Andy Murray fell meekly to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final Sunday in what was his third runner-up medal in a Grand Slam final. What do all these final appearances have in common?
Murray has been relatively a non-factor in each of them. Granted, two came against arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, Roger Federer.
Murray’s first final appearance was in the 2008 US Open where he lost to Fed 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. He had just shocked the world by defeating reigning French Open and Wimbledon champion, Olympic gold medalist and newly crowned world No. 1, Rafael Nadal.
King Federer took down Murray again in the 2010 Australian Open final, again in straight sets, though Murray did manage to force a tie-break in the third and final set.
Murray’s latest final disappointment came with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 loss to Djokovic in Melbourne.
Finals aren’t the only place where Murray has disappointed, either. He played a brilliant 2009 Wimbledon and had the entire nation—including the Queen—supporting him, but then his skill just faded against Andy Roddick in the semis. He also failed to give Nadal much fight in last year’s Wimbledon semis.
On the one hand, it’s hard to blame Murray for some of these losses. Losing to Rafa is understandable and beating him once is great. Federer is clearly the better, more intelligent player compared to Murray and just about everyone, but this most recent loss to Djokovic just doesn’t cut it.
This was Murray’s big chance to show the world he’s not just a great player when the stakes aren’t high. The only real difference between him and the Djoker is the latter has won a Grand Slam (Australia 2008). They have similar styles of play and similar strengths which is evidenced by the fact that they’re doubles partners.
If it had at least been a tightly contested match, a five-setter with a couple tie-breaks maybe, no one would be questioning Murray. But it wasn’t that kind of match. Djokovic pressured Murray right from the start, but the Brit never returned the favor.
Murray has played consistently on the tennis tour for several years which has granted him at least a top five ranking, but it has also piled the pressure on Murray, who doesn’t seem to be handling it well.
He has been Great Britain’s only hope for a tennis champion since Fred Perry in 1936. Well, Brits may have to start hoping someone new comes along, because Murray just isn’t delivering when it matters most.
Then again, he’s only 23 years old. Sure Rafa won his first Grand Slam when he was only 19, but that’s Rafa. Murray may still be getting used to his new coach, and if Nadal and Fed really are on their way out, the door is wide open for a guy like Murray to bag a title, possibly this year.
But not the French because that’s got Rafa written all over it and then Fed will probably bring his all to reclaiming Wimbledon, and Djokovic will probably want to redeem himself for last year’s US Open final loss.
Tough times ahead for Murray and Great Britain.