Fairytale of New YorkSeptember 11, 2012
It happened. It had to happen eventually. Poor Andy Murray carried both the weight of the world on his shoulders, or at the very least, the heavy expectations of a nation terminally shite at sport upon them, and a monkey on his back that many thought he would never shake. Late last night/very early this morning, somewhere above the Arthur Ashe Stadium, high above the Manhattan skyline, the stars aligned, the Gods conspired and It happened. In a thrilling contest with individual rallies lasting longer than entire Ramones sets, and in five full sets featuring more ebbs and flows than the tide at Saltcoats beach, Andy Murray, our Andy Murray, bagged his first Grand Slam. But by now, you’ll know all that already.
How he did it is, I think, all down to psychology. Having had his early lead pegged back by an angry, fired-up opponent who’d suddenly awoken and found himself two sets down must’ve been agony. It was for me. With work in the morning, I was desperate for my bed, yet I had vowed I would watch the match to the end. “It’ll be over by midnight,” I told myself, unaware that one of the longest Grand Slams ever was about to unfurl. The 3rd set was a wash-out for Murray, and there can be no doubt that, by the 4th set, the match was Djokovic’s to lose. He had the momentum, and he was serving first in the final set. Get your nose in front and stay there, that’s the tennis players’ mantra.
But from somewhere, Murray dug deep. The spring in his heels that had so abandoned him along with his first serve in sets 3 and 4 returned. The fist pumping re-appeared. The crowd, sensing Murray’s positive mental mood-swing changed allegiance. Buzzing by this point, he went for the strictly unthinkable and the seemingly unplayable. He could’ve taken the easier option by ensuring he got the ball over the net, anywhere, just over, in the hope that Djokovic might be forced into a stupid error. But, no. In the eye of the storm, he pulled out all the hard shots and went for it. Long, deep, top-spin shots fizzed to within a hair’s breadth of the baseline. First to one corner, then the other. And back again. “East Coast to West Coast,” as my American commentator helpfully explained. “That’s how he’s gotta play it!” surmised his sidekick. “Make Novak work!” Murray chose to play them all. The back-hand slices. The cute drop-shots. The disguised cross-court passes. And they all came off, every one of them. Positive mental attitude. Self-belief. Call it what you will, but from somewhere, Murray found the charge. He broke the Djokovic serve. Then, after holding his own, he broke the Djokvic serve again. This was unbelievable. By the time he was serving for the match, I was shaking with excitement, playing every shot with him, right up until the end when a spent Djokovic returned the ball just on the wrong side of in and Andy finally cracked a smile.
Craig Levein, if you’re reading, go and speak to Murray. Get him to rub his white ‘fro onto your frightened, negative head and see if you can’t pick up some of his bristling positivity. Go out and play like you want to win. Play the hard shots and take chances. Play with a swagger. Play with belief. Play like you owe us, big time. Who knows, you might even get us back in to the Grand Slam that’ll be Rio 2014. Though, sadly, maybe that’s pushing it a wee bit.
The Artist who cannot be named in the blogging community for fears of hefty DMCA notices and men in shades appearing at your door in the wee small hours has a song called Glam Slam. Here‘s the none-more-80s remix. To paraphrase: Glam Slam, thank you man. You really made my day.