LONDON, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Andy Murray’s maiden grand slam title at the U.S. Open on Monday could signal the start of a collection of major silverware, according to former British number one Tim Henman.
Henman well knows the burden Murray has shouldered since bursting on to the scene in 2005, shortly before the four-times Wimbledon semi-finalist retired having failed to end the country’s interminable wait for a men’s grand slam champion.
Murray’s five-set victory over Novak Djokovic at Flushing Meadows finally retired the worn-out statistic of Fred Perry being the last British man to win a major, almost 76 years to the day before the 25-year-old Scot broke through.
”I definitely see him going on to win more (grand slam titles),“ Henman told the BBC. ”How many he can win only time will tell. The confidence of the Olympics and this will give him so much confidence.
“I said the first one would be the hardest but I think it will be the first of many, I really do.”
A survivor of a school massacre in his home town of Dunblane back in 1996, Murray’s first season under coach Ivan Lendl this year also brought an Olympic gold medal in London before his triumph in New York.
“It was certainly his time. The most important aspects were his resilience, both mentally and physically. He remained calm and was able to produce the goods and really it was Djokovic who was struggling at the end,” added Henman.
Murray’s rather dour exterior had, until this year, distanced him from the type of popular support enjoyed by Henman.
A run to this year’s tearful Wimbledon final where he lost to Roger Federer, followed by glory against the Swiss in a hugely successful Olympics for the hosts, finally endeared him to the British public.
His popularity levels after Monday’s epic are now soaring and after rising above injury-hit Rafa Nadal to third in the ATP rankings, he looks perfectly placed for an assault on more grand slam titles next year and even a tilt at world number one.
Lendl, whose poker-face barely cracked into a grin when his charge finally nailed Djokovic on Monday, dispensed with the emotional hyperbole being pumped out across British media and social networking sites .
“Hopefully, we’re not anywhere near where Andy can get,” Lendl said when discussing Murray’s breakthrough after four grand slam final defeats.
“I didn’t come here to have a good time - I came here to help Andy win. He did, so it’s job done.”
Former coach Miles Maclagan did offer a few words of caution, however.
“He’s in uncharted territory and he could go one of two ways,” said Maclagan, who helped Murray reach the 2008 U.S. Open final and 2010 Australian Open final.
“Either he’ll absolutely fly for a while and win everything in sight, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see a bit of a lull. You reach a lifetime goal, something you’ve strived for your whole life... you have to take a bit of time to think to set some new goals and build up some determination.”
Former British Davis Cup coach John Lloyd said Murray had put to bed any doubts about his big-match temperament.
“He’s joined the club. We’ve been talking about the big three and Murray being part of the fab four but he had a missing ingredient. However, he’s put that right in spectacular style,” Lloyd said.
“He’s made a staggering improvement to the mental side of his game.” (Writing by Martyn Herman, editing by Mark Meadows)