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When Andy Murray takes to the court on October 31 in the ATP event in Valencia, he will play in his final tournament of a mammoth 10 month season. The Scot will be looking to defend the title he won at the back-end of last year, and Murray will fancy his chances having clinched the Shanghai Masters trophy recently.
Murray looked in fine form during a competition which culminated in a 6-3 6-2 demolition of Roger Federer in under an hour and a half. When all aspects of his game come together in this fashion then there is little doubt that Murray is a world class tennis player. His coaches will also be pleased that consistency is now creeping into his game, Shanghai passed without a set dropped.
However, this latest victory on the ATP tour cannot disguise a gaping hole in Murray’s CV; a Grand Slam title. With 2010 representing a mixed year at the major events, Murray will be acutely aware that questions about his credentials as a world great can only be silenced by a stellar 2011.
The US open raised the old chestnut about Murray’s physical conditioning as he struggled through to a fourth round tie with Stanislas Wawrinka. The heat appeared to drain Murray as he required medical attention, resulting in a defeat over four sets. His performance at Roland Garros in the French open was indicative of an extremely fatigued man. After coming from 2 sets down against home favourite Richard Gasquet in the first round, Murray battled through to the fourth before being comprehensively outplayed by the impressive Czech player Thomas Berdych.
Questions also persist about Murray’s temperament, not helped by his split from coach Miles Maclagan in July. However, the Murray camp were quick to reinforce that the two still speak regularly. On court, Murray still cuts a frustrated figure at times, although it seems that he is now able to channel this into more focused performances.
To discount 2010 as a complete failure for Andy Murray would be wide of the mark. At 23 his is ranked 4 in the world, his peak years still ahead. There were some great moments, notably the defence of his Canadian Masters title, defeating Nadal and Federer in the process.
His Australian Open and Wimbledon performances also offered encouragement. The final was reached in Australia, and although Federer won through, it appeared to be the catalyst for a successful year. At Wimbledon, Murray progressed to the semi-finals, despite huge pressure from the British fans only for Nadal to dispatch him in straight sets.
2011 is a huge year for Andy Murray as he heads towards the peak of his career. It is essential that he can demonstrate the ability to beat Nadal and Federer in the big tournaments, when the pressure is on, if he is to be regarded as anything more than a slightly feistier version of Tim Henman by the history books.