The Andy Murray of today is a vast improvement over the Andy Murray who reached the final at the 2008 U.S. Open.
Just ask Murray himself.
“I feel like I’m playing a lot better,” he said.
“My consistency has been a lot better, and physically I feel stronger than I was last year in terms of natural parts of my game. There’s not one thing I would take out that’s got a lot, lot better, but I think everything’s just got that little bit better - and that’s the difference when you get close to the top.”
Murray is about as close to the top as you can get: He has moved up to No. 2 in the ATP rankings, overtaking Rafael Nadal.
What the 22-year-old from Scotland has not yet done, but is sure he will one day, is win a major championship.
“It’s one of the few things that I want to do now in tennis - win a Slam. It’s something that is incredibly difficult to do, but something that I believe is possible,” Murray said. “A lot of players say when they win their first Slam it’s sort of a relief, because it’s so much hard work that you put into it. So, you know, I’m hoping I can do it here.”
His best Grand Slam showing came at Flushing Meadows in 2008, when he reached the final before losing to Roger Federer.
Murray never previously had made it past the quarterfinals at a major tournament. But he beat Juan Martin del Potro at that stage, then knocked off Nadal in the semifinals.
It proved to Murray that he could withstand the physical rigors of best-of-five matches over the course of two weeks.
“I don’t think anyone comes on the tour sort of 18, 19, you know, really knowing whether they can do that, because until you’ve actually done it, you don’t know,” he said. “The last couple of years I worked very, very hard on my fitness, so I’m hoping it’s not going to be a problem ever again.”
While tennis fans in Britain would love to see Murray give them their first home-grown male champion at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936, Murray has long professed his love for the American Grand Slam tournament.
Part of it is the success he had here as a junior, winning the U.S. Open boys’ title in 2004. Part of it is the New York atmosphere. Part of it is the electricity of night sessions.
And, perhaps, part of it is that Murray is under a tad less scrutiny on this side of the Atlantic.
“People are not sort of following you back to the hotel, whereas back home, you can get people waiting outside your house or, following you to dinner if you want to go out,” Murray said. “It’s obviously not like that here. So it makes it a little bit easier to sort of relax away from the court, I guess.”