He has two Grand Slam titles on his resume, but Andy Murray will continue to feel the pressure to win. Yes, this is the same Murray who became the toast of Great Britain by conquering Wimbledon and earning his way into the Hall of Fame. But that’s history now. If Murray wants to be elite, he must improve his results in 2014.
It will not be easy for Murray, so perhaps some reminders and advice, in the form of a friendly letter, would serve him well as he prepares for tennis war in 2014.
The Long Suffering Rise
Through the early years you fought and scrapped to climb up the Grand Slam podium. You watched Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal haul off the big hardware, often at your expense. It must not have been easy watching the sports world gush over the smooth Swiss Maestro and the bullish Spanish Warrior. Monikers and endorsements were not lining up for you.
There were compliments of course, but even those were laced with criticism. To call you a “choker” was overly harsh. To say you were a defensive “pusher” had its fair share of debate. To say that you were the “greatest player never to win a Grand Slam,” was a not-so-subtle jab at your mental toughness.
But you did it, Andy. You threw off the Grand Slam gorilla by overcoming your rival Novak Djokovic to win the 2012 U.S. Open. In 2013, your ultimate triumph at Wimbledon made you a British sports hero. It may never get better than that.
Are you satisfied?
A Word About Champions
You mentioned how much pressure it was to finally win Wimbledon. Did you think the pressure would go away?
It’s the price of trying to be the best. You can never rest easy. One minute they are throwing you a party and lining up for a parade in Dunblane. Days later, the tabloids snap beach photos of you and Kim Sears.
The summer heat was still blazing as the critics warmed up to question your hunger and heart as you failed to win the U.S. Open. The honeymoon was over.
You see, Andy, if you listen too much to the accolades, you will lose your edge. You can choose to be well fed and enjoy the ride or you must sneer, get back in the gym and pump iron.
The great tennis champions never rest. They have this burning desire to win more titles, and anything short of Grand Slam titles and the No. 1 ranking is not acceptable.
How bad do you want this? Are you willing to travel on a journey that will be much harder than it was in 2012-13?
2014 or Bust
The difference between triumph and failure is frighteningly small. Of course your back injury is cause for concern, but you must banish any thoughts to use injury as a scapegoat. Were any of Federer's competitors feeling too sorry about the Maestro's injuries this past year?
You will need to train harder, evolve and be tougher. Djokovic and Nadal are not going to roll over. There are hungry players like Stanislas Wawrinka and David Ferrer. Oh, right, Ferrer passed you in the rankings.
About that No. 4 ranking: You are light years away from Djokovic and Nadal at the top. Are you going to play every important tournament with every ounce of your strength? Will you now prioritize winning on clay? If there is not dramatic improvement there, you can wave goodbye at any chance to be No. 1.
Expectations will increase, and that Wimbledon title can only buy you so much peace. If you go Slamless in 2014, the tennis world will move on to another flavor while your trophies collect dust in the forgotten files of yesterday's media.
It's cruel, but there are no consolation prizes for great champions. There is winning and there is misery.
So all you need to do is win one or two Majors and bag a few Masters 1000 titles. Be sure to claim at least one clay-court title, and at minimum split your matches with Djokovic and Nadal.
That's really all we ask you to do. Easy enough, right Andy?