ANDY Murray hopes the collective rewards reaped from his three big finals last summer can propel him to the title he wants most of all.
The world number two goes into this year’s Wimbledon with expectations higher than ever after an incredible two months last year that saw him lose in the final at the All England Club, win Olympic gold and then land his first grand slam title at the US Open.
The defeat by Roger Federer on Centre Court was a painful one, with Murray memorably breaking down as he tried to speak to the crowd afterwards, but it also provided hope.
He had won a set for the first time in his fourth grand slam final and forced Federer to come up with his best tennis.
Only four weeks later came confirmation Murray could win at Wimbledon after all as he thrashed Federer in the Olympic final, and then the realisation of a life-long dream followed with victory over Novak Djokovic in New York.
Murray said: “I think both of them obviously will have helped me in different ways. But I think also the Wimbledon final last year was important for me. The couple of weeks after that, as well.
“In my career there’s normally been quite gradual progress most years with my results. The Wimbledon final was really tough, but I played well in that final and basically I’d gone for it.
“There’s some shots I would have liked to have changed but I went for it and lost the match kind of on my terms. I felt I didn’t just sit back and wait.
“I think that’s maybe why I managed to recover from that defeat well. I didn’t come off the court thinking, ‘What if?’.
“I got back on the practice court five or six days later and I felt great, whereas when I’d lost in slam finals before, well, you saw my results for a few months afterwards. I hadn’t dealt with it particularly well.
“A combination of that final and the way I played in it, and also having the Olympics to look forward to, I think that was the period that changed my mindset a bit.
“The mindset is still similar in that I come in wanting to try to win the event. I’ve prepared as best as I could. I think in some ways I feel that I’m putting less pressure on myself.
“But this tournament obviously means a lot to me. That was pretty obvious after the final last year.
“I just think, because of what’s happened since then, that, if I can manage to get myself into the latter stages of the tournament, I’d be better equipped to deal with the pressures that go with that.”
Murray is seeded second but any hopes he might have had that that would give him an easier route to the final were firmly dashed at the draw yesterday.
The Scot finds himself in the same half as both Rafael Nadal and Federer and facing the prospect of having to beat one of them in the semi-finals and then Djokovic in the final.
The loading of one half was always likely once Nadal was seeded fifth - a legacy of the seven months he missed through injury after Wimbledon last year.
The All England Club do not stick rigidly to the rankings but have a strict formula for deciding seedings in the men’s singles and it kept Nadal behind David Ferrer.
That has provoked criticism from a number of people within tennis but Murray, like Nadal, believes Ferrer has earned his place.
The 26-year-old said: “Ferrer made the quarters of Wimbledon last year, made the semis of the US Open, he made semis at the Australian Open, made the final at the French. The guy deserves to be seeded where he is. It’s not like he’s got there by fluke.
“I have no issue with the seeding. I’d rather Rafa and Roger were on the other side of the draw, but they’re not. And then you just deal with that.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to put myself in a position where that becomes relevant, because that would mean getting to the semi-finals, and I’d love to be there.”
Murray missed a grand slam tournament for the first time since 2005, pulling out of the French Open because of a back problem, but he proved his fitness by winning a third title at Queen’s Club and has been happy with his preparation.
The Scot, meanwhile, has been kept amused by watching replays of his favourite shot of the year - the forehand during a charity match at Queen’s that struck his coach, Ivan Lendl, on the arm.
“I’ve seen it I’d say double figures,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it more each time.”