Andy Murray: The Liberator

In 1775, before a planned British attack, Paul Revere rode on horseback through the night from one colony to another yelling a warning, “The British are coming, the British are coming!” Those famous words helped mobilize the Colonial militia for war.

That was both a long time ago and completely unrelated to the recent proclamation of, “The British have won, the British have won!” heard this past Sunday, August 5, 2012.

That collective outcry of elation was in response to Andy Murray defeating Roger Federer in the Olympic tennis singles final to secure a gold medal for the U.K.

It had been a frustratingly long and agonizing wait for a British male to finally break what can only be called a long and arduous “tennis jinx.”

Murray’s heroics actually began three short weeks prior to the beginning of the 2012 Olympics held this year in London. At Wimbledon, he became the first British (actually Scottish, but whose quibbling) man since Bunny Austin to reach the final. Austin achieved the feat 74 years ago.

Murray acquitted himself admirably. And he did so under the same if not more intense pressure experienced by his British predecessor, Tim Henman.

Though losing the match to the greatest male player of all time, he fought like a champion and played one of the best matches of his career. The British recognized it, applauded it and, for once in the last 76 years, actually felt as though they would soon have a champion.

Their wait was surprisingly short.

While still reveling in the delirium of having a Wimby finalist, Murray pushed the country into a frenzy of tennis ecstasy by bludgeoning Federer in straight sets to win Olympic gold.

Certainly Murray attained the status of national hero, maybe even national treasure with his magical masterpiece of domination.

Federer may not have played his best game, but that in no way diminishes Murrays accomplishment. He did the deed. He beat “the maestro,” “the Fed,” “the man” and he did it decisively on the greatest possible stage before possibly the largest world audience.

How did Murray do it?

At the beginning of the 2012 season, Murray announced the hiring of Ivan Lendl as his new full-time coach. From the moment I learned of that, I felt it potentially a hugely beneficial move made at a most auspicious time.

Under Lendl’s tutelage, a new and improved Andy Murray immediately began to emerge.

The first definitive evidence of the positive change was vividly apparent in Murray’s five-set loss to Novak Djokovic in the finals of the 2012 Australian Open.

Murray played a classic match that day. Most importantly, he seemed to believe he could and would win, and that belief never appeared to waver.

During normal performance fluctuations or momentum shifts that occur in any tense tennis match, Murray’s behavior was in stark contrast to the Murray of old. He neither whimpered nor descended into a negative funk. Rather, he forged onward with courage and resolve.

Murray displayed that same sense of calm and resiliency in the Wimbledon final. And in both the Wimbledon and Olympic finals, he significantly tapered the propensity for playing strictly defensive tennis. Rather than camping 5-10 feet behind the baseline, he seized opportunities to move forward and impose his will.

He was far more offensive minded. Results don’t lie. The quantum leap forward is clear evidence.

Enhanced successful offense feeds confidence and winning begets winning. Both Murrays mindset and his approach to playing matches are vastly improved thanks to the influence of Ivan Lendl.

Lendl was the missing piece to the Murray puzzle. The piece is now firmly in place.

It appears that the most glaring weaknesses and any other extraneous limitations have been resolved. Barring injury, I fully expect additional high-level successes, including but not limited to, winning Wimbledon.

An elite level player who possesses the weaponry, finds his identity, believes that he belongs with the best, becomes capable of achieving  his best.

Nadal did it. Djokovic did it. Both were players with great ability who toiled around on the fringes of greatness, continued striving physically and mentally, and eventually attained their rightful place at the very top of the heap.

There’s no reason Murray can’t do the same.

I’ve long maintained that he had the tools but maybe didn’t have a firm grasp of how best to utilize them.

He also needed to “get a grip,” you know, learn to suppress negative emotions in order to get on with the task at hand.

Lendl has brought that and much more to the table. He’s added stability to an often volatile Murray. He’s shown him how not to become his own worse enemy during a match. After all, you’ve already got an adversary across the net from you who is intent on beating you senseless. Why support his efforts?

Andy Murray has arrived. Of this there is no doubt.

Ivan Lendl has orchestrated the arrival and there is no doubt about that either.

Andy Murray: believer, 2012 Wimbledon finalist, Olympic gold medalist, Scottish/British history maker, a man transformed from whiner to winner…

Great Britain’s great liberator.

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