Alix Ramsay: The same, but different for Andy Murray
HERE we go again. Andy Murray and Roger Federer staring at each other across the net on Centre Court, playing for the biggest prize in their sport. Four weeks ago, it was the Wimbledon final; today is the Olympic final.
But this time it is different. This time, Murray and Federer go into the match on equal terms. Neither man has been close to a gold medal before; the winner takes gold, but the loser is guaranteed the silver. Win-win, then.
For the first time this week, they will play the best of five sets, just like in the Wimbledon final. That Sunday, as we all know, Murray lost in four sets, but unlike his other losses in grand slam finals, he came away from the defeat a better and stronger player. The loss hurt terribly, but as he regrouped, he was simply looking at different game plans to beat Federer in a major final. This time, he did not have to go back to the drawing board to work out how to handle the tension of a grand slam final.
“I think I didn’t do much wrong in that final,” he said. “It was just a couple of certain patterns of play that maybe I could have done a little bit more. They were working at the beginning of the match, but I didn’t do as much in the third and fourth sets. Also, Roger wins a lot of matches because he changes tactics mid-match and he might have done something that stopped me from playing the patterns that were working well at the beginning.
“But I had a good chat with Ivan [Lendl, Murray’s coach] afterwards and it’s all about going forward. I cannot change the Wimbledon final. That week afterwards I needed to think about it a bit, learn from it and get over it. This is a huge tournament so I needed to get over it quickly and move on.”
Lendl is at home in the United States, but is in touch by phone, text and e-mail and Dani Vallverdu is holding the fort in SW19. The tactical briefings have worked like a dream, but what has made the biggest difference for Murray is the public. They lifted him when he was down after losing the Wimbledon final and, last week, they cheered him every step of the way, turning Centre Court into “Andy’s House”.
“All the people that came to watch and have hung around outside – it’s so different to what we normally experience in tennis,” Murray said, unable to stop smiling after his blistering display to beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-final.
“It’s so, so different. We normally just get the people on our team congratulating us after we’ve won a tournament. It’s so, so different at this event. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had at a tennis tournament because everybody’s so together. It’s really nice to be part of this team, to be part of the whole event because I think they’ve done a great job so far. I’m really, really enjoying it.”
Like everyone, Murray has been glued to the television to catch up on all the other Olympic events and he managed to see Katherine Grainger’s gold-winning race. Her 12-year wait for Olympic victory was an inspirational story for her fellow Scot – and proof that hard work and patience does pay off.
“I reckon she’s a lot happier than that person who won their gold on the first attempt,” Murray said. “After the 12 years it’s taken to do, it must be an unbelievable feeling. Obviously you want it to happen as soon as possible, but it’s happened a lot in sport, when it’s taken a long time to get that first breakthrough; stories like that are motivational. As long as you work hard, keep believing, you’ll get your chance.”
Murray has always worked hard; the cheering crowds at Wimbledon believe and today is his chance.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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