Murray sets the stage for Raonic clash
By: Lyra Pappin
TORONTO — Ivan Lendl doesn’t mess around. Before Andy Murray made it to court on Wednesday afternoon in Toronto, Lendl was doing the prep work for his pupil’s eventual easy win over underdog Flavio Cipolla. In a morning practice session, Lendl openly scouted the Italian qualifier, telling him that he was watching him to see his weaknesses. Advantage, Murray.
Not that the gold medalist needed any extra advantages over the unseeded player, but hey, that’s beside the point. Under the Lendl regime, sentimentality and distraction have no place in his focused universe. Lendl’s creed: do whatever it takes to destroy the opponent. Murray, while unquestionably competitive, is just now beginning to harness the emotions that would sometimes get in his way and translate that passion into cold, unforgiving victories over opponents ranked anywhere from Cipolla’s 97 to Roger Federer’s current number one status.
Though temporarily hindered by an aggravated left knee in the second set, Murray looked solid and assured throughout his opening round match, winning 6-1, 6-3. At times, the focus that Murray leveled at the ball was reminiscent of the otherworldly fire Djokovic possessed during his superlative 2011 season. The comparison is no coincidence; confidence breeds confidence and with Murray’s bridesmaid status temporarily lifted after his decisive victory over Federer at the Olympics, the Scot is riding momentum that dwarfs anything he earned from his past 22 ATP titles.
What is still yet to be seen, yet to be tested, is Murray’s resolve down the stretch in a slam setting now that he’s won on a larger stage. Murray himself acknowledged the ambiguity of the gold factor, “I’ll need to see over the next few weeks whether it’s changed my mindset going forward…confidence in individual sport comes and goes very quickly. I hope it helps me in the long run, but have to wait and see.”
Yes, “Will Murray win a slam?” is a tired storyline, but its perpetual presence is a testament to Murray’s frustratingly clear potential. For a few other would-be contenders, asking whether they think they can win a slam becomes a default question from time to time and others aren’t asked at all; with Murray, it becomes an accusation. It’s no longer whether he will win a major, but why he hasn’t done it yet. Murray’s next opportunity for a meaningful title is now on the horizon, and as the US Open draws near, the world number four will first have to continue making his way through the rounds of Rogers Cup before he gets another chance to answer this demand.
A back-to-back champion of this tournament in 2009 and 2010, the Scot will be tested physically and mentally in his next match against hometown hero, Milos Raonic. After Murray’s pressure-cooked summer, including a loss to Raonic earlier in the year, whether the timing is right for the Olympic champ to push hard in Toronto is a valid consideration. “It will be tough. He’ll obviously be very motivated playing in his own country,” Murray said. “My opponent today was serving around 150, 160 kilometres an hour and Milos can serve 100 kilometres faster than that…So very, very different match to today.”
In addition to Raonic stealing thunder under a patriotic atmosphere amplified by the Olympics, all season Murray has discussed the importance of raising his level to coincide with majors rather than tour events, trading battles for the war. With General Lendl on hand, odds are increasing that Murray will rise to the occasion and silence his doubters on one New York night. Until then, Toronto awaits the clash between Golden Boy and Home Boy, a fiercely hyped match that will eventually become just a tiny piece of two fascinating puzzles.
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