Friday, 4 January 2013

Second Successive Scottish Slam?

Just over 4 months ago, Andy Murray was heading to New York believing that it was his time. He'd genuinely competed in a slam final for the first time at Wimbledon, and had then conquered the two best players in the world to take Olympic Gold. Back on hard courts, there was a real sense that if he could avoid any early slip-ups, this could be the one. 

He dispatched Bogomolov Jr and Dodig with minimal fuss before seeing off Lopez (who he's played in 3 of the last 5 GS) in the 3rd round. The potentially dangerous Raonic proved not to be so and a slow start against Cilic couldn't prevent him reaching a seemingly inevitable semi-final. The shock came in that he would be playing Berdych, who had dumped out a decidedly off-form Federer in the other quarter. The Czech provided limited opposition, crumbling away and so Murray had shot number 5 at a major title. Djokovic had fought past Wawrinka, Del Potro and Ferrer and entered as favourite. But the Scot was an entirely different man to any finals before. Even when the Serb champion battled back, Murray held his nerve to take the crown
So, heading into a new season, what odds on him holding aloft another new bit of silverware? Well, most bookies say 9/4 or thereabouts, but the point is that he most definitely in with a shout. Obviously Novak will be favourite again, but a loss to Tomic in the Hopman Cup suggests he's far from invincible. There's no knowing where Federer is at, and of course the likes of JMDP, Tsonga, Ferrer and Berdych will be around, but the stage is set for a second successive Scottish Slam. 

On a side note, Nadal's ongoing injury trouble highlights again the physical demands on top level tennis players. Robin Soderling is now "inactive" on the ATP website because he's been out of the game for so long with utterly incapacitating glandular fever and Mardy Fish's heart issues are similarly leaving him unable to compete for huge periods of times.

And now Rafa appears to be heading in the same direction. There was once a day when Nadal would have snorted in derision at a virus, but such is his level of strength and fitness these days, it caused him to withdraw with more than 2 weeks before the start of the tournament. More than just the sniffles going on there. We can only hope that the soon-to-be-world-number-5 (or lower) does still actually have a knee. There are some whispers that he may never return to the court and more than a few that he'll never again be the real ruthless Rafa.