Andy Murray: World No. 1 or British Obsession Gone Mad?

EmmaAnalyst IMay 17, 2009

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 14:  Andy Murray of Great Britain celebrates a point against Tommy Robredo of Spain in their third round match during the Madrid Open tennis tournament at the Caja Magica on May 14, 2009 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Andy Murray is a fantastic tennis player.

He plays with excellent variety, his serve has improved in leaps and bounds, he has become a master of the drop shot, and he can hold his own from the back of the court. When he is playing well, he can be an absolute joy to watch. 

He started 2009 by saying he could be World No. 1 by the year's end. And yes, technically he could have. But realistically? Not a chance. Not with Rafael Nadal's iron grip over men's tennis.

Despite this, the British media all too happily jumped on the bandwagon, and ever since I have regularly heard Murray described as "the future World No. 1 hope"—by commentators, news reporters and fans alike.

Rafael Nadal has stated that he believes Andy Murray will, at some point become the World No. 1. He did not, however, specify when.

There is a high possibility that Murray will, at some point in the future, get to that coveted top position. Whether that future is near or distant, is difficult to say. Particularly with Murray's difficulties on clay, and Nadal's complete dominance on every surface.

Really. It's a tough one to call.

Murray has improved in ways I could never have predicted. There was a time when he was almost embarrassingly bad on the red dirt, and now he goes deeper into those clay court tournaments than he ever has before.

His prowess on hard courts has been incredible, and lifted him to No. 4 in the ATP World Tour rankings last year.

Now he sits on the position of No. 3. And if we're being honest—he got there by default.

His hard court points from the end of last season and the start of this season have carried him thus far. Despite being knocked out in his first match in Rome, because Novak Djokovic did not retain his title, the pair swapped ranks.

Novak Djokovic has reached the finals in Monte Carlo and Rome, he won Belgrade, and reached the semifinals in Madrid.

Andy Murray reached the semifinals in Monte Carlo, went out in R32 in Rome, and reached the quarterfinals of Madrid (He did not play in Belgrade)

Murray has never reached a clay court final. To be a World No.1, you must be versatile enough to win on all surfaces.

Had it not been for Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer would long have been the best clay court player in the world. Perhaps not the best ever, but the best of the generation.

Novak Djokovic is currently playing like the World No. 2, yet has been bumped down to fourth in the world because of Murray's previous successes on hard courts.

So yes—Murray may well become World No. 1 one day, but it will only happen when Rafael Nadal releases the world of men's tennis from this lockdown, and Murray improves his own game further on clay.

The British media, however, has different ideas.

Blinded by patriotism and the fallen dreams of previous tennis players from our country, they pile all the broken hopes and unfulfilled expectations of past generations onto the shoulders of whichever poor soul happens to be talented enough to make people outside of Britain see the potential they have.

Of course, because of this we get second-to-none tennis coverage on the TV, but that is not the point.

The obsession of the media in Britain extends far enough that they do not mention the epic encounters between two champions in their daily news reports—namely Nadal and Djokovic in their Madrid semifinal—preferring instead to talk about Murray's hopes for the French Open.

The way Andy Murray is talked about in Britain, you would think he already was the World No. 1. Higher even, if that is possible, because it would be insanely difficult for anybody to deserve the kind of praise he gets.

And this is without even winning a Grand Slam.

It's not fair on the British people who are loyal fans of other players, it's not fair on the people who have to play against Andy Murray in front of a home crowd—and it's not fair on Andy Murray, because that kind of pressure is not something anybody ever wants to have to deal with. 

There is nothing wrong with a bit of patriotism. But to the exclusion of all else? It's madness.