WIMBLEDON – Britain’s Andy Murray will enter the second week of Wimbledon with his best chance ever to win the title. Two men whom he has lost to in four of his previous seven appearances – Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – are both out of the tournament. There are only two seeds left in his half of the draw: No. 20 Mikhail Youzhny, a competent yet underwhelming veteran; and No. 23 Jerzy Janowicz, a talented yet inexperienced up and comer.
The Scot could face world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and 2011 Wimbledon champion in the final, but coming off of a run to the 2012 Olympic gold medal on grass at Wimbledon and the fact that he did mange to best the Serbian for his first Grand Slam title at the 2012 US Open means that for the first time, Murray has both the ability and resume to become the first Briton since Fred Perry in 1936 to lift the big trophy.
Here is a rundown of the now 26-year-old Murray’s five greatest triumphs and his five biggest failures at Wimbledon to date.
2005: He upsets No. 13 Radek Stepanek 6-4, 6-4, 6-4
With the aging British standout Tim Henman at the tail end of his career, the 18-year-old Murray shocks the cagey Czech and opens up his nation’s eyes to his promise. “I actually thought he’d be better than he was,” Murray says. “He annoyed me at the end by trying to put me off but it didn’t work.” The newspaper the Guardian proclaims: “Tiger Tim is dead, long live Andrew Murray!”
2006: He stuns former No. 1 and former finalist Andy Roddick 7-6 94), 6-4, 6-4 in the third round behind brilliant returning and a cagey attack. Roddick was angry but impressed: “He’s great at hitting on the move, picking a ball up an inch off the ground, he can still find something to do with it without going for broke.”
2008: Now a more established top 15 player, Murray pulls off a remarkable comeback from two sets down against another talented up and comer, France’s Richard Gasquet 5-7, 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-2, 6-4 in the fourth round. Gasquet had served for the match in the third set. The fitter Murray celebrates the win by rolling up his sleeves and flexing his biceps.
2010: Clubs the former Aussie Open finalist Jo Wilfried Tsonga 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-2 in the quarters. Federer is upset the same day and the odds of Murray to win Wimbledon are reduced 11-5, the best for a Briton since Perry. “That means nothing at all,” Murray says. “It’s totally irrelevant.”
2012: He defeats the scrappy David Ferrer 6-7 (5), 7-6, (6), 6-4, 7-6 (4) in the quarters and says that he has found away to avoid the hype and just play his game. “If you shield yourself from it all and just get into your own little bubble, only listen to the people that are around you, then it’s something you can deal with,” he says.
2005: Puts on a fine show and gets the crowd into a frenzy against former finalist David Nalbandian until he runs out of gas in a 6-7 (4), 1-6, 6-0, 6-4, 6-1 loss in the thirdround. “I know I can play well now and I can compete with some of the best guys, he says. “Unfortunately, physically, I’m not strong as them yet which I think is understandable as I’ve only just turned 18.”
2008: After his great win over Gasquet eventual champion Rafael Nadal buries him 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, who goes on to win his first title. The large gap between the two is clear. “Nadal was playing too well probably for me,” Murray says. “His forehand was ridiculous. He’s hitting the ball so close to the line, so hard, that it was difficult for me to get into a rhythm. It’s amazing how fast he moves his arm and how much control he has over it.”
2009: He snters Wimbledon as a top five player for the time and with a good record against Roddick, but the revived American out-toughs him 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (5) in the semifinals. “If someone serves 130 miles an hour consistently throughout the match, and above, in the high like 75s to 80%, it’s very tough to break them,’ Murray says. “l’ll move on very, very quickly and go and work on my game and improve and come back stronger.”
2011: For the third time, Nadal takes him down, but this time Murray manages to win a set in a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 loss in the semifinals. He doesn’t appear to have enough firepower to hurt the relentless Spaniard. “I’m giving it my best shot each time,” he says. “I’m trying my hardest. I’m disappointed. I feel like I’m playing better tennis than I was last year at this point. It’s difficult.”
2012: Murray finally reaches the final and gets off to a great start against Roger Federer, but the rain comes, the roof is closed on Centre Court and the great Swiss races away with the contest indoors 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. “It’s tough. Every [loss] has been different,” he says. “Today’s pretty hard because you’re playing in front of a crowd like that, your whole family has come to watch.”
Murray than compares his quest to that of the NBA’s LeBron James, who had recently lead his team, the Miami Heat, to its first title when some analysts were saying he was over-rated as a clutch player.
“I think I’m in a similar situation right now,” Murray says. “It doesn’t get easier. When you lose, it’s hard, but you need to try and show strength of character to come back from it. Hopefully one day you get there.”