ANDY Murray always had the potential to win Wimbledon and his competitive streak set him apart from other young tennis players, according to his friend and former coach Leon Smith.
Smith, who was present on centre court when Murray ended Britain’s 77-year wait for a Wimbledon men’s singles champion by beating world No 1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets on Sunday afternoon, worked with Murray over a four-year period which started when the new SW19 champion was just 11 years of age.
Murray lost in last year’s final before winning Olympic gold and the US Open and Smith, who is also Great Britain’s Davis Cup captain, reckons the 26-year-old always showed enough promise to reach his ultimate goal.
“We always saw there was a champion in the making throughout his entire junior tennis career,” he said.
“He was always at the top end of the international stage. But it takes a huge amount of work to get from that point to being Wimbledon champion.
“What he did last year, winning Olympic gold and becoming the US Open champion, obviously set him on the road to what he achieved yesterday and he got over the line yesterday with an incredible performance and I’m absolutely thrilled for him. There was an innate sense of competitiveness and that is always really important when you look at the talented youngsters coming through.
“Do they want to fight for every ball, make every ball and run every ball down? We can see with the way Andy plays that he leaves everything out there and he always had that.”
As well as his will to win, honed playing swing-ball against brother Jamie when the two were growing up, Smith also feels Murray’s reading of the game and his opponent is a massive strength.
“The other thing he had was a very good tennis brain and that is something that is very important when you’re picking holes in your opponent. Can you see their weaknesses and can you build your strengths around their weaknesses?” he added. “It is something he has always been very, very good at – if you’re not playing a great match you can still find a way to win and we have seen that in the Championships in the last few weeks.
“He got through some sticky moments but he kept his best tennis for the final which was all-important. It was a huge moment and for all young tennis players growing up this is the trophy to win.”
Murray had been under increasing media and public pressure to end Britain’s much-publicised wait for a first Wimbledon winner since Fred Perry when it became clear he was one of the best players in the world. He has won over many of the critics who were uncomplimentary during his early years as a professional and, although Smith admits the weight of expectation will remain, the partisan support is something Murray can use to his advantage.
“I think the pressure is the pressure; he is the nation’s favourite tennis player – everybody wants him to win which is really important and the crowd were fantastic yesterday and he thrived on that,” he added.
“The pressure will be the same every year now. We have a champion which we have been waiting for for an awful long time. He is a brilliant champion and a wonderful role model for all the kids playing tennis now. The way he has worked and developed physically to get to this stage is second to none and he deserves all the success he gets.”