Wimbledon: Time for jilted Murray to look to the future as he defends crown

Great Britain's Andy Murray kisses his trophy after defeating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon Men's Final last year.
Great Britain's Andy Murray kisses his trophy after defeating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon Men's Final last year.
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FOR the first time in what seems like eons, Wimbledon dawns with the age old question about British interest in the men’s singles having finally been answered.

Yes, Andy Murray can win Wimbledon.

And no, the wait for a home player to triumph on the hallowed grass of SW19 will not go on beyond 77 years.

It seems we have been asking those very same questions year after year, so now we finally have an answer, are we satisfied?

Probably not. For in the world of sport there is always another question to be answered, another record to chase, another bar to raise.

For the mathematical amongst us, and the cynics, it is 350 days since a British man last won Wimbledon.

There, we have a mythical figure to haunt us again.

Murray’s breakthrough, history-defying victory over Novak Djokovic in the men’s singles final last year finally vanquished the ghosts of Fred Perry, whose feats in the 1930s had long held British tennis in a state of paralysis.

Murray shook those shackles free in memorable style.

But his victory, and return to the scene of his zenith, brings to mind another famous, tortuous wait in sport.

Phil Mickelson, for a long time in golf, was known as the best player never to win a major.

It was a stick used to beat him in the media whenever he had another near miss or even a win in a regular event, until he exorcised his demons and won the Masters in 2004.

When he turned up at the US Open two months later for the next grand slam event, the first question he faced was: “Phil, are you the best player to only win one major?”

It was very much asked with tongue firmly in cheek, but it is a theory Murray should subscribe to.

Mickelson was not happy with one major, just as Murray should not be happy with winning one Wimbledon title.

Last year’s momentous achievement should be the beginning and not the end.

Sadly, up to press, it has looked more like the latter.

Murray spoke in the immediate aftermath of his victory at the All England Club of a weight being lifted off his shoulders, more so than when he won his first grand slam at Flushing Meadows 10 months earlier, or the Olympic gold in London earlier in that golden summer of 2012.

He said he hoped it would allow him to play with more freedom and the belief was, for him and his followers, that we would see more grand slam victories and a rise to No 1 in the world.

Yet Murray has not won a single tournament since in a year of considerably more downs than ups.

The sporting high to end all sporting highs, but also a potential problem. How on earth could he follow that? Marion Bartoli realised she could not and retired a month after her surprise triumph. For a while, Murray struggled, too.

“I spoke to Ivan (Lendl) a little bit about it,” said the Scot. “Maybe because everyone was saying, ‘It’s completely normal to have that feeling’, I in a way accepted, ‘Okay, that’s how I’m feeling’. I don’t think I genuinely really felt that way.”

The new Wimbledon champion arrived at the US Open last August inhibited in his defence of that title by a back injury that required surgery and brought an abrupt end to his season.

A slow recovery, exacerbated by early exits at tournaments in the hard-court season, saw him drop as far down the world rankings as eighth.

Then came the departure of Ivan Lendl, his coach and confidante, and the man who had helped him across the line in the grand slams.

As amicable as the split was, it was also damaging.

Lendl, having guided Murray to one Olympic gold medal and two grand slam titles, decided he no longer wanted to dedicate the necessary time to continue their partnership.

Murray had hoped to finish his career with Lendl and his initial reaction somewhat akin to that of a jilted lover.

But the Scot, who has teamed up with Amelie Mauresmo for the grass-court season, continued his theme of moving on.

“That’s just part of it,” he said. “It was almost fitting in a way that was the last tournament we won together.

“Both of us, when we first agreed to work together, if someone had said, these are the tournaments you’re going to win, I’m sure both of us would have very happy with that. It’s just time to move on now.”

Murray has never watched the three hours and nine minutes that it took for him to defeat Djokovic on that glorious summer afternoon.

He has seen the mammoth last game a couple of times but mostly the fortnight is rendered a blur by that which came after.

“The only day really of the tournament that I remember is the final,” he said. “When I think back, that’s the match that I would go back to. I do spend a lot of time at Wimbledon so each time I go back there you have those memories.

“I remember how I was feeling on the morning, the nerves and stuff. I remember the immediate aftermath of the match and the match point, which is strange because when somebody asked me about it for about a week afterwards I couldn’t really remember anything until I watched it on TV a few times. Now those are the two things I remember.”

For two weeks, Wimbledon is the place where Murray is under the full glare nation’s attention, but for the rest of the year it is the opposite.

Somewhere he goes to sit and take a breath, to step off the tennis treadmill for an hour or two and soak up the peace and quiet of tennis’s cathedral.

Centre Court holds special memories, of course, and for the past year a permanent reminder of his greatest day.

Up on the scoreboard have stayed the names of Murray and Djokovic and the numbers he will never forget – 6-4 7-5 6-4. Well, sort of.

Murray, never a man to let a good story get in the way of the facts, said: “It’s a plastic sheet, it’s not the actual scoreboard.

“It’s nice to see but the best thing is when you walk to the court they all of the winners from years and years ago, and to be on that wall with those players, that’s special.”

Wimbledon is a place where the past is very much present, but for Andy Murray, it is about the future.