Monday, September 08, 2008

Go Andy

All the best for tonight to Andy Murray, as he takes on Roger Federer in the US Open Tennis Final.

Thanks to little things like my taking umbrage at seeing the SNP symbol depicted as a noose on the front page of the Sun, I have a Freesat box at home rather than one from Sky (nothing personal, Rupe - but your editors pee’d me off and frankly, you’re already rich enough). So, unless the match is being covered on one of the freebie foreign channels like Abu Dhabi TV, I guess it’ll be Radio Scotland for me, or a repeated pressing of the ‘refresh’ button to keep tabs on his progress.

I’ve heard a couple of whinges today on the radio about Murray’s ‘bad attitude’. You know what? I think he’s got a great attitude. He wants to win, it hurts when he doesn’t and he’s not afraid to let it show. When he doesn’t win, he’s honest enough to recognise why and then goes away to work on it. When he does, he’s gracious enough to downplay it, credit his opponent and grounded enough to recognise what in his performance could have done with improvement.

Scottish (and English for that matter) sporting history is littered with ‘gallant’ losers and ‘good sports’. Personally, I got fed up long ago with winning the ‘Best Fans’ and the ‘Fair Play’ awards, only to get bumped out in the first round and be on the first plane home. We can handle the plucky loser all right, but the big bad winner seems to present a more challenging psychological problem for us, as if it’s somehow vulgar in victory to be seen as caring too much or to have tried too hard.

If you’re going to be a champion, you need more than just the talent – you need the winning mentality and yes, sometimes a streak of arrogance and grit into the bargain. I remember Murray at Wimbledon in 2005 against Nalbandian, when the Argentine hit a lucky shot which just scraped the net. He rubbed the top of the net and looked heavenward, as if God were on his side. Murray managed to get a point after hitting the net in the same fashion in the next game, and rubbed the net in a similar way. He didn’t look skywards, though – he just stared straight into Nalbandian’s eyes as he did it. It was spine tingling – a wordlessly eloquent two fingers which told his opponent exactly what he could do with his gamesmanship – and the crowd loved him for it.

That’s the sort of X-Factor which a champion needs, and Andy Murray has it in spades. He and his mother have achieved it all pretty much by themselves, and they’ve secured the best training possible for him, sometimes maybe because of, but more often in spite of the blazer brigade at the LTA. If he wins tonight, he’ll be entitled to pump his fist and let out a roar of satisfaction and tell the critics to go to hell. And if he doesn’t? He’ll learn the lessons, and come back stronger the next time, exactly as he’s always done before. Go Andy – make us proud.

UPDATE: Oh well. I tuned in just as Murray started to rally in the second set, but Federer was just too strong for him this time round. Still, Murray's reaction just goes to vindicate everything said above. He's now officially World number 4 and if he doesn't make it right to the top, it won't be for lack of ability or the wrong attitude.


Richard Havers said...

I think that the £250K Andy got from the LTA when he was a seventeen year old did help a bit!

I agree that mental attitude is a vital part of the sport's star's repertoire. Winning isn't everything it's the only thing, as Vince Lombardi was often heard to say. I think with AM it's just a little more deeply rooted than that. Not cod psychology, but there do seem to be some interesting issues at play.

I watched it and was so disappointed for him. It probably was a game too far and Federer was on top form again.

Cyber Nat said...

On the route to success Brown said yesterday that it would take 92 years to turn the economy around.

Richard Thomson said...

Yep, beating Federer on form is always going to be a big ask.

I think Murray's reaction afterwards was interesting, Richard. He admitted he'd have liked an extra day's rest, but acknowledged freely that even then, it would still have been very tough for him. Analyse, accept, move on, come back better - not many 21 year olds have that degree of equilibrium to their character.

Richard Havers said...

I agree Richard. I suspect some part of AM's improvement is down to working with a very good sport's psychologist. To reach the very top it's not just having the talent and the dedication, but also getting your head together. He'll come back and win . I said last night, once he's learned how to win a grand slam he'll be on a roll.

Anonymous said...

The grumpy Scottish wanker got spanked !!

Richard Thomson said...

Lucky him! Presumably this happened after the game?