It has been a strange season for Britain’s number 1 Andy Murray. He failed to add to his collection of Grand Slam titles; lost his record of 18 consecutive grand slam quarterfinals; and was knocked out in the round-robin stage of the ATP World Tour Finals in London. Yet winning the Davis Cup and once again emerging from the shadow of Fred Perry that seems to linger over the best of British tennis, means Murray in fact enjoys one of his greatest triumphs. Oh, and he finished the season second in the world rankings for the first time in his career.
It is 79 years since Britain last held the Davis Cup, only adding to the magnitude of Murray’s achievement in clinching it for them. Another factor that emphasises Murray’s accomplishment comes when you compare the quality of the players both victorious British teams were treated to. The successful 1936 squad was led by Fred Perry, who won 8 Grand slam titles, and was supported by a cast that included former World No. 2 Bunny Austin and multiple Grand Slam doubles champions Raymond Tuckey and Patrick Hughes. 2015’s side is weighed down by considerably less silverware: Kyle Edmund is ranked 99 in the world, and Jamie Murray, Andy’s brother, has a single Grand Slam doubles title to his name. Consequently, the pressure to win every singles match rested solely upon Andy’s shoulders. But he delivered this feat with a humility that many had questioned after his apparent stubbornness in prioritising Davis Cup matches over his own singles career. As The Guardian reported after the victory,
“It’s obviously an amazing feeling,” Andy Murray said. “You know, I imagine it will take a few days before it really sinks in. But I probably haven’t been as emotional as that after a match that I’ve won.”
Perhaps, however, such an achievement could mask what has been a relatively inconsistent season for a player who demands the highest standards from himself at all times. That may appear an odd thing to say as he finished in a career-high second place at the end of the season, but the patchy form of those around him has certainly been a key factor in this. Had Federer won the ATP World Tour Finals, he would have leapfrogged Murray into second place, whilst persistent injuries to 14 Grand Slam singles title winner, Rafael Nadal, have left him looking like a shadow of his former self and unable to challenge those above him in the rankings.
Murray was convincingly beaten in the Australian Open Final, the first Grand Slam of the season, showing only a glimmer of resistance in the second set before Djokovic sealed the win in four. Djokovic was Andy’s nemesis once again at Roland Garros, where an excellent comeback in the semi-finals looked possible before Murray rather tamely threw away the deciding set, losing 6-1 in the fifth. Federer knocked Murray out of Wimbledon at the same stage, but the real shock came at the US Open, where Kevin Anderson, the South African with a giant serve, outplayed Murray and won in four sets in the round of 16.
But the Scotsman did finish the year on a high winning his second BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, in a landslide vote beating rugby league hero, Kevin Sinfield, heptathlon superstar, Jess Ennis- Hill and boxing champ, Tyson Fury. Showing just how highly the Davis Cup victory was thought of across the country.
If the underperformers that surround Murray in the rankings improve their game, he will struggle to add to his Grand Slam collection. But with the momentum of such an historic achievement behind him, as well as the birth of his first child expected towards the end of January, 2016 will certainly be an exciting year for the figurehead of British tennis, professionally and personally.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr user Mirasha.