Andy Murray Sets His Sights on Becoming World No. 1

Kieran BecklesCorrespondent IAugust 20, 2009

CINCINNATI - AUGUST 19:  Andy Murray of Great Britain reacts against Nicolas Almagro of Spain during day three of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters on August 19, 2009 at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)


During one of his shows, much acclaimed comedian Bill Bailey once remarked: ‘I am English, and as such I crave disappointment’.

This is a sentiment true of many sporting fans in Britain who have become acclimatised to disappointment, especially when it comes to their country's performances in the World Cup, the Ashes and Wimbledon.

Upon the retirement of Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski the inevitable pessimists were predicting a bleak future. British tennis was on the verge of redundancy, unable to manufacture a new prodigy to take over Henman’s mantle.

Indeed summers in Britain revolved around Wimbledon for decades with the disappearance of football from the box set for a brief month or two. Henman Hill would be brimming with packed fans waiting with baited breath, always asking the same question: ‘Will this be Henman’s year?’

Their hero came agonizingly close to a SW19 final appearance but was unable to muster enough to overcome the likes of Goran Ivanesevic and Lleyton Hewitt.

Ultimately he failed to win the Wimbledon title that the nation craved so much.

Then as British hopes of a home star ever claiming the Wimbledon title were diminishing, along came a fresh faced Andrew Murray in 2005 to rekindle the hopes of a nation.  Eventually he fell at the third round, but Murray embodied that fighting spirit that his compatriot Henman has so often lacked.

Since his maiden Grand Slam appearance, Murray has gone from strength to strength, rising through the rankings and claiming some famous scalps along the way. Indeed, his journey has seen him win four ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments and a further nine singles titles.

Murray enjoyed recent success in the Rogers Cup which saw him rise to a career-high World No. 2. He overcame Del Potro who threw the proverbial kitchen sink at his opponent before Murray defied the Argentine by rallying to produce some terrific tennis in the third set to claim a fourth Masters title.

Possibly the greatest tennis player of all time, Roger Federer, is now all that stands between Murray and the summit of mens’ tennis.

A pivotal few weeks for the British No. 1 approaches as he aims to defend his Cincinnati title and aim to go one stop better than last year’s performance at Flushing Meadows.

Arguably, the Scot possesses the most lethal backhand in the game right now. He shows great adaptability, able to switch from a single to a double backhand as the situation requires throughout the duration of a rally.

His defence shots make it difficult for even the most talented of opponents to overcome the tenacious Scot. Murray’s serve has also become more consistent and now provides him with a real weapon against his rivals.

Murray is blessed with a phenomenal record on the hard courts.  In the past year he has undoubtedly been the player to beat when it comes to the hard court season, which was recognised by the betting companies who installed Murray as favourite to win the Australian Open crown.

This was much to the irritation of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic who were quick to lament Murray’s lack of Grand Slam titles. For the US Open, Blue Square are placing the Britain behind Federer as second favourite to win an inaugural slam at Flushing Meadows.

Should Murray succeed or fail in his quest, he will take comfort in the knowledge that 2009 has seen him further cement his position at the pinnacle of men’s tennis as the perceived ‘big three’ augmented into the ‘Fantastic Four’.

Indeed Fantastic Four is an apt name for the quartet.

Rafa Nadal bears many similarities to Mister Fantastic with his amazing reach allowing him to return shots when he simply has no right to. Roger Federer would have to be compared to the Human Torch with his innate ability to float around the court sending fire bolts past opposition.

Novak Djokovic will unfortunately be laboured with the title of the Invisible Girl. A player who possesses great talent but his tendency to fail to overcome difficult physical and mental barriers during a game often leads to retirement leaving many fans and players infuriated.

So that just leaves Murray. He has often been criticised for a lack of charisma. Federer has condemned Murray for lacking aggression and waiting for his opponent to slip up. Murray’s defence is awesome and he is able to weather almost anything the opposition can throw at him, and suddenly produce a phenomenal pass to take the point against all odds, not to dissimilar to The Thing.

Bill Bailey may crave disappointment but soon he will be missing that wretched emotion. Murray will make his breakthrough soon, a slam is on its way, it may or may not be Wimbledon, nevertheless he has proven he has the talent, he has the courage, and it’s only a matter of time before Britain celebrates its first male slam winner since Fred Perry won SW19 in 1936.

Andy Murray today beat Radek Stepanek 6-4 6-1 to move into the quarter finals of the Cincinnati Masters 1000.