It’s never been easy to be Andy Murray. Most of us wouldn’t be able to put on his shoes, let alone walk in them or scamper across punishing DecoTurf with the kinds of starts and stops that couldn’t be guaranteed at a Midas brake shop. But try and put yourself in his position.
You have devoted your whole life to tennis with the single-minded obsession of winning your first Grand Slam title. Each day is a grinding destruction of your body, or a recovery for the next collision. Even when things go well, your body’s odometer flashes its red light.
Then you win the U.S. Open.
You peer at your newly minted name on the massive trophy as tangible evidence to your long-suffering quest. You tour Times Square and walk through Central Park. You even joke around with Jimmy Fallon. Across the pond, Dunblane parties deep into the night to toast your triumph. You are the pride and joy of Great Britain.
But the celebratory banquet meats have hardly cooled into tomorrow’s lunch meats before the incessant voices return. They are calling after you again, and they will never let up.
Can you win more Grand Slams?
Beef Jerky Rather Than Truffles
You’re not the storybook hero who totes away trophies with regal grace and simple smiles. You know deep inside you will never endorse smooth chocolate truffles and impart a universally acclaimed sense of winning in style.
You’ve had to scratch and claw your way to the top. Sometimes you scream obscenities and bang your racket into your head. You look scruffy and undernourished, as though you could use a few more meals to satisfy gnawing hunger. It’s the personification to your tennis drive and the reason you would more likely endorse Mariani’s beef jerky. Toughness is your identification.
Along the way, fans join your quest, winding through the lochs and peaks, feeling your trials but lifting you higher. Will they all stay with you now that the journey has ended, or will some seek adventure somewhere else?
Your burden has been lifted, but you know that it will increase. You have never been satisfied with secondary achievements. You thirst for more Grand Slam titles. You want the No. 1 ranking. You must dominate the ATP tour in 2013.
Master Chef and Chess Master
For years your tennis skills have been complimented with caveats of critical reproof. They loved your accurate backhand, but called your forehand a push. They said you could defend, but were not nasty enough to offend. You had a slice, but no second serve. Your skills could cook up wonderful recipes, but there you were setting the tables, serving and cleaning without occasion to feast on your gourmet talents.
You set up your opponent like the master strategist few often notice. You control the rally by slicing your backhand cross-court with cool, uncomfortable pace. When your opponent is pulled to the corner, you strike up the line with a searing backhand.
Tennis or chess? They are one and the same to you.
You can stretch him wide to the corners and dare him to attack your forehand. Then you will choose. Will you hit up the line with your more ferocious forehand? Maybe you will return it back across court or drop a feather shot over the net.
You set up and clear the board.
It’s what winners do.
Seize the Crown
It has taken six years. They all thought it should have come sooner, but there was always Roger Federer’s greatness, Rafael Nadal’s tenacity and Novak Djokovic’s talent. Now you have arrived but you want to be the best.
The past no longer matters. Let them talk about the records and glories the others have achieved. Nobody sups well on memories. You will feast on opportunities to come and depart only when you can no longer walk.
You have three or four years to create your own mini-dynasty. This means you have 12 to 16 Grand Slam chances to win a Wimbledon, capture the No. 1 ranking and collect as many trophies as you are able to claim. You don’t know how many, but you will die trying for just one more Slam, and then just one more after that.
Let the fans and players do their own comparisons. Tennis is work. It’s painful, cruel and often unforgiving, even when you win. Nobody knows this better than you.
You have the talent, but you have paid the price.
You have only begun to fight.