Andy Murray came back from two sets down to overcome Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in what proved to be a stunning Wimbledon quarterfinal encounter. Things did not seem to be going the Brit's way early on with Verdasco serving big, but the crowd willed its countryman to a 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 victory.
Is this a sign that Andy Murray is finally ready to win the coveted Wimbledon title?
If he wasn't already feeling enough pressure, in the weeks preceding this year's Wimbledon, a documentary was released called Andy Murray: Man Behind the Racquet. As Caroline Frost of the Huffington Post rightfully notes, "When Andy Murray's tears fell on Centre Court last year, his fan base multiplied ten-fold."
Perhaps the documentary was in some ways an effort to appease fans who wanted to know a little more about the man who recently gained their allegiance.
But, ultimately, the documentary largely solidified Murray's place as a British sports superstar (albeit a dour one), if being nominated as BBC's sports personality of 2012 (but ultimately finishing third in the contest) was not enough.
After winning the U.S. Open and Olympic gold last year, furthermore, Murray has—perhaps more than ever before—the weight of a nation on his shoulders to win Wimbledon.
In the match against Verdasco, the pressure began to take its toll.
Murray was making some pretty uncharacteristic errors, perhaps foreseeing another agonizing defeat on Centre Court. All credit to the Spaniard, however, who was blistering forehands and serves.
But Murray dug in deep, and proved his coach Ivan Lendl right. “I don’t see any big problem with it, knowing there is pressure on Andy," Lendl said, in quotes given to Andrew Dillon of The Sun.
Beyond this, Murray's comeback demonstrated the champions mentality he expressed last year might very well have been cemented in his psyche; that he has fully overcome the mental fragility for which he has been criticized in the past. He surely does not look to be satisfied as a "one Grand Slam wonder."
Former No. 1 in the world Andy Roddick tweeted the embodiment of this statement after the match.
Murray certainly realizes his own maturity and the importance it has played in his recent success.
#Murray: "When you play more and more matches and gain more experience you understand how to turn matches around & change momentum."— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 3, 2013
But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Although Murray has continuously dismissed his fortune at being on the side of the draw where Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have all been knocked out early on, a quarterfinal against the unseeded Verdasco, to whom he's only lost once in nine meetings, was much more preferable to the expected alternative.
In quotes given to Naila-Jean Meyers of The New York Times, Murray said:
Verdasco is a very, very good tennis player. Very good at tennis. He's playing very well this week. He's extremely dangerous when he's on his game. Yeah, that's it. I mean, Verdasco’s a very good tennis player.
As difficult a player as Verdasco might have been, the Spaniard is not one known for his consistency. Had Murray lost the first two sets against a multi-Grand Slam champion like Nadal, Djokovic or Federer, it would have arguably been a much steeper uphill battle.
The truth of the matter is that it could have been far worse for the world's No. 2, and it can only get more difficult. As has been effectively demonstrated thus far in the tournament, and as I argued in a previous article, the underdogs are out for a kill.
And the closer Murray gets to the title, the more he'll start to feel the pressure.
Jerzy Janowicz, in his breakthrough year, will have nothing to lose when he steps out onto the court in the semifinal again the Brit. He's younger, more unpredictable and arguably fitter than Verdasco. Note, I only state the latter after his Hulk-like celebration against Tsonga in Rome.
Also, don't forget that Janowicz already has recent experience in beating Murray. Their last meeting took place in 2012, when Janowicz took Murray in three sets at the ATP World Tour Masters in Paris.
Murray, more than ever, will need to demonstrate the mental maturity he showed against Verdasco if he wants to progress against the 22-year-old from Poland.
Then, should Murray advance, regardless of whether he faces Juan Martin Del Potro or Djokovic, the real question arises: Can Murray shrug of the pressure to deliver the ultimate satisfaction to himself, his fans and his nation, or will he be left in tears like last year?
“Inspiration is out there, you know,” Murray's possible final opponent Djokovic said, in quotes given to The New York Times. “Of course you always want to do your best in the Grand Slams.”
We'll have to stay tuned to see if Murray can continue to embrace the inspiration that has guided him thus far in the tournament, especially against Verdasco. If he can, then the final against Djokovic will truly be a sight to behold.
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