In some ways it’s Tim Henman’s fault that Andy Murray carries such a large yoke across his shoulders. It was ‘Tiger’ Tim who reawakened British hopes of a male grand slam winner. And with Tim’s game so wholly suited to grass, Brits everywhere entertained realistic hopes of a Wimbledon champion no less. Henman reached six grand slam semifinals (four at Wimbledon), but eventually we came to realise that his elegant game fell slightly short of the biggest prize.
But just as Britain was preparing itself for another yawning abyss of failure, along came Andy Murray to stoke up yet more expectation amongst the British public. Britain last won a men’s singles grand slam title in 1936 so it’s no surprise that any Briton capable of winning one comes under such intense scrutiny. No wonder Murray sometimes emphasises his ‘Scottishness,’ almost as if to disassociate himself from the whole phenomenon.
The bigger problem for Murray is that he is a more complete player than Henman who we only really expected to do well at Wimbledon. But we now expect big things from Murray at all the big events.
He’s already reached three grand slam finals, albeit without taking a single set. He’s like an industrial strength Tim Henman. But is this it from Murray? Juan Del Potro snuck up from nowhere to bag the US Open, and Djokovic has mopped up two Australian titles and is looking good for more. Tennis moves very quickly these days and you never know when the next wonder kid will appear. Raonic and Dolgopolov spring to mind. Another Boris Becker could come snapping at your backside overnight.
I sincerely hope not but it’s possible that Murray has already done his best work. Maybe he can’t overcome his counter attacking instincts when the big task comes along. He’s put in some excellent grand slam performances but never in a final, and these chances don’t come along ad infinitum. The boat moves so fast in the modern game that maybe Murray’s missed it.
And maybe there’s a third young Briton out there somewhere, eager and willing to finish the job.