On the 30th June 2008 Andy Murray was showing off his bicep to the Centre Court crowd at Wimbledon. The Scot had just won an enthralling five-set match against the French player Richard Gasquet having found himself two sets down. This match was perhaps the defining moment in the British number ones career as it saw his transformation from a young hopeful to a real contender.
Yesterday afternoon in Paris the two twenty-three year-olds did battle once again with a repeat result. Murray had been broken while serving to stay in the first set and then Gasquet took the tie-break in the second to take a two set lead. I will admit that at this point I turned off the match as despite there being some excellent tennis on display I could not stand to see Murray, the player upon which all our tennis hopes rest, crash out in the first round of one of the Grand Slams.
Murray, however, showed far greater resolve than myself and fought back to win the next three sets and complete a superb comeback. It was a testament to the fitness of the Scot and who far he has come in the last few years. Nevertheless, the question remains, can Murray take the final step and claim a Grand Slam trophy?
I am not, of course, suggesting he will now go on to win the French Open, far from it. This is certainly the least likely of all the Slams for him to win. But with Wimbledon only a month away we can expect Murray Mania to begin once again. The World Number 4 has been given odds of 5/1 to win the tournament next month. This is, perhaps, British optimism but also is evidence that has more than merely an outside chance.
Murray's best chance of winning a Grand Slam will probably be on the hard courts which suit his tenacious baseline play far better. He has reached the final at the US Open and the Australian Open, both hard court tournaments, and each time was defeated by Roger Federer.
At only 23 many are already asking if he will ever go on to win one of the big four tournaments. His naturally defensive tactics work well against opposition who are prone to making mistakes or who do not have the quality to hit winners past him. When they can and do, however, as Gasquet did for two sets yesterday and as the likes of Nadal and Federer certainly do, his game can falter.
It must be acknowledged that Murray has the displeasure of playing the game in the same era as the greatest player to ever pick up a racquet in Roger Federer and he is the man that Murray will most likely have to find a way to beat if he is to be the first male Brit to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry back in 1936. This being said, Murray does in fact boast a record of six wins to only five defeats against Federer which shows that he does have the ability and game to beat the best. Now he must produce it over five sets and on the biggest stages of all.
His win yesterday was a reminder of the improvements he has made both technically and physically as he proved himself able to not only adapt his play but also to outlast his opponent. I still do not believe that Wimbledon, at least this year, will be where he breaks his Grand Slam duck but we can dream and dream we will!
Thoughts, comments and opinions please...