Commentary

Andy Murray thriving on criticism

Updated: June 28, 2012, 3:05 PM ET
By Kamakshi Tandon | ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- In more upbeat times, Andy Murray had been called Braveheart, the Great Scot, the True Brit. He's been Murray in a Hurry, causing Murray Mania and Pandymonium as he chased his first Grand Slam win.

Not at the moment, though. Right now, Murray is a Worry. He's Moaning Murray, the too-easy target who is getting slammed for his injury theatrics and the one whose Wimbledon chances are being written off.

And he seems to be loving every second of it.

"If someone doesn't want you to do well, then it's nice to play well," Murray said after an impressive opening performance against Nikolay Davydenko on Tuesday.

It was his first win since he was jeered during a fourth-round victory against Richard Gasquet at the French Open, a match he later described as "the most fun I've had on the court in a while."

Given the way he berates himself on the court, it would be no surprise if Murray turns out to thrive on negativity. Although he won't garner many boos from the loyal Centre Court crowd, there's been no shortage of critics since his emotive back-clutching performances at the French. It prompted one commentator, Virginia Wade, to call him a "drama queen." An annoyed Murray, who seemed to take the remark as an implication that he had feigned injury, called it "quite disappointing."

Then the following week in Halle, Germany, fellow player Tommy Haas said the Scot had developed a reputation for acting like he was struggling with injuries while playing perfectly well. "People talk about it in the locker room," said the German, who once lost a match at Indian Wells in 2007 in which Murray had a mid-match fall but recovered to win.

Murray said Haas later apologized for the way the comments came across, but similar sentiments from other analysts continued to appear in the newspapers. Finally, Murray hit back. "I'm not accepting it anymore because it's not fair," Murray told British reporters just before Wimbledon began. "I think eight pain-killing injections in your back before the French Open justifies a genuine injury."

But that didn't stop Davydenko coming out with a similar accusation before their first-round match. "We just laugh," Davydenko told the British papers. "Sometimes he walks on court, he looks tired, like he doesn't want to run anymore, and then he runs like an animal. He has done that all his career."

The Russian dug the needle in a little further by questioning his opponent's Grand Slam ambitions. "Murray has reached the Australian Open final, but it doesn't look like he has enough to win it," he said.

Murray indicated that he hadn't heard these latest comments, but he played like those words were pinned to Davydenko's forehead. He demolished the former No. 5 in just over an hour and a half.

[+] EnlargeAndy Murray
Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty ImagesAndy Murray has developed a reputation for feigning injury, but is it legit?

His commanding performance did a lot to lighten the tennis mood in the U.K., especially with four other British players also joining him in the second round.

Each year, Murray comes into Wimbledon carrying the hopes of the nation, which has been without a men's Grand Slam winner since -- here's the most well-known stat of the tournament -- Fred Perry in 1936. But this time, the expectation is blanketed with concern. Another year has passed with Murray still trying to break through the Djokovic-Nadal-Federer wall at the majors. With his back problems and a first-round loss at the Queen's warm-up event, his chances of doing so this fortnight appear further diminished.

On top of that, he faces a very tricky draw full of big serves. Ivo Karlovic, Andy Roddick and Milos Raonic are among those in his quarter, as is Juan Martin del Potro.

It all meant that the outlook had been as gloomy as the weather forecast, but Murray replied with a strong start that suggested he might be ready for the challenges.

"It was a long couple of weeks with a lot of time on the practice court, a lot of talk about various things. I wanted to go and play," he said. "It's time to let the tennis do the talking."

But that might get a little too quiet and peaceful for Murray's liking.