By Clara How
More than just the namesake of a popular clothing brand, Fred Perry was also the most successful player in British history, winning eight Grand Slams including three consecutive Wimbledon titles. Since then it has been a dry spell in for British tennis, with Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski coming close, but no cigar.
Enter Andy Murray. As an eighteen year old in 2005, he rocketed up the rankings, climbing an astonishing 449 spots to claim No.65. As Murray continued to rise to the top, so did the hopes of his country.
Today the Scot is sitting pretty at a respectable No. 4 spot, with 17 singles titles under his belt. But while he has reached the finals for three Grand Slams, he has yet to win any of them. What is more worrying is that he has failed to win a set in any of the three. With his shock exit from Legg Mason Tennis Classic uncomfortably close to the US Open, even his supporters are starting to wonder: will Andy Murray ever win a Grand Slam?
Constant comparisons to Perry might be annoying, but Britain's new hope could yet end up emulating the legend.
Perry's initial attempts to make history were not smooth sailing. His first bid for a Grand Slam title was in 1929, where he reached the third round in Wimbledon. He failed five times before winning at SW 19 in 1934. Other majors were not easy to conquer either. It took him four bids before he lifted the trophy at Roland Garros, and despite his first Grand Slam win in 1933 at the US Open, he barely reached the fourth round three years before.
However the rest, as they say, is history. Perry went on to win a career Grand Slam and was No.1 for four straight years.
Perry's slow start to success should be an encouragement to the fourth seed. But with Grand Slam winners becoming increasingly younger in recent years (Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro all claiming their titles under 22 years old), time is ticking as the world waits to see if Murray can finally bring a trophy home to Britain.
Even without his country's obligations to contend with, there is still the problem of the Big Three. With juggernauts Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer standing in his way, naysayers doubt if the temperamental British No.1 will be able to battle his way past all three of them. Yet looking at his career highlights, Murray has proven his mettle on more than one occasion.
At 19 he ended Federer's 55-match winning streak in Cincinnati, and in 2009 bested him for the fourth consecutive time since the previous year's US Open final. Last year he became the first player to win consecutive Canadian titles since Andre Agassi, defeating both Federer and Nadal en route to his victory. After being defeated by Djokovic in the finals of this year's Australian Open, Murray had the consolation of hearing the Serb telling him: "With your talent, I'm sure you will [win a Grand Slam]".
So if it is not Murray's ability that is lacking, what nemesis is causing him to continually choke when it matters most? The answer is lies with Murray himself. Intensely competitive with a strong dislike of losing, the reason for the Scot's erratic performances comes down to the pressure that he heaps upon his shoulders, insisting: "I don't have to prove anything to anybody, just to myself."
His concentration woes are well-documented, and spectators at this year's Wimbledon semi-finals were able to pinpoint the exact moment where his focus slipped - an overcooked forehand into open space while being 2-1 up in the second set after winning the first. That mistake and his inability to put it behind him eventually cost him the match.
With Murray's nerve endings constantly on the verge of being frayed, he needs to find the balance between being ready to take a chance and not second-guessing himself.
This reluctance to take risks has resulted in criticism for his penchant for lurking at the baseline and for his passivity. He undeniably displays moments of genius, but they do not come as often as they should.
Barely two months ago, an increasingly worried crowd cheered: "Come on Andy, this is your destiny!" while watching Murray's chances of reaching the final being eviscerated by Nadal. Of his talent and ability, no one has any doubts.
With yet another attempt at Flushing Meadows looming on the horizon, it is up to Murray to find it within himself to hold his nerve, channel his focus, and win the title that everyone seems certain will one day be his.