Thursday, August 9, 2012
Andy Murray slowly moving on
By Kamakshi Tandon Special to ESPN.com
TORONTO -- For someone who's tired, sleepy, stiff and sore, Andy Murray looks pretty cheerful. Especially for Andy Murray.
His medals are at home, but that golden glow is still there. The smile is easier, and the shoulders a little straighter. And is that a little intonation in his voice? It is for Andy Murray.
His victory at the Olympics dominated postmatch conversation after he won his opening match at the Rogers Cup in Toronto on Wednesday, with Murray admitting that he's still caught up in the experience.
Andy Murray can't conceal his elation over Olympic gold, but he knows there's a long season left.
"Normally, I sleep for nine, 10 hours a night. Maximum I've been sleeping four hours a day," he said. "That suggests I'm still fairly excited about it."
Despite the lack of sleep, the energizing effect of the win has carried him through the past couple of days. After getting to bed at 2:30 the night after his win, Murray did another day of whirlwind publicity, followed by a quick celebratory dinner. On Tuesday, he took a trip across the ocean and arrived in Toronto, getting in a quick hit that evening and then another Wednesday morning before deciding that he was fit enough to play. Later that afternoon, he steered his way past Flavio Cipolla. Murray, who received treatment on his knee in the second set, still wrapped up the encounter in straights.
But how much does he have left? "I feel a little bit sore in the joints and stuff a little bit," he said afterward. "I feel tired mentally."
And things will get serious, and very quickly, in the next round as he goes up against home favorite Milos Raonic, who appears to licking his chops at the prospect of taking on a drained Murray on his turf. The 21-year-old Canadian also beat him in their meeting earlier this year on clay in Barcelona.
But this week is not as much about results for Murray as it is about getting in some hard-court preparation. Right now, he's still basking in his Olympic achievement. On the court after his opening win, Toronto organizers presented him with a cake decorated with icing in the shape of a gold medal. Murray cut out the medal and took a bite, much to the amusement of the crowd.
For someone known for his inward manner, shows of emotion have defined Murray this summer. First the tears after losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final, then the jump for joy after defeating Federer to take the gold on the same court four weeks later.
A redemption of sorts after four Grand Slam final defeats, the win was a popular one in the locker room. Federer managed a broad smile in defeat and said just minutes after the match, "I'm happy for him that he won the gold."
"For me it was disappointing to lose in semifinals and obviously for bronze medal match," said vanquished semifinalist Novak Djokovic. "But I was glad to see him winning it because he really deserves it after all he has been through."
Rafael Nadal, injured and following the Olympics at home, texted him after the victory. Murray relayed that the 2008 gold medalist had mentioned it was one of the hardest tournaments he himself had captured in his career, and there weren't many chances to do it.
Following his appearance in the Wimbledon final, the Olympics put Murray firmly back within the big four and heightened expectations surrounding his Grand Slam quest.
"It was a breakthrough win for me, biggest win of my career, you know, a tournament that I'll never forget," said Murray. "I'll need to see over the next few weeks whether it's changed my mindset going forward.
"I'm sure I will have gained a fair amount of confidence from it. But confidence in individual sports comes and goes very quickly. I hope it helps me in the long run, but I have to wait and see."
Particularly encouraging for the Scot was the way he was able to reverse the result of the Wimbledon final. After winning the first set, Murray missed his chance to go up in the second, and Federer eventually took control of the match. At the Olympics, Murray won the first set and this time got the early break in the second, fending off six break points in the next game and never easing up to roll through 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.
"I made the right decisions," Murray told Canadian television. "I was able to get the break in the second set and keep the momentum."
Darren Cahill has worked with Murray in the past and helped set up his current coaching partnership with Ivan Lendl. Cahill believes that the Olympic performance will help Murray on big occasions, where he has struggled in the past.
"I think the most important thing is when you haven't won on the big stage, a lot of doubts creep into your mind, you're not sure what game to play," Cahill said. "Nothing is guaranteed,[but] I think now that he's had that moment at Wimbledon at the Olympics and played a certain type of tennis that gave him the victory, he's going to be able to take his mind back to that memory, and give himself that click, that extra step he needs to get through."
Murray already is looking ahead to the next Grand Slam opportunity, which is a big reason for his participation in Toronto this week, which was somewhat unexpected despite its status as a mandatory event.
"The U.S. Open is a few weeks away and I need to try and get some matches on the hard courts because I haven't played on it for four months," he said. "You also need to do what's right for your schedule and not just make a decision based on those rules or whether you get fined or zero points or whatever."
And by the U.S. Open, the focus will once again be on whether he can finally capture a major. For now, though, he's golden.