Imagine stepping onto the courts for the Final Round of a Grand Slam tournament – the US Open perhaps. You’ve been here four times before, and walked away with a mark in the loss column each time.
You’re up against a five-time Grand Slam winner, who has slammed you around the court a time-or-two before. To top it off, your fellow citizens are looking for you to bring home their first Grand Slam win in 75 years.
Would you call that pressure?
Many in the tennis world say they saw the emergence of a “new, more focused Andy Murray” after his US Open win over #2 Novak Djokovic; some saying this was the first time they saw the 2012 Olympic Gold Winner really “push to his limits.”
According to writers for The Bleacher Report, this tournament for Murray wasn’t just about being able to maintain his form and cadence when the clock hit the fifth or sixth hour, it was a lesson on how to maintain mental strength, save his physical strength, and use the two interchangeably. It was a lesson that required him to accept that his game was not adequate enough, and see that improvements were necessary.
“The fact that he has won [this Grand Slam] is proof that those improvements were made — proof that he was humble and diligent enough to work despite the setbacks, disappointments and criticisms, said one reporter. “Proof that he was champion material, and now he IS champion material.”
“He proved today that he’s a champ, and he deserves to be where he is,” Djokovic said after his loss. “No question about it.”
Murray credits his previous struggles against five-time grand slam winner Djokovic, 11-time grand slam winner Rafael Nadal, and 17-time grand slam champion Roger Federer with making him into a champion, and maximizing his potential as a tennis player.
“Playing against them has made me improve so much,” Murray said. “Maybe if I had played in another era I might have won more, but I might not be as good a tennis player either.”
Until Monday, Murray had managed to take only one set while losing to Federer at the 2008 US Open, 2010 Australian Open and two months ago at Wimbledon, as well as to Djokovic in the 2011 Australian Open Finals.
After an emotional loss at Wimbledon, Murray battled back last month to defeat Federer for the Olympic Gold Medal, a boost of confidence that arguably carried him to this Grand Slam breakthrough.
After Murray’s win at the US Open, The Big Four (Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, respectively) officially comprises of all four members having won a slam, and all four slam titles happening in 2012 being held by them.
“We four, we are taking this game to another level,” Djokovic said. “It’s really nice to be part of such a strong men’s tennis era.”
The British are also celebrating Murray’s strength as he captured the first Grand Salm title since Fred Perry won the 1936 US Championships.