Andy Murray’s ninth Wimbledon might be his easiest.
Murray ended Britain’s 77-year wait for a men’s Wimbledon champion by defeating Novak Djokovic of Serbia last July. At 5-4 in the final set, the Scot squandered three match points before saving three break points in a contest watched by 80 percent of British television viewers.
Murray will begin his defense June 23 on Centre Court of the All England Club in southwest London without the weight of a nation and decades of history on his shoulders. He lost his first four Grand Slam finals and went out in the quarterfinals of the 2013 U.S. Open after winning there in 2012.
“There’s no one that’s been under more pressure to win a major event than Andy Murray,” three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe said on an ESPN conference call this week. “The fact that he’s done it takes a lot of pressure off him. He has as good a shot as anyone to win it.”
Murray, 27, is seeking to be the first to repeat as men’s champion since Roger Federer won five consecutive titles from 2003 to 2007. After losing to Rafael Nadal in 2008, Federer won in 2009 and beat Murray in the Scot’s first Wimbledon final in 2012. Murray is seeded behind Djokovic and Nadal in this year’s tournament and ahead of Federer, whom he beat in the 2012 Olympic final, also played at Wimbledon.
Rematch in Semis
Murray will first play No. 104 David Goffin of Belgium, who reached the third round in 2012. The Scot could face Djokovic in the semifinals. The No. 1 seed plays Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan in the first round.
The women’s tournament has no defending champion this year after the retirement of Marion Bartoli of France. Serena Williams, whose five Wimbledon titles include back-to-back wins in 2002-03 and 2009-10, is the top seed and will play fellow American Anna Tatishvili in the first round.
The 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo, who helped guide Bartoli to her first major last year, will coach Murray at the tournament after Ivan Lendl told the player in March he wanted to spend more time playing on the seniors tour.
Mauresmo, 34, is familiar with home pressure after playing 15 consecutive French Open championships and reaching the quarterfinals twice.
“She wasn’t able to be herself there,” McEnroe said. “Eventually, later in her career, she was able to succeed and win a couple majors. From that standpoint she’s got the understanding of what it takes emotionally and mentally to maybe get through and add that extra percent or two.”
At 3-1 odds, Murray is the second favorite to win the title behind 7-4 shot Djokovic at U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc. Serena Williams of the U.S. is the 5-4 favorite to clinch a sixth singles championship.
Unlike last year, when Murray warmed up for Wimbledon by winning his third title on the grass at London’s Queen’s Club, his preparation this year hasn’t been ideal.
After winning only six games against eventual champion Nadal of Spain in the semifinals of the French Open, Murray went to Queen’s, where Czech Radek Stepanek ended his 19-match win streak on grass in the third round.
Murray said he’d use the extra time to rest up and spend time with his new coach.
“I need to get on the practice court,” Murray told reporters at Queen’s after his defeat. “I need to spend more time on this surface to get used to it.”
Although Lendl -- who also lost his first four Grand Slam finals -- is no longer advising Murray, his influence will remain.
“He didn’t need somebody necessarily to tell him how to play tennis, but he needed somebody to tell him what he was going to feel, and it was OK to feel that,” Mark Petchey, who coached Murray when the Scot was a teenager, said in an interview at Roland Garros, site of the French Open.
“Mauresmo’s very qualified,” 18-time major singles champion Chris Evert said on the ESPN conference call. “If he continues to carry on with Lendl’s influence and takes what Mauresmo has to offer, I think he’s in a pretty good place.”
Murray’s first coach, his mother Judy, wouldn’t mind reliving his victory.
“That final at Wimbledon last year, I remember nothing other than 40-0 in the last game,” Judy Murray said in an interview in London last month.
“Suddenly it was deuce,” she said. “I remember hearing my heart in my ear so loud that I thought ‘I am not sure I am going to survive this.’ I remember the net cord that Novak got to get to the break point, and I remember the final backhand going into the net. And I don’t remember another thing about it.”
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