We’re a tad shady on the dates here at Paddy Power Blog HQ but we’re pretty sure that it was around this time last year that we realised something. It suddenly became clear to us that Andy Murray was not actually a thoroughly dull young Scotsman but was in fact a Brit who possessed a dry wit and a subtle charm. Coincidentally this change took place just around the time the Dunblane native was securing his first Wimbledon title.
They say it’s harder to retain a title than to win it the first time around. Now we’re not sure who they are or if they’ve ever heard of Pete Sampras (the legendary American won seven Wimbledon titles between 1993-2000) but nevertheless having finally ended Britain’s 77-year wait for a male singles champion the pressure is on to see if Murray can repeat his triumph.
The 27 year old comes into the tournament as third seed and is priced at 7/2 to claim the crown. The wonderful way that Wimbledon is seeded means that Murray (27) can’t meet Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer before the semi-finals.
Murray (ranked fifth in the world) goes into the tournament with a new coach in Amelie Mauresmo. The French woman, a Wimbledon champion herself in 2006, has a reputation as an affable stress reliever. This should make a pleasant change from Murray’s previous coach Ivan Lendl – a man whose stare alone would make you pass solids.
Murray, who parted company with Lendl in March, said that the initial spark had gone from their alliance. He compared it to the breakdown of loving relationship – “I would try to impress my girlfriend a lot more the first few months I was with her than I do now,” he said. “It’s the same with Ivan.” We’re sure this was music to the ears of his girlfriend, the beautifully coiffed Kim Sears.
Murray failed to retain his title at Queens this year going out to the experienced Czech Radek Stepanek. While some may see this as a worry it was actually the Scots first defeat on grass in 19 games. To find his last loss on his favourite surface you have to go back to the Wimbledon final of 2012 when he lost to Federer.
The extra rest could play into Murray’s hands. Aside from his triumph last year you need to go back to 2008 for the last time a player did the Queens and Wimbledon double. That was Nadal – back when he was handy on grass. The American Andy Roddick won the Queens title four times between 2003 and 2007 but never went on to claim the crown at SW19. Then again Roddick was in the process of wooing Sports Illustrated’s own Brooklyn Decker at the time so he can be forgiven if his mind wandered.
Murray hasn’t reached a Grand Slam final since Wimbledon last year but his form has been solid. He reached the quarter finals of the US and Australian Open and equalled his best-ever showing at the French in June before being hammered by Nadal in the semi-final – the Spaniard still extremely handy on clay.
Murray’s progress at Wimbledon has been impressive since his breakthrough year in 2007 when the then 20-year-old made the quarter-finals. This was followed by three straight semi-final appearances. The nation pondered whether Murray was the real deal or another Tim Henman until in 2012 when Murray got a step closer, losing in the final. Last year he finally reached the Holy Grail by lifting the championship Trophy.
All eyes (well, a lot of eyes anyway) will be on centre court on Monday when Murray begins the defence of his title against world number 104 David Goffin. Should he navigate his way through the early rounds he can expect to face the seventh seed David Ferrer in the quarter-final.
People may still insist on calling the grass outside it ‘Henman Hill’ but centre court is very much ‘Murray’s Manor’ these days and Paddy’s favourite Scot won’t give up his crown without a fight.