Welcome to the Virgin Media Midweek Kick-off! After Andy Murray began his Wimbledon campaign with a flying first-round start yesterday, we ask writers Matt Blake and Victoria Monk if the 2013 champion can win it again…
YES! He’s going to win it
“He looks faster, stronger and angrier than ever” – Matt Blake, sports writer, Virgin Media
His form is better than ever
Andy Murray – so angular, awkward and pigeon-toed – may not always look like the perfect athlete, but Great Scott, he is. Fire him up with a few unforced errors and he morphs into Murray the man-beast, all snorts and nostrils, as if empowered by some Faustian pact. Even those weird, giant ankle supports he wears make his feet look like hooves from certain angles. And right now, he’s on the charge. He’s coming to Wimbledon on the back of his best-ever performance on clay at the French Open last month, followed by an unprecedented fifth title at Queen’s – the ultimate Wimbledon warm-up. He looks faster, stronger and angrier than ever. It’ll take a brave man to stand in his way.
Grass, grass, grass
Grass. It’s not like the cold, anonymous hard courts of the US and Australian Opens and doesn’t get your tight, white shorts as dirty as clay. To most of us grass smells like lazy Sundays, strawberries and cream: happiness. But to Andy Murray it smells only of victory. He loves the grass. He’s won Wimbledon on it, and Queen’s five times. Indeed, Novak Djokovic has never beaten Murray on grass at a major tournament, having lost all of his last five sets on the surface against the Scot. How hard can three more be?
Djokovic is not superman
Despite all evidence to the contrary, Djokovic is a human being. And, like any human being who plays tennis really well, he needs rhythm and doesn’t like to be rushed. Hard-serving South African Kevin Anderson showed how effective an all-out assault can be at Wimbledon last year, when he took the first two sets against Djokovic in the fourth round. Djokovic won but seemed rattled. Gilles Simon did something similar in the Australian Open this year, coaxing 100 unforced errors from the Serb before losing in five sets. If Murray can disrupt Djokovic’s game, annoy him and force mistakes, he’ll win.
He’s got his Ivan back
When Murray first won Wimbledon, back in 2013, he made no secret of the fact that coach Ivan Lendl was his driving force. But the pair mysteriously parted ways soon after, and Murray’s game seemed to lose its fizz. Now the Czech – an eight-time Grand Slam champion himself – is back in his corner and is sure to shake him up and back into winning ways.
Dad’s the word
We all know Murray’s a born winner. I know it, you know it; he’s proved it a bunch of times. But the one person who doesn’t yet know it is the most important of all: his new daughter Sophia. He needs to win Wimbledon so she can see him work. “It’d be nice [to win Wimbledon again] so she knows what it is that [I’ve] done,” he said recently. Murray’s no longer just playing for fleeting moments of personal glory. Now he’s knocking on 30, he’s playing for his legacy, his future. He’s playing to live forever in the only way a human truly can: in the hearts and minds of his offspring. What could be more motivating than that?
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NO! This isn’t his year
“No one stands a chance against Novak anymore” – Victoria Monk, writer, The Daily Telegraph
Ivan Lendl has a lot of making up to do
The dynamic duo are back together after a two-and-a-half year break. Everyone’s overexcited; he coached Murray to his 2013 victory and he’s back to do it again this year – hooray! But people are neglecting to also remember the problems, not least Murray’s upset at the sudden and unexpected break-up. Lendl is a harsh taskmaster – a far cry from Amélie Mauresmo’s emotionally sensitive approach. This double act may conquer once more, but not yet. Like the rekindling of any relationship, it will take time to rebuild.
Keep calm and rally on
The Scotsman’s fiery disposition has landed him in a spot of bother over the years, and Wimbledon especially tends to bring out the hottest of Andy’s tempers. Perhaps it’s the added pressure of playing in front of a home crowd, or maybe it’s the damn British weather – either way, the faintest glimmer of a racket slam may just give hopeful contenders the opportunity they’re looking for. Murray’s most threatening tantrum-trigger will potentially appear in the fourth round in the form of Nick Kyrgios – this troublesome Aussie can rile up even the calmest of players.
An easy ride? Not so fast
It’s a fool’s game for Murray fans to look upon the men’s Wimbledon draw with glee. While he won’t have to face former world number one Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori and dangerous contenders Milos Raonic and Marin Čilić until the latter stages of the tournament, Wimbledon is still no place for complacency. Murray is well-versed in the tactical approach against his familiar rivals, but he often loses sight of this focus when faced with less familiar opponents; conceding sets, wasting energy and often flirting with defeat in games where he ought to be claiming a straightforward win.
Novak Djokovic is unbeatable
There, I said it. Murray can’t win Wimbledon this year, not because he isn’t deserving of the title, but because his nemesis is the greatest player of all time. Murray may have claimed the title in 2013, but three years on, Djokovic is stronger than ever before. Since then, the Serb has won 13 of their 15 encounters, and currently holds all four grand slam titles – the first man to achieve this feat since Rod Laver in 1969. It’s not because I don’t like Murray, I do, very much so – it’s just that no one stands a chance against Novak anymore; he is unshakeable, unbeatable, and near unbelievable.
Great British overload
There were 15 Brits in the Wimbledon singles draw at the start of the tournament, including world number 19 Johanna Konta, wild card Laura Robson and upcoming hopeful Kyle Edmund. The latter two lost in the first round, but Marcus Willis is still in it and taking on Federer next. While this is great news for the patriotic spectators that we British are, this is less encouraging for Murray, who has to accept sharing our love. The Scot has already faced up to this in the first round, where he beat 22-year-old wild card Liam Broady for the first time.
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