Murray looks to London finale after being dumped out of the Paris Open
What a year it has been for Andy Murray. Whatever happens now, or in the season finale at London’s O2 next week, this will be remembered as Murray’s year.
Success in the Grand Slams was almost crowned at Wimbledon before a memorable outpouring of emotion after his loss. Since that final, he has won over the hearts of his nation and proved his critics wrong – powering his way to a Gold medal at the Olympics and, more crucially, his first major title in New York.
His success this tennis year has one obvious difference to years gone by: the presence of coach Ivan Lendl . Though small changes to Murray’s game are clear, what Lendl has done best of all is install a new belief and mental toughness. It has paid off big time, and in Murray’s own words his triumph in New York has “totally changed his life”.
But since his victory at Flushing Meadows, Murray has been on the receiving end of three disappointing defeats. His latest defeat comes in Paris at the hands of the Polish outsider Jerzy Janowicz, who yesterday defeated Murray 5-7 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.
All champions have their bad days, but this defeat reveals something slightly more worrying for camp Murray; it is his third defeat in a row from a match-winning position. In defeats to Djokovic, Raonic and now Janowicz, Murray has had match point and gone on to lose.
Janowicz was let off the hook deep into the second set and went on to take full advantage. At 5-4 and match point down, he managed to take the number three seed to a tie break which he dominated all the way through. Then followed an all too familiar sight for Murray fans, as Janowicz accelerated to a crushing 6-2 win in the deciding set. The 6-foot-8 Pole served down 22 aces in the match and looks to be one of the ATP’s most improved players this year. His ranking of 69 can surely only go up with performances like this.
Janowicz will now play eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic in what has turned into the most unpredictable tournament in recent memory. None of the so-called “big four” remain in the draw, with Federer and Nadal both withdrawing and Djokovic falling to his own shock defeat at the hands of Sam Querrey.
Murray’s new-found ability to throw a match away from the brink will scream complacency from his usual critics. Has his new-found success made him take his eye off the prize enough to justify his latest defeats?
Murray is now a true champion, and we should start getting used to giving him more of a break when he doesn’t win. Perhaps the big stage of the 02 arena is just what Murray needs to fire him up again. After such a season of success for Murray and UK tennis as a whole, winning the tour final in front of a home crowd would be an extraordinary and fitting end. He may be showing some brief lapses since his life-changing Grand Slam, but if opportunity knocks in the tennis year’s last big event, he has everything in his game to get over the line.
The ATP final starts on Monday 5th and runs until the final on 8th November.
Fred Charles, tennis correspondent
A Murray (GBR) l J Janowicz (POL) 5-7 7-6 6-2