• Andy Murray Part 3: Bursting onto the big stage

    12/16/08 11:02 PM | Jonathan Morgan
    Andy Murray Part 3: Bursting onto the big stage Andy Murray generated some hype around him in mid 2005 and backed it up with some challenger titles and some ATP wins the remainder of the year. Now, his plans turned to becoming a consistent ATP level force.

    He began 2006 down under, where he lost in Adelaide to Berdych in a revenge match from Basel. The rest of Murray’s early 2006 didn’t go very well, as he lost first round at the Australian Open and was on a 3 match losing streak before heading to San Jose in mid February.

    San Jose was where Murray took his game to another level. His mental toughness in tight matches that week over much more experienced players than him were crucial. He beat Soderling in the quarterfinals in 3 tight sets, scored his first top 10 win with a straight sets win over Roddick in the semis, before closing the deal in the final against Hewitt in a 3rd set breaker. San Jose was Murray’s first ATP victory, and his ranking was 47 that Monday.

    That final against Hewitt was almost a mirror match as Murray’s mentality, scrappiness, and fight were very similar to the Aussie. The next week, Andy scored a pair of wins in Memphis before Robin Soderling crushed him in the quarterfinals. He was up to 42 in the ranks. Murray at this point would have plenty of people pegging him for great results in Indian Wells and/or Miami, but Murray would go on a cold streak after Memphis. He would go 2-9 from Las Vegas to Nottingham, including a 5 set loss to Monfils at the French as well as collecting a $2500 fine after a verbal outburst against Serbia in Davis Cup. He fired his coach Mark Petchey during that clay season and went solo for a little bit. Andy finally won a pair of matches in Nottingham before losing in 3 to Seppi.

    At Wimbledon that year, Murray had just put up a pitiful few months and was looking for some wins. It was an all Andy match in the 3rd round when Murray and Roddick played each other. Murray won the match in straights, dismantling Roddick from the baseline and neutralizing his serve. He lost to Baghdatis in the 4th round, playing wretched and complaining all match long. Murray began to get some criticism at this point in time for his lack of fitness and immature on-court performances. That summer, he went out to shut up the critics. His ranking after Wimbledon was 36.

    He played Newport the week after Wimbledon and reached the semis, including a double bagel of Robert Kendrick in the quarterfinals. The Brits lost their Davis Cup tie the week after against the Israelis, but Murray wasn’t slowing down. There were reports after Newport that Brad Gilbert, who had previously coached both Agassi and Roddick to #1, would be coaching Murray as well. Their first event together was Washington, where Murray made the finals. He beat Lopez, Fish, and Tursunov en route, all in straights. His game was looking more solid and complete that week. He may have lost to Clement in the finals, but Murray was justifying the hype around him with each passing victory.
    His next event was in Toronto the next week where he made the semifinals. Murray’s glaring weakness in his game at this point was his continually low first serve % in his matches. His returning was top notch, though, which kept him in many matches. He lost to Gasquet in the semifinals here, but the following week in Cincinnati was where Andy made his mark.

    He struggled through a tough first round match with Tim Henman, 7-5 in the third. Murray’s service woes and inability to serve out matches and sets were really beginning to become a problem, even though he was still winning. He faced off with Roger Federer in the next round. Roger had won 2 slams already and hadn’t lost to anyone but Nadal all year. Murray and Federer both played a shaky match with errors and double faults all over the place. Both players did strike some nice winners, and the backhand down the line for Andy on match point sent him to near tears.

    How he came back from the emotional Federer win and beat Ginepri the next day is still a bit of a mystery, especially since Ginepri was up a break in the 3rd. Murray faced off with Roddick in the quarterfinals, in a coaching triangle battle. Roddick was playing extremely well that week and took the match from Murray in straights. After Cincinnati, Murray’s rank was up to 19.

    He won the first two rounds of the US Open with relative ease before beating Gonzalez in a wild 5 set encounter in the third round. Murray came back from 2-1 sets down to take the match. Davydenko beat him in 4 sets in the 4th round, but Murray, or Muzza as some of his fans call him, was playing well.

    He failed to defend his Bangkok final run, losing to Henman in the opening round and the next week in Tokyo to Jiri Novak. He came into Madrid that year and faced Ivan Ljubicic in the 2nd round. Ivan was known as a fantastic indoor player, perhaps the best in the world, was ranked #3 at the time, and had just defended his Vienna title without even dropping serve. So of course Andy breaks him a few times and takes the match in three fun sets. He lost in the next round to fellow young gun Novak Djokovic in 3 competitive sets. He had to pull out of Basel that year due to a throat infection, but returned for Paris. After bagelling Chela in the opening round, Murray lost to Hrbaty in the second round, receiving a bagel himself in the second set.

    2006 was the year that saw Murray going from a player full of hype and potential to a top 20 stud with plenty of room for improvement. He won his first ATP title, beat a few top 10 players, scored a win over Federer in Cincinnati, and was the highest ranked Brit on tour. Things were looking great for Andy Murray heading into 2007.

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Current ATP-rankings

1. Djokovic 12 500 pts
2. Murray 8 750 pts
3. Federer 8 670 pts
4. Ferrer 6 970 pts
5. Nadal 6 385 pts

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