Olympic bid to ‘inspire a generation’ starts early with Murray


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Andy Murray with the US Open trophy

Reports suggest that had the US Open final finished on Sunday as originally scheduled, Andy Murray would have flown back to Britain and be part of the Olympic and Paralympic parade in London. That's a little indication of quite what an effect the Games had on the new champion at Flushing Meadows.

The Scot's performances were notable in London, but perhaps lost in the sea of gold Team GB were swimming in at the time.

On August 5, he took Roger Federer on in a five-set final at Wimbledon, and gave the Swiss a beating that he had never tasted on grass before. 6-2 6-1 6-4 against a man who had won seven finals here before - and Olympic gold in the pocket.

Last night's five-hour epic against Novak Djokovic is the triumph that will mark Murray out in tennis circles amongst the very elite in years to come, but the victory in London was the one which was the final piece of the puzzle for him to achieve it.

Martin Samuel, writing in the Daily Mail, takes the opposite view to Tramlines:

"Olympic legacy? Yes, in part. Yet to argue, as some will, that Andy Murray won his first Grand Slam title merely on the high of his gold medal from 2012 does great credit to the Games, but great disservice to the man.

"This was a triumph earned over years, not a few brilliant weeks. Murray clawed his way to it, point by point, set by set, match by brutal match. It was a victory forged as much by heartbreak and despair as gilded discs and days of national celebration."

Of course Murray's years of sacrifices, immense talent and brushes with despair cannot be overlooked when considering the man, but Tramlines disagrees with Samuel.

There was something missing in Murray's game, a scarcely quantifiable mental strength, which prevented him from getting over the line. It was no disgrace that he did not possess it, no embarrassment to lose four major finals to Roger Federer (three times), and Djokovic (once). Along with Rafael Nadal, these are three of the all-time great tennis players - if not the greatest. They, too, had all won their first Slams against opponents of lower calibre (Federer beat Mark Philippoussis at Wimbledon 2003, Nadal beat Mariano Puerta at the French Open in 2005, and Djokovic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Australia in 2008). Murray has had to do things the hardest way.

And to do it he had to find some steel, which, like those rings which soared across the Olympic Stadium in Danny Boyle's opening ceremony, he found at the Games.

Murray's previous Grand Slam losses had been followed by a slump in form, a malaise that took weeks and months to shake off.

In the aftermath of the teary final loss to Federer at SW19 this summer, Murray admitted he had those same dark thoughts again, and asked himself, like the tennis journalists and the public, whether he would ever go on to win a Major.

But this time there was no room for melancholy - within three weeks he had a unique opportunity to go out on the same court and avenge the loss. Beating Djokovic and Federer in straight sets to do so was a brilliant riposte.

Furthermore, the scope of the Olympics meant Murray did not have to 'carry the nation's hopes' this time around, either. His final came the day after Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford had won gold on the track. He was newsworthy - but part of something bigger - and the experience clearly resonated with him.

Murray is a proud Scot, but evidently a proud Brit as well, and there is something about playing for more than just yourself that can bring out the best in people.

Consider Djokovic himself - the Serb's incredible 2011, in which he won three Grand Slams and became the world's top player, began with leading Serbia to victory in the Davis Cup at the end of 2010. He has often cited it as the moment he came of age.

And if you want more signs of the catalytic power of the Games, consider Murray's mixed doubles partner Laura Robson. Having won silver together in London, Robson had her own breakout tournament, beating Kim Clijsters and Li Na to reach the fourth round at Flushing Meadows. That run may one day come to be considered as an important stepping stone to Grand Slam triumphs of her own.

We knew, from the moment he won the 2004 US Open boys' title, Murray had the talent. We knew, from the sacrifices he made to get fit enough to challenge the best, that he had the determination. We knew, after the change of coach to Ivan Lendl, another hugely important factor in his success, that he would leave no stone unturned to improve.  We saw his human side (not for the first time, it should be stressed) when he was simultaneously emotional and magnanimous in defeat at Wimbledon just two months ago.

We knew, in short, that he would be a worthy Grand Slam winner the moment he finally managed it. And having put his fans through the emotional wringer once again, with a five-set epic in New York, he will finally get the undiluted credit he deserves.

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