Posted by: Paul | September 6, 2010

Murray’s year ends with a whimper

And so, with the weight of so much expectation on his shoulders, Andy Murray exits the US Open and the hopes and dreams of British Tennis fans sputter and die for another season.

It’s fair to say that Murray has underperformed this year. After such a stellar 2009, when he spent a brief period in the World Number 2 spot, much was expected of the erstwhile Scotsman this season. But maybe the pressure is getting to him, though in interviews he is often adamant that he copes with it just fine, thank you very much.

He lost last night to the solid, reliable, occasionally spectacular Stanislas Wawrinka. A compatriot of Roger Federer, Wawrinka has been steadily climbing the rankings in the past couple of years and can usually be relied upon to make it to the second week of a Grand Slam now. Does he have the fuel in the tank to take his career further? Murray, it seems strange to say with him never having won a major, is nonetheless a big scalp.

One wonders, as one always does at these times, if Murray is going to make it. Coping with disappointment and frustration in poor performances is part and parcel of being an elite sportsman, but you have to ask how many times can you take a beating and still get back up and carry on? He is clearly a strong willed individual and lesser men, myself included, would likely have thrown in the towel long ago. Maybe that’s the difference – that will to keep going, to get back on the horse – that takes you to the top of your game, where Murray has been for so long.

So we continue to wait. If Murray’s career ended tomorrow – which it won’t – he and his fans still have much to be proud of in terms of his achievements for British tennis, not least the final of two grand slams. But the biggest problem is there’s just no-one following up behind him. Is it that the weather keeps us off the courts for a large part of the year? Would a British Grand Slam winner really be the catalyst that we need for enough kids to pick up racquets in order to build a future force in the game? I have to say I don’t think so, and that the fault lies most with the place of tennis in British society and the way the game is run here. If the Williams sisters can make it out of South Central LA to their incredible achievements at the top of the sport, you have to ask the question – why not here…?

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