Andy Murray: A Shattering End to a Challenging Year

A humiliating 56 minute 6-0 6-1 annihilation at the hands of Roger Federer at the ATP World Tour Finals last week was hardly the climax to 2014 that Andy Murray would have wanted. 

After coming through a gruelling six-week schedule to make it to the O2 Arena, his year came to a disappointing and ultimately embarrassing end last Thursday. Yet this could well turn out to be the catalyst for his rise back into the Grand Slam winner’s enclosure.

2014 was always going to be a tough year, a recovery year after the intensive back surgery the Scot underwent in 2013. In the early parts of the year, nobody expected Murray to be even close to the level he produced to win Wimbledon.

A quarter-final appearance at the Australian Open in January in only his second competitive outing was deemed a success. He also played his part as Great Britain beat the United States in their last-16 Davis Cup clash. His two singles victories against Donald Young and Sam Querrey on the clay in San Diego inspired Leon Smith’s team to a 3-1 success and a place in the Davis Cup quarter-finals for the first time in 18 years.

Coachless, formless, winless. Hardly a combination Murray had been used to in the years previous. Hardly the start to year the Scot would have wanted.

The highs of Davis Cup success soon vanished though, as the Brit suffered a disappointing spring hard-court season.

Not only did he fail to reach a final (he only made one semi-final), but his two-year partnership with coach Ivan Lendl came to an end. The Czech man brought in to take the talented Scot that one step further after four consecutive Grand Slam final defeats, the man that toughened him up mentally, the man that helped him achieve his dream of becoming a Major champion.


Coachless, formless, winless. Hardly a combination Murray had been used to in the years previous. Hardly the start to year the Scot would have wanted.

The tournament in Miami, the one immediately after the split with Lendl, saw Murray clash with Novak Djokovic for the first time in the calendar year. Despite a brave effort, he succumbed to the Serb in straight sets, ending his run at the quarter-final stage.

This has been a recurring theme throughout the year. Quarter-final exits in the big tournaments, and defeat after defeat to the top three players in the world: nine meetings, nine defeats. Four to Djokovic, three to Federer and two to Rafael Nadal.

For a man who won two Grand Slams in the previous two years as well as Olympic Gold, these figures are simply not good enough. The inevitable drop in the rankings meant that Murray was likely to meet one of these three in the quarter-finals of big tournaments. Of the four Grand Slams, he was beaten three times at the quarter-final stage. Of the nine Masters 1000 events, he was beaten five times at the quarter-final stage too. Six of the nine defeats to the aforementioned trio came in quarter-final matches. The other three consisted of two semi-finals and that dismal round robin match at the O2 last week, which arguably is also a quarter-final.

Moreover, five of these meetings came after Wimbledon, and after the appointment of multiple Grand Slam champion Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach, someone to help build on the foundations laid by Lendl. It was about the time Murray himself expected to be back to full fitness, about the time he started to steady the ship after a turbulent start to the year. Five of these meetings came after things had settled down.

His limp exit from Wimbledon at the hands of Dimitrov was a huge disappointment, again at the quarter-final stage, and it took the Scot until the US Open in September to record his first victory over a top ten player. An impressive performance saw him beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets in New York, before succumbing to Djokovic in another quarter-final, despite an encouraging opening two sets.

It saw Murray drop out of the world’s top ten and left him eleventh in the Race to London. Both were positions he was unfamiliar with after his years of success in the top four.

He rescued the year with some fine tennis in the autumn, winning the titles in Shenzhen, Vienna and Valencia, and this late rally, consisting of some great tennis and steely resolve, not only secured his place at the O2, but it gave fans hope of what was to come, not just in 2015, but in London as well.

The first set was 26 minutes short, the second just four minutes more. Murray’s season ended in the most humiliating of ways

This was not to be though. A straight sets defeat to Kei Nishikori in his opening game followed by a two set win of his own against Milos Raonic meant that only a straight sets win over Federer would see him qualify for the last four. Once again, he was just a match away from the semi-finals, like he had been for most of the year.

What was to follow was a demonstration of the widening gap between Murray and the top guys.

The first set was 26 minutes short, the second just four minutes more. Murray’s season ended in the most humiliating of ways. If someone had said that Murray would pick up three titles, qualify for the World Tour Finals, and get to world number six at the end of 2014, he would have nodded with approval. There’s no doubt that, in that respect, it has been a solid recovery year. And it does seem harsh to reflect on Murray’s year in terms of this crushing defeat, but it is inescapable.

The manner in which he was brushed aside by Federer, and the way in which he and world number one Djokovic have performed in recent weeks, leaves Murray lagging some way behind. A combination of Murray’s level dropping, and Federer and Djokovic’s level rising, gives the Scot plenty to ponder during the off season. It is important to mention that Federer and Djokovic have played great tennis all season. Some have said that Federer is playing his best-ever tennis, others are saying the same about Djokovic.

Yet this is irrelevant for Murray. He has acknowledged that he is up against some of the greatest players ever to pick up a racquet, but he has beaten and competed with these players many times before, and now must find a way to do so again.

Chelsea manager José Mourinho was in attendance last Thursday and said that ‘there are some matches when we feel it’s not our day. Sometimes a big defeat is the start of many, many victories.’

It may not seem like that now, but Murray now knows how much more he must evolve before he is competing and contesting for the biggest titles in men’s tennis once again.

This heavy loss could turn out to be a blessing.

Marcus Oades


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21-year-old Ameri-Czech student of Politics & Economics at the University of Nottingham. Sports Editor @impactmagazine. FFC worshipper. European.

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