Whether it’s his overall game, favorite major or chinks in the armor of other elite players, the stars are aligned for Murray to add that elusive major title to his resume.
Here are five reasons why Andy Murray will win a Grand Slam in 2012.
To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man. Coming off arguably the greatest year in the history of the sport, Novak Djokovic is clearly the man.
But to Andy Murray’s encouragement, he’s beaten the man before. Murray’s most recent victory over Djokovic came this past summer in the finals of Cincinnati’s Western and Southern Open, the hard court tournament tune-up before the US Open. The Scot won a shortened championship match, 6-4 and 3-0.
Murray’s conditioning allowed him to thrive in the muggy Cincinnati weather and overwhelm a ragged Djokovic, as the Serbian was forced to retire from the match due to injury. Some will discount Murray’s victory, saying that Djokovic was saving his energy for the all-important US Open.
That would be completely unfair to Murray, though. Injury or not, Murray was only one of three men (the others Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori) to defeat Djokovic in 2011.
In his overall career, Murray is a respectable 4-6 against Djokovic in head-to-head matchups. Given how Federer and Rafael Nadal struggled to solve Djokovic throughout 2011, Murray may have the best chance to knock off the Serbian in a 2012 Grand Slam.
I bet you didn’t know this about Andy Murray: At age 24, he’s just the seventh player in the Open era to reach the semifinals of all four Grand Slams in a calendar year.
Of course, three of those players (Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer) have prevented Murray from actually winning a Slam.
Nevertheless, those three have won major titles, and to be on the same list as that trio could mean that it’s only a matter of time before Murray finally breaks through and gets his.
It’s become clear that this quartet is the Big Four on the men’s side. Murray has proven, through his recent Grand Slam consistency, that he has earned his spot in the Big Four, and because of that, it may be time to take that next step.
If I have to pick one Grand Slam Andy Murray will win in 2012, I say it will be the US Open. Even through injuries, Rafael Nadal is still unbeatable at the French Open.
And with the weight of an entire nation on his shoulders every July, winning Wimbledon may be asking too much of Murray. For as much pressure as he has at Wimbledon, he is that care-free when he gets to Flushing Meadows.
Murray can walk down the streets of New York without being constantly hounded by the media, something that’s impossible to do at the All-England Club.
Maybe this is why Murray, time and time again, has declared that the US Open is his favorite major—and it showed in 2011.
You can argue that Murray played his best tennis of the year at both the US Open and the weeks prior to it. He thoroughly beat Novak Djokovic 6-4 and 3-0 to win the Western and Southern Open hard court tournament in Cincinnati.
Murray followed that impressive victory with a grueling four-set quarterfinal win over John Isner at Flushing. In that match, Murray was able to persevere in the humid New York summer with his impressive serve (which topped 130 mph at times) and a clean game. He committed only 30 unforced errors to Isner’s 54.
Although Murray ultimately lost in the semis to Rafa Nadal, another year at the US Open could finally see him walk away with a Grand Slam—especially if Murray can somehow avoid Nadal in the tournament.
In the pecking order, Andy Murray still sits behind the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in terms of tennis’s best. But is the Big 3 of tennis ripe for the picking?
Although Djokovic has had an epic 2011 season (over 60 wins, just three losses and three Grand Slams) will he be able to duplicate this unprecedented success in 2012?
Nadal has had a solid 2011 himself, yet injuries are really starting to become a problem for the Spaniard.
Finally, Federer is a year older and looks as beatable as ever. His last two Grand Slam appearances ended with him dropping matches in which he had a two-set lead in both.
There may not be a better time for Murray to capitalize than in 2012. It’s time for the Scot to strike while the iron is hot and take advantage his adversaries and their potential vulnerabilities.
Any tennis fan can tell you we’re seeing the apex of Andy Murray’s game. He’s in incredible shape these days.
The summer of 2011 saw Murray not only survive, but thrive, in sweltering conditions to overcome the likes of Novak Djokovic and John Isner in victories at the Western and Southern Open and US Open, respectively. In years past, Murray usually faded under intense conditions like that.
Murray has also improved immensely in his forehand. The 2011 US Open saw Murray at times rely on an aggressive helping of cross-court returns against many of his opponents—even Rafael Nadal briefly during their semifinal match.
If Murray can continue to build on his improving repertoire during the offseason, then 2012 will be the year he finally wins that elusive first major.