A knight has never won the Australian Open but Sir Andrew Murray can become the first at the start of what could be a record breaking Grand Slam season. Murray is now the number one player in the world and with question marks over his traditional rivals he could win multiple majors in the same year for the first time in his career. He has a game suited to playing conditions at the height of the summer in Melbourne so looks a good bet to win the Australian Open at last.
Murray has lost in the final of the first Grand Slam of the year five times. No other player has appeared in the final of one major so many times without winning it. He was beaten by Roger Federer in his first final and has then lost the decider in Australia four times against Novak Djokovic. Mentally Murray was always on the back foot in Aussie Open against the Serb but if they meet again he will have the confidence to come out on top. He would then become the only player who could achieve the calendar year Grand Slam in 2017.
The four majors have distinct features and are played on different surfaces. Winning more than one in any year is a fine achievement so winning all four from January to September takes a player’s standing in the game to a new level. The Australian Open is played on hard courts, the French Open is played on clay, Wimbledon is a grass court tournament and the US Open is played on a different hard court surface.
A player must have a brilliant all round game with no weaknesses to win all four in one year. He or she must peak for four specific fortnights over a 12 month period and win seven matches each time. The competition is fierce because everyone is trying and a player’s status in the history of the sports depends on the number of majors won. Winning all four throughout a career takes some doing so Murray could be embarking on the greatest year of his sporting life.
Only two men have achieved the calendar year Grand Slam. Don Budge won all four major titles in 1938 and Rod Laver completed the set in 1962 and 1969. In the women’s game Maureen Connolly (1953), Margaret Court (1970) and Steffi Graf (1988) won all four in the same season and Graf won the Olympic title as well. Seven men have won the career Grand Slam and ten women have won all four majors at least once. Murray has won two of the four and if he wins the Australian open he would just need the French open to complete the set.
Djokovic won the French Open last June to achieve his personal goal of winning all four majors. His form dipped over the rest of the year and issues off the court had an effect. Murray swept him aside in the ATP Tour Finals final in November but Djokovic beat the Scot in the final of the Qatar Open last weekend. The acid test will come over five sets in the Australian Open and Murray has the tools to win that potential match. That just leaves Rafael Nadal and Federer to take care of over the rest of the year.
Nadal has lost his invincibility on clay and now looks vulnerable on the big points and Federer is not an ageless Peter Pan of tennis and is now in his mid-thirties. Stanislas Wawrinka and Marin Cilic have emerged from the pack but Murray has a career winning record against both players. If Murray is ever to win the calendar year Grand Slam this year is his best chance and that process can begin with him winning the 2017 Australian Open. This could be your year Sir Andy!