly a positive sign, but still not quite well enough to win.
At the Olympics, Murray surprised many, including myself, with his performance.
His blowout win over Federer was impressive, but even more so was the hard-fought win against Nole in the semifinals.
However, he still hasn't quite cleared the largest hurdle.
The Gold Medal eases away the pain of his Wimbledon loss, but also adds more pressure to his US Open campaign.
People are expecting a lot out of Murray because he finally won a "big one". More eyes than ever will be on him, especially with Nadal out of the field.
This leads me to my next argument.
The absence of Rafa does not benefit Murray in any way, shape or form. On the contrary, this may make life more difficult for the Brit.
At no point in the last four or so years did Andy Murray ever have to defeat all three members of the big three to lift a major title.
Since he will be seeded third at Flushing Meadows, Murray will, if all goes as planned, have to defeat Federer in the semis and Djokovic in the final to finally capture a major crown.
The absence of Nadal is beneficiary to the Djoker because his portion of the draw is greatly weakened, and now, unless David Ferrer, John Isner, or anybody else shocks the Serb, he will have an easier road to the final than whomever emerges from the bloodbath on the opposite side.
Murray still has not won a major, so if anything the pressure has increased, and past signs show that the Scot will probably not be at his best with heaps of pressure on his side.
The luck of the draw didn't really help him, and Nadal, or the lack thereof, is a hindrance rather than a help.
By no means does Andy have no chance of winning his first Grand Slam, but people are naming him the favorite too quickly, as he should be placed a distant third behind his two rivals.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!