Andy Murray: 5 Steps Needed to Win a Grand Slam

JA AllenSenior Writer ISeptember 12, 2012

Andy Murray: 5 Steps Needed to Win a Grand Slam

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    Winning a Grand Slam title in tennis is not easy. That is why relatively few men accomplish it. Getting over the hurdle of capturing your first is often only accomplished after many tries.

    It took Roger Federer several years to reach that point in his career—from 1998 until 2003, when he captured his first Wimbledon Championship. 

    It took Ivan Lendl from the time he turned pro in 1978 until 1984—six years and four grand slam finals—before he won his first at the 1984 French Open.

    For Andy Murray, who turned pro in 2005, it has taken him seven years and four major finals before winning that first elusive Grand Slam title.

    After winning the gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Andy Murray entered this year's U.S. Open with very high expectations.

    But the road to this particular final was a long one.

    Murray's dream was ignited many, many seasons ago, starting back in 2008 in this same setting in Flushing Meadows.

    It began and ended with a U.S. Open final.

Step One: 2008 U.S. Open

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    Back in 2008 world No. 1 Roger Federer was reeling from a humiliating loss at the 2008 French Open final and an agonizing downfall at Wimbledon after five long sets.

    Both losses came at the hands of Federer’s arch-rival, Rafael Nadal, who was quickly closing the gap.

    Then, Nadal took the gold medal in singles at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games with Federer being dismissed in the quarterfinals.

    Could matters get any worse for the Swiss?

    Federer, however, came back to win a gold medal in doubles with partner Stanislas Wawrinka and headed into the 2008 U.S. Open to redeem his season by trying to win his fifth consecutive title at Flushing Meadows. 

    The No. 6 seed Andy Murray had dispatched Rafael Nadal in the semifinals, but it took him two days because Tropical Storm Hannah wreaked havoc at the U.S. Tennis Center delaying action on Arthur Ashe.

    The 21-year-old Murray never backed down, playing aggressive tennis against the new world No. 1. Murray defeated Nadal 6-2, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4—denying him his first hard court Grand Slam final.

    Meanwhile, Federer had turned back the new world No. 3 Novak Djokovic to reach the final.

    After that exciting build up, however, the final was disappointing with Federer sealing the win in under two hours. Federer won in straight sets 6-2, 7-5, 6-2.

    In the process, he broke Murray’s serve seven times and never allowed the Scot into the match.

    By reaching his first U.S. Open final, Murray climbed to No. 4 in the rankings and learned a valuable lesson about Grand Slam finals—they are difficult to win.

Step Two: 2010 Australian Open

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    It took Andy Murray a long time, relatively speaking, to reach his second Grand Slam final.

    In 2010, No. 5 Murray reached a second major final. This time it was at the Australian Open in Melbourne where, once again, the Scot would have to defeat No. 1 Roger Federer to win the title.

    To reach the final, Murray had to get past the No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal. This year, however, Nadal was forced to retire in the third set. At that point Murray led 6-3, 7-6, 3-0.

    Moving on, in the semifinals, Murray dispatched No. 14 Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the final—his second Grand Slam final.

    In the meantime, Federer had to dispatch Russian Nikolay Davydenko in the quarterfinals and Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals before reaching the finals.

    This time, Murray felt he was better prepared to face Federer in a Grand Slam final.

    But, as feared when the match got underway, Federer jumped out to an early lead, winning the first set 6-3. Then he rolled over Murray in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 7-6.

    28-year-old Federer won his fourth Australian Open championship and his sixteenth career Grand Slam title.

    Once action got underway, Murray abandoned his aggressive game, falling back behind the baseline, allowing Federer to dictate the pace. It was a posture from his opponent that Federer gladly accepted—making the most of his opportunities.

    Once again, Murray came up one match short of winning his first major.

    That occasion would only come years later.

Step Three: 2011 Australian Open

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    The intervening steps were growing closer together as Murray moved toward the form that would allow him to win his first Grand Slam title.

    His next try would present a new challenge. At least, Murray felt, he would not be facing Roger Federer in the final.

    His next opponent the following year at the 2011 Australian Open was his old friend Novak Djokovic who had won this title previously in 2008.

