At the 2006 SAP Open in San Jose, 18-year-old Andy Murray was a precocious Scotsman without a single ATP Tour victory.
He announced himself to the world when he defeated the heavily favored Andy Roddick in the semifinals of a tournament Roddick had won two straight years.
"Beating Roddick in his home country," Murray said after the exhaustive 7-5, 7-5 victory, "is like a dream come true."
Murray rode that dream to his first ATP Tour title the next day with a victory over Lleyton Hewitt, becoming the youngest player to capture a title on the circuit in 2006.
But the following year hasn’t exactly unfolded in the storybook fashion of that initial conquest.
As Murray makes his return to San Jose for the SAP Open one year later, the number in the titles column is still one and, although he has shown flashes of brilliance during that time, the 12 months have also been plagued by question marks about his stamina and mental toughness.
Murray dazzled the hometown crowd at Wimbledon last season, advancing to the fourth round and replacing Briton Tim Henman as the fan favorite. Murray again knocked off Roddick during his Wimbledon run and he also made a spirited march at the U.S. Open, getting to the fourth round before succumbing to Nikolay Davydenko in four sets.
But perhaps his greatest accomplishment came in the Western and Southern Financial Group Masters tournament in Cincinnati, when he knocked off Roger Federer in straight sets 6-4, 7-5, ending Federer’s 55-match winning streak on North American hardcourts.
Despite the impressive achievements, Murray could not garner another singles title during 2006 and he also had notably quick exits in his debuts at the French and Australian opens (both first-round defeats).
And in his other Grand Slam appearances, Murray appeared physically and mentally exhausted during his losses, dropping 12 of his final 13 games to Davydenko at the U.S. Open and losing in straight sets to Marcos Baghdatis at Wimbledon. Those setbacks aside, the future is notably bright for Murray, who will return to the SAP Open with a world ranking of 14th, up from 60th at this time last year — not bad for a kid who will not turn 20 until May.