x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Wimbledon: Andy Murray puts backhand spin on recent woes

The world No 4 puts his bad form in the run-in to Wimbledon as an adjustment to playing on grass. But his time is running out on winning a major as he is in the prime years of his career.

Andy Murray is putting his recent run of poor form down to lingering injuries, lack of fitness and trouble adjusting to grass courts.
Andy Murray is putting his recent run of poor form down to lingering injuries, lack of fitness and trouble adjusting to grass courts.

As Andy Murray begins play at the All England Club on Tuesday, the burden of expectations must feel heavier than usual.

In addition to carrying the hopes of a nation desperate for its first male Wimbledon champion in 76 years, the Scot also arrives in the throes of a performance funk.

The grand slam statistics are familiar but will be reprised until they are no longer relevant: no British man has won a major since Fred Perry triumphed at the US Open in 1936, and none has won at Wimbledon since Perry that year.

Murray has been the great hope to end that awful drought, and to his credit (and torment) he has come close several times. He reached the final at the US Open in 2008, and at the Australian in 2010 and 2011.

More germane to current events, he has reached the Wimbledon semi-finals for the past three years.

It has been his misfortune to chase major titles during the era of Roger, Rafa and Novak.

Those three have dominated the grand slams, winning 25 of the past 26, with only Juan Martin del Potro, at the 2009 US Open, interrupting the triumvirs.

Now 25, and what should be the prime of his career, Murray has been struggling for two months.

He won at Brisbane in January, and had a 2-1 sets lead over Djokovic in the Australian semi-finals before fading.

At Dubai, he beat Djokovic in the semi-finals but fell to Federer in the final. He lost the Indians Wells final to Djokovic.

Since then?

Hard times - he has not survived a quarter-final in five tournaments. He seemed to bottom out in his last Wimbledon warm-up, going out in his first match at the Queen's Club, to the 65th-ranked Nicolas Mahut.

"There's no need to panic," he said after that one. "It takes a bit of time to adjust to grass courts. I need a few more days to get my movement right and then I'll play better."

He later suggested it was a blessing to lose so early at Queen's Club because it afforded him more training on grass courts.

Two weeks before, when exiting the French Open in the quarter-finals, he said he needed to get in better shape, complaining of shortness of breath after long rallies. If he is more fit, as Wimbledon begins, he did not gain it from matches; he has played only one in a month.

Perhaps Murray's supporters could spin this as good for their man.

Expectations should be deflated, at least until he wins a match. He is fourth-seeded at Wimbledon, but a trip to the semi-finals would be a triumph.

He may someday mount a challenge for Britain's first major title since 1936, but this seems unlikely to be the year.


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