Can Murray end Britain’s 74-year wait?

January 26, 2010

TENNIS-OPEN/Is there a more notorious and oft-bemoaned sporting drought than Britain ’s long – and very far from tantalising – wait for a men’s grand slam tennis champion?

In the week the New Orleans Saints finally threatened to shed their unofficial moniker of The Aints because of their lack of Super Bowl success, Andy Murray is doing his level best to get the biggest monkey in world tennis off his back.

Not since 1936 and Fred Perry’s final major win at the US Open has a British man hoisted one of the sport’s four fabled prizes, but Scotsman Murray looks set to change all that.

It’s not just the fact Murray hasn’t lost a set so far in the championship, it’s the manner of his progress — the brutal groundstrokes, the calculated geometry of his angles from both wings, and an almost freakish ability to keep on running until all hope of winning the point is lost.

Throw in the devilish disguise on his backhand – is he dropping? is he driving? – and a courtcraft on a par with a McEnroe or a Federer and you have a formidable arsenal.

His devastating display against Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals was highly suggestive of a man who knows he has a real chance. His advantage over Nadal was only slight, but it was consistent and ultimately irresistible as the Spanish dasher and defending champion threw in the towel at 3-0 down in the third.

British fans should not be hasty, however, with two formidable opponents lying in wait for the 22-year-old. Marin Cilic may have spent nearly twice the time Murray has on court in progressing to the last four but don’t be fooled: he destroyed Murray in the US Open fourth round last year and 18 hours on court – compared to the Scot’s 10 — will little affect the legs of the rangy 21-year-old.

Then Roger Federer will likely be the man to beat in the final. Murray has a 6-4 career advantage over the Swiss maestro but lost their last two encounters – including a hammering at the ATP finals in London in November.

Still, Murray looks a changed animal since then. He’s rediscovered the confidence, decisiveness and the wicked crosscourt angles that saw him reach the 2008 US Open final where he had his hopes dashed by Federer.

The game that was invented on the lawns of tea-quaffing 19th century England could at last be about to yield another British champion, albeit by a brilliant Scot.

PHOTO: Murray and Nadal greet each other after the Spaniard retired from their quarter-final match at the Australian Open in Melbourne. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas

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