NEW YORK – Andy Murray chuckled as he discussed the best part about owning a pair of Grand Slam tournament titles, one from the U.S. Open last year, the other from Wimbledon last month.
No more of those nagging, oft-repeated queries — the ones he heard over and over again.
“Not too much for me has changed. But the one thing that’s been nice is that, literally for five or six years, I did a press conference before every tournament and after every single match, and I got asked that question, I’d say, 90 percent of the time: Why have you never won Wimbledon? When are you going to win Wimbledon? Why have you not won a Grand Slam?” Murray said.
“So that’s the thing that, for me, has been the nicest: Not having to answer that question,” he added, standing outside the locker rooms at Arthur Ashe Stadium, not far from the oversized color picture and silver plaque that commemorate his 2012 victory at Flushing Meadows. “I can just play tennis now and not have to worry about that anymore.”
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That’s right. When the year’s last major tennis tournament begins on the U.S. Open’s blue hard courts Monday, Murray will have other concerns.
For example: What might it feel like to successfully defend a Grand Slam championship?
Or how many of these can he win?
Or, really, will he even be able to win one more?
Yes, for a guy who has accomplished so much over the past 13 months, redefining his career and place in the game, Murray still sounds like someone harboring quite a bit of uncertainty.
His success at the U.S. Open in 2012 did, after all, make him the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a major title. His success at Wimbledon in July made him the first British man since Perry 77 years ago to earn the singles trophy at the All England Club. Toss in a London Olympics gold medal and it has been quite a run.
“He’s turned into a great player. He’s always been a good hitter of the ball, been a great mover. I think mentally he’s a bit better now,” 14-time major champion Pete Sampras said recently. “Now he feels like he belongs.”
Maybe. But Murray also remembers what came before.
He remembers losing each of the first four Grand Slam event finals he reached.
“I know how long it took me to win one and how hard it is to win them. I know it’s possible I may not win another one,” the 26-year-old from Scotland said, his tone and facial expression earnest. “So I just want to keep trying to put myself in position to win Grand Slams and hopefully I can do the same again here.”
Murray anticipates some shakiness at the start of the U.S. Open.
“Depending on how the tournament goes, at the start of the tournament, I expect to be pretty nervous and feel maybe more pressure than I have in some years,” he said. “But then I would hope, if I can do well and get through the first few rounds, that it would actually give me confidence.”