Andy Murray: The Next Great One in Tennis

Donald FincherAnalyst IJanuary 31, 2010

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 31:  Andy Murray of Great Britain plays a backhand in his men's final match against Roger Federer of Switzerland during day fourteen of the 2010 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 31, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Many people are writing Andy Murray off.  He's now made it to a Slam final twice and lost to Roger Federer in straight sets both times.  People say he can't bear the weight of the entire British Empire bearing down on him.  People say that he is susceptible to trash talk and that he gets tight trying so hard to prove everyone wrong.  People have said that he is just not going to get it done being a counter-puncher, even if he's in the shape of his life.

To them I say, "Not so fast."

First, Federer and Rod Laver, widely regarded as the two best ever, did not win their first major titles until they were 22, Murray's current age.  Look how many they went on to win. Even if it takes Murray another year or two, it only means that he won't hit double digits like they have.  It doesn't mean he won't ever win a major.  If nothing else, he will eventually find himself in a tussle with someone who also hasn't won a slam and to whom the bright lights will be even brighter and more intense than they are to Murray...even if he has to wait until Federer and Rafael Nadal are no longer around.

I don't think it will even take that long.  The Murray I saw play Nadal and Marin Cilic is a guy that is going to be the next rival.  This guy is going to take Nadal's place.  Nadal's knees are failing him and, even if he recovers to some approximate level of his former self, he is still heading into the later part of his prime...especially for someone with a history of knee issues.

Novak Djokovic is a guy that is nowhere near as fit as Murray, doesn't have the drive of Murray, and, truthfully, only has a Slam because Roger Federer had just contracted mono when they played in Australia.  Roger is 22-1 in Slam semifinals.  That one loss was when he had mono.  You do the math.

Jaun Martin del Potro is a good player, but was very fortunate that Federer had a significant letdown in the US Open.  That did not bode well for Murray in the Australian final, as Fed was on guard against doing it again.  So one player's gain (DelPo's) was another's loss (Murray).  DelPo's game is limited, though, and his fitness and the fact that he is prone to injury will play factors in just how consistent he will ever be.

The others are "also rans" at this point, though Andy Roddick is putting in the work and humbling himself to learning new tricks in the hope of winning just one more.  While he badly wants to lose the "one-slam wonder" moniker, he is not the player of the future.

In Murray, I saw a guy that lets almost nothing get by, that can get to drop shots that only Federer and Gael Monfils can get to, can hit the bend-it-around-the-net-post kind of shots like Federer, and can play at the net, too.  In short, I saw a guy who can play a lot like Federer, and he is the only one out there that can.

Nadal was able to matchup with Federer not because of his net prowess or his array of shots.  He just doesn't have those gifts.  He matched up to Federer for one reason: He is left-handed, so he can hit hard forehand shots to Roger's weaker one-handed backhand and can do it with spin like nobody else.  That's it.  If it weren't for that one matchup issue, Fed would have won one or two of those French Opens they played and almost assuredly won the lone Nadal Wimbledon title.

Murray will break through.  He is No. 3 now, but will be No. 2 before the summer.  If he can shore up his clay court game, where he doesn't drop points to Djokovic like he has in the past, he can keep that No. 2.

I don't see him winning the French or Wimbledon this year.  Wimbledon is the better surface for him than Paris, but then he has to deal with the British media, so my prediction is that he will win a hard court Slam before Wimbledon but that he will eventually win Wimbledon once the pressure of winning his first Slam is off of his shoulders.

Andy Murray is a great talent.  Like Roger Federer said of him at the postmatch presentation, "He's too good to not win a major."