More and more, team sports are having the Grand Narrative stripped away but advanced statistics, critical thinking, and maybe a bit of common sense. Words like momentum seem trivial and silly in the face of statistics, and wins typically come down to the better team winning, and maybe just pure luck.
Tennis will forever be a place of great stories. To deny the idea of confidence in a team of 12-50 individuals is sensible, to deny the idea of confidence in an individual is impossible.
Last year, after winning the gold medal in London on the hallowed ground of Wimbledon, Andy Murray sat before a Toronto press room after a whirlwind of attention back home. While he insisted nothing had really changed, there was a calm, exhausted relief to his demeanour. It wasn’t a grand slam title, but it was a major break through, even more so as a representitive of the United Kingdom in an international competition.
That he went on to win the US Open will go down in tennis lore. Rebounding from a crushing defeat in the Wimbledon final, Murray battled his demons to win the gold medal on the very same court, and harnessed the momentum to a US Open title. It all fits nicely into a shiny box, and why shouldn’t it?
With that said, 2013 is a new year for Andy Murray. Writers and commentators will continue the story with ease, and may make Murray the favourite to win the title in Melbourne.
These assumptions would go against all of what we have learned about Andy Murray, and the years of evidence that exist outside of a stretch of success that brought him to his first grand slam title. Murray is still a player prone to mental lapses and bouts of frustration. He can at times play down to an opponents level. He can crack under the pressure of big moments (he nearly did in the US Open final before Djokovic collapsed under the weight of himself).
While 2012 was the biggest year of his career so far, when all is said and done, 2013 may end up being the most important year for him. Right now Murray is a great player, but must make his stamp on history through major titles won, not weeks in the top 4 of the rankings. While he will remain a long shot for Roland Garros, he has a legitimate chance at the other three major titles. It is not ridiculous to say that it would be a disappointing year for him if he did not win at least one of these.
Sweeping generalizations of a “new era” of men’s tennis are a bit much, but we have most definitely come to a time where Murray can swoop in and begin to pluck at some of the major titles he has most desperately (and patiently) waited for. First stop: Melbourne. Show us what you’re made of, Andy.