SOMEHOW, given that many people were starting to write his obituary, Andy Murray has made it in to the second week of the US Open. He is yet again the sole reason for a sizeable percentage of the British sporting public to retain interest in a grand slam tennis tournament, as the back-up troops to our No1 player continue to fall short of the justifiable expectations of a cash and people-rich sport.
A below-par Murray, which he has been for much of this year, only serves to showcase the paucity of British talent and reinforce his importance to the sport in terms of profile and awareness. Tonight’s last-16 match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga offers him the prospect, both amazingly and alarmingly, of his first victory over a top-10 player since those heady days of Wimbledon 15 months ago.
The higher the high, the greater the drop, and Murray has from both a physical and mental perspective found tennis a hard job to rationalise since ending 77 years of hurt for us all. But there have been signs in New York that the avaricious hunger that drove him to that Wimbledon title is starting to return. His pride has been stung hugely by his fall down the rankings, but the fire that some thought had been doused irreparably saw him through a very difficult opening match against Robin Haase when full-body cramps threatened an early exit, and on Saturday against Andrey Kuznetsov he showed, certainly in the first two sets, the kind of form that has twice made him a grand slam champion, the first of those in America in 2012.
Despite having lost to Tsonga a few weeks ago, a resurgent Murray can win tonight, and then it’s Djokovic in the last eight. That match will tell us where Andy is right now: on the way back to the summit of the sport or still treading water in the foothills, searching for that missing mojo. The worrying thing is that wherever he is, you’ll still need a telescope to see the rest of British men’s tennis.