• Chris Wilkinson

Murray cannot afford to sit still

ESPN staff
November 13, 2012
© PA Photos

In what Andy Murray has described as the best season of his career "by a mile", it is a shame the British No. 1 couldn't cap a stellar year with victory on home soil at the ATP World Tour Finals.

When he looks back over the year he will be pretty happy with how 2012 panned out. In a two-month period over the summer he reached the final at Wimbledon, won Olympic gold on home soil and claimed his first grand slam title with victory at the US Open.

He has struggled a little since the US Open - he squandered match points in Tokyo (against Milos Raonic), Shanghai (against Novak Djokovic) and Paris (against Jerzy Janowicz), but he has got to look at the overall picture and make sure he builds on a superb season.

Murray needs to keep building and keep believing. If he keeps playing aggressively, I am sure he will win another grand slam next year. It is not a case of changing anything, just keep working hard.

"Murray needs to keep building and keep believing. If he sits back he will get left behind."

One of the things I think we've learned over the years is that you cannot afford to keep still. Djokovic had a remarkable season in 2011 but he has had another amazing year this year and that is because he could not afford to sit back even as the best player in the world. If Murray sits back he will get left behind, no doubt. He has to keep pushing himself and if he does that I believe he can become world No. 1 next season.

For Ivan Lendl, it is very much a case of mission accomplished. He was appointed solely to help Murray win a grand slam and he did that inside the first 12 months. Obviously Murray was already a quality player and he didn't really need to change much, but as an eight-time major winner and former world No. 1 he was able to offer that little bit extra. Murray's previous coaches would have been telling him to play more aggressively, but Lendl has that extra bit of authority which made the difference.

It has been repeatedly said that Murray would be a multiple grand slam champion if he had played in any other era, but he would almost certainly also be a lesser player. Playing alongside Roger Federer, Djokovic and Rafael Nadal has been tough for Murray, but his US Open victory means he will no longer be mentioned as one of the greatest players never to win a slam.

While he is clearly getting more consistent at grand slams it seems to have come at the detriment of other tournaments - he has won two Masters trophies every year since 2009, but he failed to win a single Masters event this year. When you look at who won the nine Masters trophies this season, apart from David Ferrer's most recent win in Paris, the other titles were shared between Nadal, Djokovic and Federer.

Looking at Murray's ranking points total for 2012 it is not a vast amount more than last season, and when you consider he amassed nearly 1000 extra points at the slams, he needs to be more consistent across the year as well as targeting the majors.

The world No. 1 ranking should also be a realistic target for Murray. It remains to be seen how long Federer can keep going and Nadal will take a while to get back into the swing of things so Murray needs to hit the ground running next season. Djokovic will be the man to catch but if Murray can win the Australian Open he will certainly be a great deal closer to that coveted top spot.

Djokovic was guaranteed to finish the year top of the pile for the second successive season but I think he needed to win the ATP World Tour Finals to really emphasise his dominance. The Serb was gifted the No. 1 spot back after Federer opted not to defend his Paris Masters title. Djokovic has also lost his last two meetings against Federer so he had a point to prove, and finish the season on a high. Djokovic has done incredibly well since the US Open - he appeared to be struggling a bit for form over the summer but he has responded well, and that is the mark of a great champion.

Twelve months ago Federer finished the year on an unbeaten run after winning in Basel, Paris and London, so missing out on a hat-trick of titles in London will be disappointing for the Swiss. I do think Federer exceeded his expectations for the season with victory at Wimbledon and a return to world No. 1, but in all honesty, at 31, I really can't see how he can maintain that level for too much longer.

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