And so it begins again. The courts are being manicured, the strawberries are getting washed and somewhere out the back Cliff Richard is doing a rain-dance in the hope he can get some attention.
It’s Wimbledon and once again, the pressure is on Andy Murray to deliver Britain’s first men’s title since the subjugation of women was consider ‘a bit of a laugh’ and not, ya know, total inequality.
Murray’s victory in Flushing Meadows last year showed he’s capable of winning Grand Slam titles, but can he bring an end to 77 years of not especially painful hurt? Here’s three things he needs to improve upon if it’s going to happen this year.
The last time Murray beat a player seeded higher than him was in 2008. This is slightly misleading. Not ‘misleading’ in the US government ‘we’re totally not monitoring everything you’re doing online so carry on emailing nude selfies to each other’ sort of way, more in the ‘Wonderbra – it’s all about how they’re presented’ way.
The fact is Andy Murray hasn’t beaten a player seeded higher than him – what we would nominally refer to as an ‘upset’ – since 2008 when he beat Richard Gasquet who was somehow eighth seed and Murray 12th.
The context needed to make that sound less like cynical propaganda is that since then, his opportunities to beat players seeded higher than him have shrunk to Judy Murray’s body fat levels. Since 2008, Murray has been seeded fourth or better every year, meaning that unless he beats Federer, Djokovic or
Nadal, he won’t get the better of a higher ranked seed.
It’s something of a technicality, but it’s also relevant. Barring a series of huge shocks, he will need to beat at least one fellow member of the Fab Four to win his first Wimbledon title and he hasn’t managed that in seven previous attempts to win Wimbledon.
This year he’s the second seed, which further limits his chances of beating a higher seeded player, but at least if he manages it this time, he knows it’ll finally result in that much coveted Wimbledon title.
The piece of Olympic bling hanging around his neck and the US Open he won last year suggest that Murray isn’t the big stage choker he was once pegged as, but is there still a bit of an issue when taking on the big boys at the big events?
The heart says ‘no’, but the stats say ‘shut up heart, we’ve got actual numbers on our side rather than a vague mixture of chemicals and neurological impulses interacting to generate emotions’. Murray has a decent record overall against Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer overall.
He beats Federer 55% of the time normally and Djokovic just under 40%. Combined, that’s a 47% win rate overall. In fact, excluding Grand Slam events, he beats them 62.5% and 43% respectively.
But that’s when the numbers start to piss on his parade. With a major up for grabs, his win rate shrinks to 25%. For fans of fractions, that means he goes from pretty much winning half of his matches against Nole and Old Man Fed across his career, to winning just a quarter of them in slams.
The conclusion that ‘Murray needs to beat Federer and Djokovic more often in the Grand Slams’ is about as ground-breaking figuring out why Martina Navratilova isn’t responding to your best chat-up lines, but it does highlight where he needs to improve.
For some reason, the sight of seeing Rafa Nadal at the other end of the court, incessantly picking the underwear out of his crack, turns Murray into a whimpering mass of ginger. (UPDATE: Of course he doesn’t have to worry about this now, but it’s still interesting reading)
Murray’s overall 5-13 record against Nadal looks bad on paper and it looks even worse on grass. The Scot has never beaten the 2008 and 2010 winner on the most horticultural surface, leaving him with a 0-3 record and the ignominy of taking just one set off him in those matches.
It’s a slightly troubling stat because statistically, grass is Murray’s favoured surface. He wins 82.5% of his matches on grass as opposed to 78% on hard courts and 76% overall. With his clear fondness for sliding his way around the clay courts, it’s not Rafa’s favourite surface, but he has still dominated Murray on it.
Sadly the equation isn’t as simple as ‘beat Nadal and you win Wimbledon’, but it would be a big step and a huge monkey off Murray’s back. Barring a massive upset, the pair are penciled in to meet in the quarter-finals courtesy of their seedings. Andy’s maiden victory over the Spaniard on the surface would certainly suggest that this year might finally see the end of Britain’s longest middle-class drought.
- Betting: See what Paddy’s serving up with all his latest match betting here