Once again Andy Murray collapsed on the biggest stage at this year's Australian Open. This time it wasn't immortal legends like Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal standing across the net, but a fellow young player he's had relatively good success against in Novak Djokovic.
Sadly the result was the same. A straight sets loss, and not even tight sets where it was obvious that only a few shots made the difference. Instead it was a pedestrian 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 loss and it wasn't even close.
His results in slam finals have been so lackluster, that he's never even managed to win a single set in three slam finals, and the question of whether or not he will ever raise a grand slam trophy is starting to look more believable with every slam that sails by him.
But what is it that is keeping Murray from winning one of Tennis's ultimate titles? There are a few factors at work, but they all stem from one thing. I'll tell you what it is; it's pure negativity.
Tennis history is littered with players who were naturally negative people. From Nastase to McEnroe to Agassi, these players were great, but often their negative attitude kept them from reaching even higher echelons than they managed to reach. At the best of times they managed to harness that negativity and channel it in the right direction, but at a moment's notice it could all go wrong and suddenly game over.
Some of the factors caused by this negative attitude include the absence of any real sense of belief that he's got what it takes and possibly even deserves to win a slam title.
Part of me believes that Murray doesn't have the confidence in himself and his game needed to make the final leap. He often reverts to pure defense when things get tight and when he's on the big stage. He freezes up and it shows that at the moment he's simply not mentally and emotionally ready to fully commit himself to the idea that he's got what it takes to win the most important titles.
Some will say that he's won half a dozen Master's Series 1,000 titles and has beaten the likes of Federer and Nadal during or in the finals of some of those tournaments and it's true, but there happens to be a huge difference between the final of a slam and a Master's Series final.
Losing the final of a Master's Series 1,000 is tough I'm sure, but the stakes at that level don't compare to a slam, and that lack of belief and conviction to step up and really fight makes me wonder just how much he wants it, and how much he feels he deserves it.
There are times like these when I also wonder just how much passion Murray has for the game. Certainly losses like these can sap that slowly away and negative people can fall into a state where they begin to loathe what they started out loving.
I've seen what Murray can do when he's hitting his stride and it can be scary good, but his highs while wonderful are often followed by long deep lows. There is often a lack of consistency in his performances. Two good weeks followed by a mediocre month, and back up again. If Murray plans on giving himself a great and memorable career, he had better start looking in the mirror.
In short, Murray needs to show grit, spirit and the fight that are hallmarks of players like Federer, Nadal and even Hewitt. That ability to brush aside bad moments, games and even tournaments is not easily done and is hard to learn, but if he wants the greatest highs, he had better start attending class.
It all starts with being positive. It will take time and cannot be done over night, but with the right state of mind, and work he can become a much more positive person and that will do wonders for him. It might even lead him to a slam title.
I'll plainly admit I'm not the biggest Murray fan in the world. His whiny attitude can show up at a moment's notice and it was on full display in this past week's final. Yelling at his box, ball boys, himself, etc. It's grating, melodramatic and unprofessional and it's a sign that Murray has quite a bit of maturing to do.
Murray turns 24 this year. While he certainly has plenty of years left, if he's not successful in the next couple of years, I'm not sure he ever will be.
There was a time a few years ago when I said that David Nalbandian was the greatest player to never win a slam but Murray has pulled right up beside him and could pass by very soon if he's not careful. That is one distinction that Murray should never want to be known for. Let's see if he can change things.