Sunday, 27 July 2008

My last post that I wrote on this blog was about a young sportsman coming of age and this will be a similar post after the recent good form of Andy Murray.
It is obvious that the young man from Dunblane has come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of months dating back to the French Open.
He reached the third round there playing some of the best tennis he has ever produced on clay and then followed this up with strong performances during the grass court season where he reached the quarter finals at Queens before retiring injured and then recorded his best grand slam performance after setting Wimbledon alight with an epic five setter against Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the fourth round. This match will also be remembered by many, myself included, for possibly one of the greatest shots I've ever seen when Murray played a truly fantastic passing shot down the line to take the third set and start what turned out to be a fantastic comeback. He was then of course comprehensively beaten by Rafale Nadal but there is no shame in that as Nadal is quite clearly head and shoulders above every other player in the world and it appears to be only a matter of time before usurps Roger Federer as world number one.
Murray then took a couple of weeks off before heading to Toronto where he finally seemed to become the player that many have said he has the potential to be. This was truly evident when he came up against Novak Djokovic, the Australian Open Champion, and a player he had previously failed to beat in four attempts. Murray though played some of the best tennis of his career and overcame his nemesis comfortably 6-3 7-6.
He then lost again to Nadal in the semi finals but the match was extremely close, and had Murray not been struggling with a knee injury he might have advanced to the first masters series title of his career.
It wasn't to be but the future looks ever brighter for Andy Murray. In the next couple of months he is competing for Great Britain in the Olympics and will also be competing in the season ending Grand Slam in America, where he won as a junior and I think is his best hope of winning a Grand Slam.
He is a young man who is truly in charge of his own destiny. He isn't afraid to make tough decisions for the sake of his career and it is this single mindedness which sets him apart from many other young players, and in particular British players.
If he keeps progressing the way he has it can surely only be a matter of time before he becomes the first Britain to win a Grand Slam since Fred Perry won Wimbledon in the 1930's.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

A Coming of Age?

I thought it was extremely interesting to hear some of the comments that were flying around in the press this week after England’s comprehensive ten wicket defeat at the hands of a ruthless South African side.
What with all the controversy about debutant Darren Pattinson being picked to represent England and all the issues raised about the team being divided some interesting comments from Andrew Flintoff went very much under the radar. His comments concerned Lancashire seamer James Anderson.
Ever since Anderson burst onto the scene with a fabulous hat trick in the 2003 World Cup he has been a cricketer who has left many experts split. Many regard him as a bowler of incredible talent but somebody who mentally isn’t strong enough for the demands of test match cricket.
Flintoff however had this to say. “Jimmy is a class performer and we’re going to need him. He is a class act who burst onto the scene as a young lad and had instant success. He then didn’t find it too easy after that. However in the past 18 months or so, we’ve seen Jimmy Anderson grow up and I think people forget that he is only 25 years old.”
High praise indeed, particularly coming from somebody such as Flintoff. He does though have a point. Anderson appears to have matured as a player beyond measure, and anybody questioning his mental strength only needs to see his performance in making 34 runs as nightwatchman to see that he has guts and courage in the face of an onslaught.
It was his bowling though that really caught my eye. He was England’s best bowler throughout the entire match without receiving the rewards he deserved for his perseverance and control.
He has though had a rough time in international cricket. He has been in and out of the side in both forms of the game and has suffered injuries and periods where his confidence seemed to completely desert him.
‘Jimmy’ has always found a way to get himself back in the side and at the moment it could be argued that he has been England’s best bowler in 2008. He has also proved himself to be a decent batsmen with many saying he is the most improved batsman within the England set up and is a truly outstanding fielder.
His current record for England is as follows
Tests 27 Wickets 95
ODI 91 Wickets 126
So he has already broken the century barrier in the shorter form of the game and is quickly closing in one a hundred test wickets for his country which is an excellent achievement in anybody’s book. And like Flintoff said he is only 25 years old. He is at an age where he has a wealth of international experience to draw upon at a time when many players of his age have yet to make their bow in international cricket. If he uses this to his advantage Jimmy Anderson could be a frightening bowler for England for the next ten years.