Twelve months ago it was Roger Federer who was shedding tears on the court at Rod Laver Arena after losing a marathon five-set final to Rafael Nadal. A year on the Swiss world No 1 had a joyous grin, while the heartbreak was left for his beaten opponent, Andy Murray, in yesterday's Australian Open final. Defeat proved hard to take for the Briton, 22, who had come into the match hoping firstly to avenge his 2008 US Open final loss to Federer and also to become Britain's first men's grand slam winner for 74 years.
After losing in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6, he had appeared composed in the moments after the match, even sharing a joke with Federer ahead of their speeches, but when asked to say a few words it quickly became clear how desperate he was to win his maiden major title. "I had great support back home and I am sorry I couldn't do it for you," he said as his voice cracked and he battled to hold back tears.
"I can cry like Roger, it's just a shame I can't play like him. He was a lot better than me tonight." Despite the burden of expectation from his compatriots, Murray denied that trying to end the British drought had hindered his performance. "I didn't feel it on the court," he said. "You get a lot of good luck messages, everyone wishing you well from back home and that's nice. But once you get on the court, it's not what you're thinking about at all."
The match was full of missed opportunities for Murray and ones that he will be sure to reflect on as he departs Australia today. Tim Henman, who used to carry the hopes of Britain before passing on the baton to Murray, was quick to remind an expectant public that Murray was defeated by the best player in history. "The two slam finals Andy's played he's played against the best player in history," said Henman.
"For the second half of the first set and the second set, Federer put on a clinic and there was not a lot Andy could've done." Murray's tactics have improved since the US Open loss, but Henman believes the latest loss shows how much he still needs to do to defeat Federer. "He had opportunities in rallies at certain stages," the former British No 1 added. "We were urging him to take the ball on and move forward. A couple of times there was slight hesitation and that's all Federer needs.
"Andy has been so much more aggressive in this tournament this year. I think this probably highlights he still has to take that aggression, controlled aggression, to another level." Boris Becker, the two-time Australian Open champion, concurred. "He's definitely good enough to reach a grand slam semi-final or final, but in order to jump that big hurdle, he has to win the final," said the German. "He still sometimes expects his opponent to lose the final, and that doesn't happen, especially against Federer.
Added Murray: "The match was a lot closer than the one at Flushing Meadows. "I had a chance at the beginning of the match and I had chances at the end. It's just the second set that didn't go my way. Not that any of them went my way. But obviously I felt like I had opportunities in the rest of them. "I'm getting closer. My results in the grand slams show that. [I've] just got to keep working hard."
Murray is now up to No 3 in the rankings, but remains the only one of the top five not to have a grand slam title under his belt. firstname.lastname@example.org