When Andy Murray has started his practise at the All England Tennis Club last week, his predecessor Tim Henman told the Daily Mail that the current world number three is in the form of his life, adding “this first six months is the best I’ve ever seen him play.”
But how true is that really? Is Murray poised to repeat his 2013 Wimbledon performance and add to his Grand Slam silverware or will he suffer a 10th straight defeat at the hands of Novak Djokovic who is enjoying an even more impressive season?
Without making any bold predictions, let’s simply compare the two seasons and see exactly how Murray is playing compared to his successful run up to Wimbledon two years ago…
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Australian Open Series
2013: Murray began his year by successfully defending the Brisbane International title with a straight sets victory over Grigor Dimitrov in the final.
Murray went on to enter the Australian Open as the third seed and made it all the way to the semi-finals without dropping a set. He then defeated old rival, Roger Federer, in a tight five setter to set up a final clash with Novak Djokovic. Despite taking the first set, Murray lost the final in four sets to the world number one.
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2015: In 2015, Murray started by teaming up with Heather Watson to compete for GB in the Hopman Cup. The team managed to beat Australia and defending champions France before losing to Poland who would eventually win the title.
Murray followed up this performance with a deep run at the Australian Open. This year, he was only sixth seed but made his sixth straight quarterfinal by only dropping one set. Murray made light work of Kyrigos in the QFs before beating Berdych in four sets to reach the finals for the fourth time.
In a similar fashion to his 2013 appearance, Murray took the first set but lost in four to the world number one Novak Djokovic. This became his fifth consecutive loss to the Serb and was made worse by a 6-0 final set, leading many to claim that Djokovic was becoming untouchable.
Spring Hard Court Series
2013: In Indian Wells, Murray made it to the quarterfinals where he lost to eventual finalist Juan Martin Del Potro. He then went on to the Miami Masters where he defeated Tomic, Dimitrov, Seppi, Gasquet and Cilic to make it to the final where he faced Roger Federer.
Murray saved a match point at 6-5 down in the final set and managed to clinch the title by taking the match in the third set tiebreak. This was Murray’s ninth Masters title overall and elevated him to world number two above Roger Federer.
2015: Murray has played more tournaments this year and followed up the Australian Open with a quarterfinal run at the Rotterdam Open. He lost to Gilles Simon who managed to end a 12 match losing streak against the Scot.
But Murray got his own back by beating Simon immediately after in Dubai before going out in the QFs to Croatian teenager, Borna Coric.
Murray made it straight through to the SFs of Indian Wells but lost his sixth consecutive match to Novak Djokovic who is rapidly becoming the thorn in his side this year as he managed to make it comfortably to the final in Miami before losing to the Serb again.
European Clay Court Series
2013: After a two week break, Murray headed to the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters where he put in a rather underwhelming performance and lost to Stan Wawrinka in the second round.
At the Madrid Open, Murray beat Simon in 2R, despite it taking him three hours, three sets and six match points. His reward was his first ever QF on clay which he lost to Berdych.
Murray recovered from a set and a double break down to win his opening round match of the Rome Masters but eventually retired, citing a back injury which also forced him to pull out of the French Open.
2015: Murray missed the Monte Carlo Masters to attend his wedding to long-time girlfriend Kim Sears so began his clay court season by winning the Bavarian International Tennis Championship. The Scot had to defeat Zverev, Rosol, Bautista Agut and Kohlschrieber to take his first ever title on clay.
He was able to carry his newfound form on clay to the Madrid Masters, where world number one Novak Djokovic was absent, consequently leaving a great opportunity for Murray to continue his success.
The only real threat that stood in his way was the unpredictable King of Clay himself, Rafael Nadal. It was of no consequence to Murray, however, as he was able to brush the Spaniard aside and beat him in straight sets to take his first ever clay court masters title. In doing this, he also became only the fourth player ever to beat Nadal in a clay court final, after Federer, Djokovic and Zeballos.
Murray withdrew from the Rome Masters despite winning his first round match against Jeremy Chardy. After playing nine matches in ten days, Murray stated that he was suffering from fatigue and needed to rest ahead of the French Open.
What this meant was that Murray went into the second slam of the year on a 10-match winning streak on clay, something that was unheard of for the Scot before this season. He made it all the way to the SFs with relative ease only to set up yet another battle with Djokovic.
Murray showed considerable improvement from his Australian Open effort and managed to push the Serb to five sets, losing it in the fifth but avoiding the bagel he suffered in January.
Grass Court Series
In both 2013 and 2015, Murray won the Queen’s Club Championship with relative ease. In 2013, he made it to the SFs without dropping a set before defeating defending champion Cilic to take the trophy.
In 2015, he managed to complete his SF match and his final in the same day, beating two players in great form (Troicki and Anderson) to take his fourth title at Queen’s.
So there you have it. With the pressure mounting for the Brit to take his second title at Wimbledon, people are using this season’s incredible form as evidence to suggest big things for Andy Murray in two weeks’ time.
There isn’t much separating the two run-ups to the most famous tennis tournament of the year but the biggest difference between this year and his last slam-winning campaign is the amount of matches he has played. Murray seems to be getting a tonne of matches under his belt this season and, aside from a short rest after Rome, is rarely looking tired.
This is largely due to his improved form on clay. Whilst Murray would previously stumble out of clay tournaments early, this year he has had made deep runs in most of them and even claimed two titles himself.
He has shown steady improvement as the season has progressed and, other than Novak Djokovic, most players have found it hard to faze the world number three.
But that’s just it. Whilst Murray may be in the form of his life, so is his biggest current rival. Novak Djokovic has won four of the first five Masters tournaments and has rarely struggled, aside from losing the French Open final to Wawrinka.
Interestingly, whilst Murray is sitting at 41-6 for the season, Djokovic is at 41-3. Both players have won exactly the same amount of matches. Djokovic has a higher percentage but he has also played fewer tournaments. Who were his three losses? Karlovic in Doha, Federer in Dubai and Wawrinka in Paris.
Murray will meet Djokovic in either the semi-final or the final, should he make it that far. And as it stands, it’s difficult to see him making it past Novak, who is currently enjoying a nine-game winning streak over Murray. It is worth noting that, whilst they have only played twice, Djokovic has never beaten Murray at Wimbledon, or on grass.
The last time they played on grass, Murray won and ended a 74-year drought of home turf champions at the All England Club. One thing’s for sure, should the pair meet, it should be the best match up of the year.
Can Murray repeat his success this year? What do you think? Leave your thoughts and predictions in the comments section below.