Andy Murray’s disillusioned state and his admitted ‘falling out of love’ with tennis can exactly be plotted back to the build up of January’s Australian Open final and Roger Federer’s apparent use of some carefully planned psychological tactics that appeared to undermine the British challenger.
Most memorable was the jibe to on-court interviewer Jim Courier that Britain had been waiting “what is it, about 150,000 years?' for a champion. Federer then spelt out the relative pressure on the two players approaching their showdown, saying things were a lot less tense for him with 15 major titles to his name than Murray who still required one to legitimize his talent.
To most observers, Murray’s focus has been out of focus ever since. He did not defend his title in Rotterdam, infuriated the tournament director by pulling out of Marseille and then did not aid his popularity with the organizers of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships by insisting the tournament lacked the stature of some others and was a place to experiment. Thereafter he lost at the quarter final stage at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells before his title defense at the ongoing Sony Ericsson Open in Miami ended at the first hurdle.
But Federer is insistent unhinging Murray was not his intention. “It wasn't deliberate, I was just being honest,” maintained the world no.1 “I was asked to analyze it, so I did. It wasn't to put pressure on Andy.
“Look, it's not easy to win your first Grand Slam and it was always going to be far easier for me to win a 16th. If it had been going for my 15th, that might have been different, but I've already got the record, so I felt in a state of peace before that match - it was a great feeling.'
Ever since Federer was critical of Murray’s game at the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships a couple of years ago when the Scot won their first round encounter, there have been allegations of ill feeling between the pair.
Federer is adamant this is not the case. “If you're open about it people say you are too aggressive, but then if you are over-complimentary it sounds like you are being fake,” he stressed. “I understand that people want to make out there is something between us but I don't think there is.
'If I have ever criticized his game it's in the context of it being at a very high level, and smart people will realize that this is really a compliment. I think he has done very well and I have a lot of respect for him. Anyway, I can't shout out too loudly about our rivalry, because he still has a lead in our head-to-head.”
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