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Published: August 21, 2012
Still major-less but with the Wimbledon monkey finally off of his back after winning the gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Murray looked to be on his way to a dominant final quarter of the season.
En route to the championship, the 25-year-old Scottish star destroyed both world No. 1 Roger Federer and world No. 2 Novak Djokovic in straight sets. But while Federer and Djokovic have recovered from their Olympic failure, Murray comes into Queens struggling with both injury and performance issues.
Murray withdrew before the third round of the Rogers Cup with a knee injury and lost in the third round of Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati last week, giving him just five matches of competitive tennis since his gold-medal triumph.
Considering the Scotsman’s history of struggles in Queens, Murray will have to recapture his Olympic momentum, and fast, if he hopes to make a run at his first Slam championship.
Though Murray’s losses at Wimbledon are the ones that make headlines across the globe, his abject failures at hard-court majors are his most unsettling.
Of his 23 ATP Tour titles, 19 of them have come on hard courts. Considering a majority of ATP stops are on hard surfaces, that’s not exactly shocking. But the fact that Murray has made 30 appearances in hard-court finals and just four on other surfaces makes his consistent early-round losses puzzling at best.
A run to the 2008 U.S. Open final, where he took Roger Federer in three sets, has been Murray’s only success so far stateside.
In his other appearances at Flushing Meadows, he’s been anything but finals-worthy, going down early in almost every other trip.
The two of the last three years have seen Murray fall victim to massive upsets by Stanislas Wawrinka and Marin Čilić. While neither of those losses were Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson-level shockers, each of Murray’s opponents came in with a seeding of No. 16 or lower.
For the gold medalist, another early exit would be an embarrassing end to a season, which saw Murray make his first Wimbledon final and take a more aggressive approach after being berated for years for his defensive style.
If Murray hopes to come away with his 20th hard-court title (and first Slam), he’ll need to recapture the aggressiveness that made him an unstoppable force in both Wimbledon appearances this season.
He won’t have the crowd behind him the way he did in London, but that may be a good thing.
With the pressure off and the world expecting nothing, Murray may just use a little Wimbledon magic to come away with a shocking U.S. Open title.
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