Andy Murray to Shine in 2009

by John on January 5, 2009

Andy Murray jumped from No. 11 in the world at the end of 2007 to No. 4 at the close of 2008. More important than that, though, was his rise to elite status with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. The Top Three became the Big Four in 2008. No longer was Murray just a good player, he was one of the best. So much has the 21-year-old Scotsman improved that he should be a major threat in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments in 2009. Roland Garros isn’t his scene, yet. As good as Nadal was last year, I don’t see him winning more than one Slam this year. That would be the French, of course. Federer should reclaim his Wimbledon crown and tie Pete Sampras’ record of 14 major titles. That would leave the Australian and U.S. Opens up for grabs. Murray has as good a chance as anyone at winning one or both of those tournaments. The Scotsman posted a 58-17 record last year, won five tournaments, reached his first Grand Slam final and had an impressive 6-5 record against the top three. On Saturday, Murray knocked off Nadal to win the Capitala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, an exhibition kickoff before the start of the season. Friday he defeated Federer in the semifinals. Sure it was an exhibition, but one knows damn well that Rafa and the Swiss Maestro didn’t want to give Murray any ammunition to grow his confidence. “I’m looking forward to winning a Grand Slam this year and this victory was good before I go to Australia,” Murray said after the Nadal match. “I have never been past the fourth round there. I trained hard over the break and the victories over the past three days have given me confidence.” Realistically, given the strength of the top four, there are currently only four other players with the game to win a Slam. No. 5-ranked Nikolay Davydenko won three titles last year and had two wins each over Nadal and Murray. Flamboyant Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, ranked No. 6, had a breakout season in 2008 and can beat anybody. No. 8 Andy Roddick can still get his mojo going and on a given day serve any opponent off the court, but can he do it over seven matches? Then there is the best player never to win a major, No. 11 David Nalbandian. Perhaps this is the year the enigmatic Argentinian can finally win a big one. Two thousand and nine portends to be very interesting.

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