    Murray and Djokovic had known each other since they were pre-teens, playing each other during their junior careers

    But when they reached the final of the 2011 Australian Open, it was the first time the two would meet in a Grand Slam final—in fact the first time they would face each other in a match potentially requiring five sets.

    To get to the final, Murray had to get by David Ferrer in the semi-finals. Ferrer had overcome Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals—so at least Murray did not have to face the always difficult Nadal to reach the next round.

    Murray managed to dispatch Ferrer 4-6, 7-6, 6-1, 7-6 to advance to the final.

    Djokovic had to defeat Roger Federer in the semifinals. It was a tense three sets, but the Serb pulled it off, 7-6, 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the finals.

    This would be Murray’s third try to win a Grand Slam final.

    Unfortunately, the third time was not the charm and Murray fell in straight sets 4-6, 2-6, 3-6 to his boyhood friend, Djokovic.

    So far, in three attempts, Murray had failed to win even one set of tennis in a Grand Slam final.

    The pressure to win was getting more intense with each try.

    Surely, there must be another chance—another shot at winning a Grand Slam title.

Step Four: 2012 Wimbledon

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    At last, after years of trying, Andy Murray finally reached a Wimbledon final. There he would meet the No. 3 seed Roger Federer who had won this title six previous times, starting back in 2003.

    Novak Djokovic was the defending champion. All four top seeds were in action.

    But Rafael Nadal was upset in the second round by Czech Lukas Rosol, which opened up his quarter of the draw. Luckily, Murray was in Nadal’s half of the draw at Wimbledon in 2012.

    In the quarterfinals, Murray defeated the No. 7 seed David Ferrer 6-7, 7-6. 6-4, 7-6 to advance to the semifinals where he met Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

    Murray also won that contest 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. The Scot found himself in the Wimbledon finals for the first time in his career.

    All of Great Britain celebrated.

    Federer had to get by Russian Mikhail Youzhny in the quarterfinals before meeting Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. There Federer shut the Serb down 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

    Federer advanced to his first Wimbledon final since 2009.

    He would meet Andy Murray for the championship match on Sunday after a rain-filled second week of competition. Undoubtedly, the fans in the stands would be pulling for the home town boy

    Murray started strong with the sun shining brightly. The Scot won his first set in a Grand Slam by taking the opener 6-4.

    Federer, however, began to find his footing and his rhythm and he held on to win the second set 7-5.

    Then the rains came.

    From that point forward, there was nothing Murray could do as Federer found his old magic with his racket, winning the final two sets 6-3, 6-4.

    At the end, Murray broke down in tears and the nation cried with him—still waiting for a Brit to win Wimbledon.

    After four tries, Murray came away empty once again.

Step Five: 2012 U.S. Open

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    As most anticipated when Federer was eliminated in the quarterfinals, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic would vie for the 2012 U.S. Open championship.

    The match between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray began Monday with winds very often gusting over 25 mph, causing the ball to rise and fall wafting in the air often ending up where it was not meant to go.

    These would be difficult conditions and Murray handled them better out of the gate.

    The first set would be the deciding factor. Play was tight—determined by a tiebreak.

    There Murray eked out the final advantage, winning after holding six set points. The first set went to Murray, 7-6.

    As Murray ran with it, shooting out to a 4-0 lead in the second set, it seemed that Djokovic would just fade away.

    The Serb, however, was not finished by a long shot. He willed his way back, leveling the second set at 5-5. 

    When Murray held to go up 6-5, Djokovic served, hoping to force a second-set tiebreak.

    But a couple of unforced errors, later coupled by some bad luck, and Djokovic lost his serve and the second set to Murray 7-5.

    Down two sets, Djokovic began the arduous task of climbing back into the match. Annoyed at himself, he went for shots, was aggressive, employing great strategy and pinpoint accuracy to win the next two sets.

    As is true of most great matches, this one came down to the fifth set.

    After battling doubt and Djokovic, Murray found his game once again and broke the Serb in his opening game. What is more, the Brit never lost his edge, serving it out to capture that elusive Grand Slam title, winning 7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2.

    The match lasted four hours and 54 minutes—every minute of it filled with tense action. The men's final tied for the longest match in U.S. Open history.

    Murray became the first Brit to win a major title since 1936.

    For Murray it was the end of a long journey to win his first Grand Slam title. Now, he hopes, it is just the beginning as the Scot begins to build his own legacy in the game.