It is no secret to anyone that Andy Murray is not experiencing a year anywhere close to his extremely high expectations. One thing is for sure: he is slowly playing his way back into form in arguably the most important time of the year for him.
Grass Court Form
The World no. 1 is most comfortable on the grass; two of his three Grand Slam titles have come on this surface as well as an Olympic Gold Medal. We all know what Andy Murray achieved last year, especially on grass. He went undefeated on the surface as he won back to back titles at Queen’s and Wimbledon. His performances at SW19 were all the more impressive when you look at the manner of his victories. Murray was in ruthless form and only dropped two sets out of twenty-three. Those two sets were stolen by the inspired, powerful, and attacking tennis of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The Scot’s most successful tournament is staged on a grass court at the Queen’s Club where he has won an unprecedented five titles there. The Queen’s Club remains the only grass court tournament he has played in this year and his stay was a brief one. Murray lost in straight sets to world no. 90 Jordan Thompson in the first round.
Early Queen’s Exit Not an Issue
We should not look too deeply into this alarming loss however. The Brit has said himself that he knows he can lose early in a tournament like Queen’s and bounce back. Just cast your mind back to 2012. He was defeated by Nicolas Mahut in his opener at the Queen’s Club only to bounce back for the Wimbledon Championships where he made his first final there. Although it would be ideal for Murray to win a grass court event prior to Wimbledon, it is not a problem.
The best players in the world rise to the occasion when it matters most: the Grand Slams. This was evident in Paris for Murray. Everyone was well aware of the struggles in form the Scot was having. Crushing defeats to Coric in Madrid, and Fognini in Rome only fueled the fire for his critics. Nevertheless, these tournaments play the best of three format; the Slams play the best of five. It is extremely difficult for players like Coric, Fognini, and many others to string together moments of pure brilliance over five sets.
Playing Himself Into Form
The French Open could prove to be the turning point in Andy Murray’s year. He played statement tennis in the French capital, informing everyone that he is the World no.1 and quite frankly, the man to beat. Many people went as far to say that Murray would not even make the second week. Let me remind you that the last time he failed to do this was at the US Open seven years ago.
When the draw was released the attention swiftly swarmed around the Brit as the tennis gods had given him a nightmare draw with plenty of obstacles. Murray accepted this and fought himself to play his best tennis. Wins over established and great players were strung together for the first time this year. Kuznetsov, Klizan, Del Potro, Khachanov, and Nishikori were dismissed. Stan Wawrinka very nearly became a sixth victim when Murray found himself only a tiebreak away from the final. The business-like tennis Murray displayed at Roland Garros was the tennis that got him to the pinnacle of the sport. Do not be surprised if we see it again at Wimbledon.
No Worry About Fitness Concerns
The Hurlingham Club was awaiting to watch some dazzling grass court tennis between Andy Murray and Lucas Pouille. This did not transpire as the home favourite pulled out with a sore hip. Fortunately, the event at the Hurlingham Club is only an exhibition event so no points are awarded. In addition, the Scot described his withdrawal as “precautionary” and why would he risk his fitness in an exhibition event. A very smart move to make and one we should not read into that much. We had similar concerns before the Championships in 2013 when Murray missed the French Open with injury. We all know what happened next.
Murray Always Delivers at Wimbledon
The World no. 1 has made SW19 his own throughout his entire career. He has made a staggering nine consecutive quarterfinals at Wimbledon dating back to 2008. I certainly will not be surprised if he makes it ten in a row. Out of those nine last-eight showings, he has lost at that round only twice. Murray has made the semifinals four times and featured in three finals (winning two). These are statistics that are completely absurd but overlooked due to the high levels of consistency showed by Andy Murray.
The Brit also has an 85% winning record at the All England Club, winning fifty-three out of his sixty-two matches there. The defending champion is unbelievably reliable there and he will try to win a fourth Grand Slam title.
Defending the World No.1 Ranking
There is added motivation as three other players can steal the top spot from him: Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, and Novak Djokovic. The man with the most chance of doing so is Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard has enjoyed a resurgence of form this year. Nadal will be confident having just won his tenth Roland Garros title and Murray will be well aware of this. The Brit always loves a challenge and this will be his latest one. Another incentive to help him play at his devastating best.
The grass court king may have suffered an early exit at Queen’s but he and everyone else knows that he can bounce back. The world no. 1 has been playing himself back into top form and will return to the place where he always delivers. Don’t write Murray off for Wimbledon just yet.