Matured Murray closing the gap
Originally published on: 01/02/12 13:03
For all the disappointment of losing to Novak Djokovic in a drama-filled five sets on Friday, Andy Murray admitted that his semi-final showing at the Australian Open proved he was ready to make the next step in his pursuit of a maiden Grand Slam title.
The world No.4 lost 6-3 3-6 6-7 6-1 7-5 but pushed the world No.1 to the absolute brink. And for all his efforts, the Scot was proud of the way he has stepped up since losing in straight sets to Djokovic in the Melbourne final last year.
“Different player. Different attitude to this time last year,” said Murray in self-analysis, and having fought back from 2-5 down in the final set and held break points for the chance to serve for a spot in the final, added: “I’m proud of the way I fought.”
The Dunblane dangerman produced career-best form in the Grand Slams last year by reaching the semi-finals or better in all four tournaments and the Scot’s skills against the very best blatantly stepped up another gear at the first major event of 2012 following his determined effort.
“Everybody matures at different ages and different rates,” reasoned the Scot. “I feel like now I’m ready mentally. Physically I can still get better, for sure. But in comparison to how I played last year, it was much, much better.”
Murray has long been criticised for his inability to take the game to his opponent. That, they said, was the reason he would be unable to pull off big wins against the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer, but Murray felt he thoroughly forced his game on the scintillating Serb this time out.
“Everyone always says to me ‘Andy’s too passive; he doesn’t go for his shots enough’. I think tonight I did that,” he said. “I probably made more mistakes than him, but I’m quite sure I hit more winners. I was moving well and dictating a lot of the points which is important.”
Murray did in fact hit two less winners – 47 to Djokovic’s 49 – but by his standards the usually-defensive Scot played the match in an all-out charge.
Even in the face of defeat, Murray walks away from Melbourne, albeit a little slower than hoped after a 1am blood test, with a very clear vision.
“I think there’s a very fine line between being No. 1 in the world and being three or four,” considered the 24 year old. “That gap, I feel tonight I closed it.
“My job over the next two or three months is to surpass him and the guys in front of me. So it takes a lot of hard work, and hopefully I can do it.”
Djokovic may still lead the pack for now, but Murray is both hungry and – on the evidence of this clash – very, very capable.
These are exciting times for British interest in the Grand Slam scene.