I do not wish to come back on the Australian Open final strictly in terms of analysis, and this for a simple reason: there would not be much to say but the usual clichés.
This said, I would like to sincerely congratulate Novak Djokovic on a very deserved sixth major, fourth Australian Open crown and, most of all, Open Era record third consecutive title in Melbourne. He showed yet again why he is number one in the world.
However, what I would like to come back on is the incessant criticism about the runner-up, Andy Murray.
Enough is enough.
The constant criticism of Murray, and of his game, the perpetual reminder of the glorious British tennis past, and the comparisons with the other members of the Fantastic Four, only to bring him further down and lashing unnecessarily at him is something that is becoming as redundant as it is annoying.
I have noticed that since the beginning of his career, the “Murray bashing” has become a sport among many tennis media people and fans. Be it for his flaming temper on court, his dour demeanour in press and off-court (although he has changed quite a bit in the last few months, smiling more and using a little more of this dry, typically British humour he possesses and so seldom uses with the press), his monotone voice, and even, for some, his looks, Murray has been a topic of mockery for many, which is, at times, as unjustified as it is insulting for the man himself.
Today, as he lost a fifth Grand Slam final, many were those who criticised the way he played, his defensive and/or passive game (although Djokovic also used quite a lot of that as well, which is one of the reasons the match was not the gruelling duel most of us expected), exposed a mental failure that wasn’t really present, and even went as far as saying he would be a one-Slam wonder.
Why? Because he failed to become the first player to win his second Grand Slam title just after winning his first? Because he lost to the World no 1?
Of course, if we compare Murray with Roger Federer, the best to ever play the game, Rafael Nadal, the best clay-court player in history, or Novak Djokovic, who had nothing to prove to anyone but himself, being the one to write Serbian tennis history, it is pretty obvious that, at present, he is coming a bit short.
However, with six Grand Slam finals, including one title, an Olympic Gold medal, eight Masters 1000 shields, and a total of 25 singles titles, we cannot say he doesn’t deserve his place among the four best players in the world.
Murray’s progress over the last year has been astounding. Under the tutelage of Ivan Lendl, he has taken decisive strides towards the great accomplishments his raw talent led us to believe he would achieve.
If consistency was not present during the non-major events last season, it definitely was at the Grand Slams, the proof being that he reached the final in the last three majors (including this Australian Open), winning his maiden Grand Slam at long last in New York.
There is still, indeed, some work to be done for the Brit to reach the top of the ATP rankings, a goal he has had firmly in mind since his U.S. Open triumph. Perhaps, judging by some people’s reactions after today’s Australian Open final, he will never achieve it. However, when we look closely at the situation, it is not so impossible as it may seem.
At only 25, Andy Murray can still, and will assuredly, surprise those who relentlessly compare him with his fellow “Fab Fours”. He is well surrounded, is known for his great work ethics, has a sense of the court that very few in the game possess, and when all the pieces will fall into place, he will reach the highest levels.
It has already begun.