Hopes high that Murray can build on his US Open heroics
British hopes of a grand slam champion were quelled for another year when Roger Federer beat Andy Murray in the US Open final, but there are plenty of reasons for the Scot to be optimistic in 2009.
The trio of Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic landed majors this season but Murray's charge to the helm of men's tennis is now well under way.
Murray announced himself as a forerunner in the race for top honours at Flushing Meadows and the British No.1 will be looking maintain the sport's new dimension of a quartet elite.
Murray suffered a 6-2 7-5 6-2 humbling to Federer, but the fortnight at New York saw Murray come of age.
Murray's run to the final had everything - comprehensive victories combined with nail-biting slug-fests before his swansong contest with world No.1 Nadal.
In many ways, the win over the Spaniard was Murray's final and the 21-year-old will look at his semi-final result as the biggest plus to take out of the tournament.
Nadal was the only player Murray had failed to beat in the top 10 going into Flushing Meadows - the French Open and Wimbledon champion boasting a 5-0 head-to-head record against the man from Dunblane.
After his semi-final triumph, Murray will feel he has the beating of anyone in the business and this strong self-belief, which has served him so well, can only assist his progression in the sport.
Much has been documented on the improved physique of Murray, but it is the mental toughness that the Scot was keen to acknowledge.
"One of the key things this year has been mentally I've gotten much, much better, and that has made a big difference," Murray said after the final.
Murray might not yet be a well-received sportsman amongst the natives, but British sport has seldom witnessed a competitor with greater hunger.
And it is the Murray's desire to better himself that could serve him best in his quest for grand slams.
"There are so many things I can improve on, and that's exciting. I hope this will be the start of big things for me," Murray said.
And everything suggests Murray's breakthrough in New York is just the beginning.
Murray now rises to a career-best number four in the world, a feat that was the peak of the careers of Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski.
When Henman and Rusedski hit the top four spot, however, they both lacked the consistency required to push on and challenge for majors.
Murray's counter-punching style, combined with a new blend of power and finesse gives the Brit more dimensions than his predecessors and at 21, there is plenty of time to add more strings to the bow - such as a better second serve.
Highlighted as the weakness in the Scot's game throughout New York, the second serve was exploited by Federer.
If Murray is to surpass Fred Perry as the next British grand slam champion, that is one aspect of his game that must develop.
As the season winds down, the stakes are still high for Monday's finalists.
Murray will now look towards a successful campaign in the final Masters Series events in Madrid and Paris before embarking upon the season-end Masters Cup in Shanghai.
Federer will also be looking to finish strong as he bids to cling onto his year-end No.1 status.
Only something miraculous will keep the Swiss at No.1 come November, but after becoming the first man in history to win two slams five times consecutively, that is right up the 27-year-old's street.
As the focus shifts to 2009, the formidable four will all look to Melbourne with high hopes of landing the championship and Murray will look to match Djokovic's achievement down under this season.
Just 12 months ago, the world No.3 reached the final of the US Open before falling to Federer - only for the Serb to be holding the Australian Open title in his hands four months later.
Let's see if history repeats itself for Murray...
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