x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Murray learns to manage great expectations

Going past Roger Federer in men's tennis rankings seems to have given the British player a better self-image. But will it translate to grand slam wins?

The Australian Open is still a few months away, but the debate over Andy Murray's chances in Melbourne have already started after his success on the Asian swing.

The Briton won 14 successive matches and three consecutive titles to leapfrog Roger Federer in the world rankings and move to No 3. He drubbed Donald Young in the Bangkok final, came back from a set down to beat Rafael Nadal in Tokyo and then subdued David Ferrer in straight sets to clinch the Shanghai crown.

Those three wins have taken his tally of titles this year to six, including two Masters, but a bigger talking point is the ones that he has missed: the grand slams. For a nation that, in the words of Federer, has not had a men's grand slam champion in "150,000 years", every success only adds to the weight of expectations.

Murray is 24 and still has more than half a dozen years of top-flight tennis left in him, but he is already being condemned as the next Tim Henman, who finished his career without a grand slam title. Murray gradually seems to be coming to terms with the circus around him. His statement after reaching No 3 is revealing in that context. "If you finish in front of Federer [in the year end rankings], then there's not many people in the last seven years that have been able to say that," Murray said.

Coming from a man who seems to be a bit too harsh on himself, these words are refreshing. But does it mean a change in his attitude? Melbourne in January will hold the answers.


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