Andy Murray’s relief at winning the US Open was palpable. Four defeats in Slam finals must have sown the seed of doubt that he might never win a Major, a conclusion that many observers on Betfair.com had come to, due to the quality of his opposition.
It is even more widely thought that now the Scot has broken his duck at Majors, more will follow. As was noted when Novak Djokovic roared back into contention in that nerve-shredding final at Flushing Meadows, the difference between going for a sixth Slam and trying to win a first is huge.
Murray has lifted a huge weight off his shoulders and, in future finals, the pressure in tight situations will not be as intense. Of course, adding to his New York triumph will not be a formality, especially as the reduced pressure might be offset by a slight subconscious drop in motivation.
The world number three was consumed by the burning desire to win that maiden Slam and any private feelings that more will follow naturally can cause a reduction in standards. Murray and his team will not tolerate any complacency, although a re-evaluation of objectives is sensible.
His seasons will still be defined by the four Majors, with peak performance designed to come at these points in the year, but, if Murray has serious designs on the top ranking, he needs to combine consistency on tour with success at the big ones.
It is perhaps no coincidence that after winning two Masters 1000 events in each of the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons, none came in the year he won the Olympic and US Open titles. Murray’s only other victory came in January at Brisbane.
Obtaining the top ranking is reliant on improved clay court form. Murray is gradually improving at Roland Garros, but he is not yet a serious threat to Rafael Nadal, and claiming a maiden tour title on the red stuff is a priority for 2013.
Year-round consistency and another Slam or two are lofty objectives for next season, but Murray is already turning the heads of the tennis odds makers.