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Will Andy Murray Ever Be More Than the 'Other Guy' Among the Big 4?

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2016

Andy Murray looks on as Novak Djokovic gives his victory speech at the 2016 Australian Open.
Andy Murray looks on as Novak Djokovic gives his victory speech at the 2016 Australian Open.Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Andy Murray's gritty attempt to pull out the second set in the 2016 Australian Open final is indicative of his struggle to break through in the Big Four era.

More relevant than the "fifth Beatle" but not quite as prominent as Method Man in the Wu-Tang Clan, Murray is that "other guy" in the group. 

Novak Djokovic defeated Murray 6-1, 7-5, 7-6(3). It was the second year in a row that Djokovic beat Murray in the final in Melbourne. 

After another Grand Slam final loss, you have to wonder if Murray will ever shed his status as the weak link in the Big Four.

During his post-match press conference, Murray, via AusOpen.com, told reporters, "I do think I could have played a bit better. ... Yeah, I mean, most of the matches we played in Slams I think have been competitive. Whether that looks the same from the outside or not, I don't know." 

That pretty much sums up Murray's status in the Big Four: measuring progress based on how competitive he looks in losses. 

Murray is now 2-7 in Grand Slam finals. He hasn't won a Slam since Wimbledon in 2013. Yet he's playing better than Rafael Nadal and is ranked higher than Roger Federer. What he lacks is Grand Slam hardware. He's the only member of the Big Four not in double digits.

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Andy Murray looks at his runner-up trophy at the 2016 Australian Open.
Andy Murray looks at his runner-up trophy at the 2016 Australian Open.PETER PARKS/Getty Images

It's Djokovic's show. Following the Qatar Open, Nadal told reporters, per ASAP Sports transcripts, that Djokovic is playing at an entirely higher level. "I know nobody playing tennis like this ever. Since I know this sport I never saw somebody playing at this level."

If this is indeed the Djokovic era, it may be too late for Murray to establish himself among the Big Four. 

Murray is the only member of the Big Four who has yet to hold the No. 1 ranking. Considering Djokovic's season points lead (16,970-8,945), it's not going to happen anytime soon. He's also the only member with a losing record to each of the others. Djokovic is the only one who doesn't have a losing record to any of the other three. 

Murray's place in the Big Four is constantly questioned. It's come under increased scrutiny in the last two years. 

In 2014, Carl Bialik and Nate Silver of ESPN's FiveThirtyEight penned an article with the headline "Tennis Has A Big Three-And-A-Half." They wrote: 

Murray’s overall record at the biggest tournaments makes him mostly worthy of his Big Four status, but it also establishes how far behind the other members he is. Despite repeatedly and unfortunately having to face them, Murray trails only those three players in career success, among anyone whose Grand Slam career began in the past quarter-century.

After Murray's defeat to Djokovic, Bialik tweeted—seen below—that the Brit was the victim of bad timing, merely unfortunate to play in this era.

Last year, during the U.S. Open, USA Today's For the Win columnist Chris Chase made the case against Murray being on par with the others.

Chase wrote, "He is one of the best of his generation, a historic British talent and a surefire Hall of Famer. This is only an indictment of Murray’s inclusion in a group that includes the three players of his era to whom his Grand Slam resume can barely be compared."

To strengthen his standing among the Big Four, Murray needs to win more Grand Slams. Right now, Murray is tied with Stan Wawrinka with two Slams. Wawrinka, that "fifth Beatle," is undefeated in Slam finals. He was also ranked higher than Murray for much of 2015.

Winning Masters events won't do. Murray has to take out fellow members of the so-called Big Four in Grand Slams. It might help if he won more matches in general against his rivals, too. He has such a lopsided record against his contemporaries, Djokovic and Nadal. Murray's 6-16 against Nadal and 9-22 versus Djokovic. And he is 11-14 against Federer. 

Since Murray is the same age as Djokovic, it's unlikely that he can catch him or the others in Grand Slam titles. But if he wants to solidify his status in the Big Four, Murray has to add at least three more Slam titles before he retires. 

Winning three won't make Murray an equal. However, it puts him in the company of the greatest names in tennis history. Many all-time greats—Jimmy Connors (8), Ivan Lendl (8), John McEnroe (7), Stefan Edberg (6) and Boris Becker (6)—won fewer than 10 Grand Slams. The great Rod Laver only won five Slams in the open era. Arthur Ashe won just three. 

Two Slam championships appears to be the low bar set for entrance into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Five puts you among the greats. If Murray is to be a true member of the Big Four, he has to win more than two Slams. 

Otherwise, he'll go down in history as one of Great Britain's greatest, a Hall of Famer, two-time Grand Slam champion, Davis Cup winner, Olympic gold medalist and "that other guy" in the Big Four.

Follow @Merlisa on Twitter.