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By Rohit Sharma
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The year 2006 saw the rise of a young Scot, who soon became the blue-eyed-boy of British tennis. Andy Murray broke into the international tennis scene when he tamed World No.1 Roger Federer in Cincinnati. More success followed when the Scot claimed his first ATP title and took out seeded players on his home soil at Wimbledon. The next two years brought four Masters series titles for Murray post which people started viewing him as the next Grand Slam champion from the Great Britain.
But to the avid English fans' dismay, the WAIT is still on. Murray' shot to stardom turned out to be as shortlived as a flash in the pan. Last year, the Scot raised British hopes by reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon, only to bow down unceremoniously to a resurgent Andy Roddick. The truth is, everytime Murray nears a title match stage in a major event, expectations rise to unfathomable heights. So far, he has neither been able to cope with them, nor lived upto them.
It would be a bit unfair to say that Murray is in the lowest point of his career. Clay hasn't really been his favourite surface and an early exit (lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-2, 6-1 in Monte Carlo) in Monaco isn't something unusual, not even his quarterfinal loss in Rome last week where he came down tumbling against eventual finalist David Ferrer. The bigger concern is Murray's poor showing post his Aussie Open run at Indian Wells and Miami where he failed to retain his success from last year.
The Scot failed to win a title since his last triumph in Valencia last year. His below expectations performance at the ATP World Tour finals broke many hearts on home soil. Murray is a player of huge calibre, someone who has performed exceptionally well in majors ( two finals already in New York and Melbourne). So it isn't the fans across the world who have loaded him with their burden of expectations, hoping he has the strength and the talent to meet them. After all, even the numbers have supported him. Murray has been consistently in the top five in the world rankings from the past three years. Last year, he reached the second spot after claiming his fourth masters series title in Montreal.
So the real question is - What's stopping him from going all the way in majors? More importantly, what is the reason behind his disappointing performance lately. Is Murray really a work in progress? Is he the most over-hyped player in the tennis fraternity?
Murray works with a team of fitness experts, alongside the main coach Miles Maclagan. Despite such a strong back up, here are some shortcomings in the Scot's game, which are, with every single day, leading to permanancy.
Technique-wise, Murray can be best described as a counter-puncher. His ability to change the pace of the rally, coupled with his strength to hit winners from defensive positions make him the star that he is today. However, the problem arises when his constant dependency to wait for his opponent's errors comes to the fore. Against the best in the game, who don't miss an opportunity to thrash the short balls, let alone make any mistake, Murray's strategy goes for a toss. This is perhaps the reason why players of lesser calibre than Murray have beaten him rather handily on a given day.
Mental strength and killer instinct also seem to be an area of concern for Murray. With an exception of the Australian Open semifinals, where we saw Murray at his ferocious best, things have been quite challenging. Tennis pundits consider the World Tour finals debacle as an example of Murray's 'fizzle out' under pressure.
There's a lot that is being said about Murray's flop show in recent tennis events. His poor win-loss (4-3) record post Aussie Open alone is quite de-motivating and difficult to cope with. Unfortunately for him, there's no other way but to wait for the opportunities and work towards the goals. Two time Grand Slam champion Amelie Mauresmo was, for a long time, criticized by the media and tennis pundits for not being able to live upto the expectations. She eventually fought off all her shortcomings and reigned supreme. Perhaps, it's time for a certain Scottish Gentleman to draw inspiration from the Frenchwoman's life and prove the critics WRONG.
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