Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Authority Figure
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Authority Figure 10/20/2008 - 2:35 PM

Andy MurrayDid the Big Three just turn into the Big Four? As Andy Murray’s win over Gilles Simon was unfolding Sunday in Madrid, as he patiently wore down the already worn down Frenchman, I found myself asking that question every few games. For most of the afternoon, I was unwilling to answer with a yes—the match seemed just a little too routine to reveal any possible trends in Murray’s future. But in the end, once I’d seen the way he handled the last few, clinching points, I had a hard time hanging on to my skepticism.

Let’s go back to the beginning. This was a match between Saturday’s giant killers. Murray had beaten No. 2 Roger Federer 7-5 in the third; Simon had followed by upsetting No. 1 Rafael Nadal 7-6 in the third. All in all, it made for one of the best days of tennis of 2008. The losses by the top two players in the world may have been predictable—once the majors are over, the champions lose just a tiny bit of their motivation, the same tiny bit that keeps them above the pack the rest of the year. But what wasn’t predictable was that they were beaten by two hungry young guys who were playing the best tennis of their careers, and who each brought an appealingly varied and soft-handed style to the final. This time it wasn’t a huge server or permanent underachiever who benefited from Nadal’s and Federer’s late-season letdowns. It was two of the most creative and classical players on tour. I’m going to take that as a positive sign in itself for men’s tennis.

The problem on Sunday was that one of those players had been on court for six hours more than the other over the course of the week. Simon came into the final having won four matches by the score of 7-6 in the third and having logged 11 hours of playing time in six days. As the Frenchman said afterward, Murray was aware of this. “I didn't move how I usually do, and Andy knew it,” Simon said. “He just wanted to make me run all the time, right, left, right, left.”

That is what Murray did, but while it’s a simple strategy to formulate, it’s still a tricky one to implement. In doing so successfully, Murray showed just how comfortable he has become this year, both in his own skin and on the baseline. All week, and especially against Simon, Murray controlled rallies by doing what to the untrained eye doesn’t seem like very much—floating slice backhand crosscourt, medium-pace topspin forehand crosscourt, floating slice down the line, medium-pace forehand down the line, then start again. What’s important, though, is not that these tactics are simple and basic; it’s that they were just enough. Murray kept his forehands just deep enough, mixed his down-the-line slices in just often enough, and changed the spin on the ball just radically enough from shot to shot. The result was that Simon, if he wanted to end the points early, had to take a risk. Murray never did, because he never forced himself to do more than was absolutely necessary.

We all know about Murray’s shot-making skills, but he’s learning, as Federer did a few years ago, that it’s a lot more likely that he’s going to win if he doesn’t have to show them off. During the clay-court season, I wrote that Murray’s drop shot had become his putaway shot, a style that simply couldn’t continue if he was going to improve. On Sunday, I don’t recall Murray attempting one drop shot until the second-set tiebreaker, when he briefly tightened up with the title on the line and went back to his panicky pre-Wimbledon self. For most of the match, he didn’t need to hit it, so he didn’t.

I also wrote this spring that Murray, as a still-maturing post-adolescent, had an authority problem. In tennis terms, that meant he could break serve, but he struggled when he was trying to hold for a set. This has also completely turned around. His new, calmer, more authoritative attitude has manifested itself most obviously in his serve. Throughout the event, Murray got ahead on his service games by dropping bombs up the middle—after losing their semifinal, Federer highlighted this as a key improvement in the Scot’s game. More important, Murray kept doing it with the set on the line against Simon. Serving at 5-4 in the first, he opened with an ace, hit two unreturnable serves, and closed with another ace.

Still, I wasn’t prepared to hand Murray next year’s Australian Open yet. As Robbie Koenig noted on the Tennis Channel, it can be difficult, if you’ve been playing with deliberate passivity, to suddenly go on the attack if necessary. And Murray’s natural tendency to let a match come to him will always leave him vulnerable to an opponent on a hot streak. If anything keeps him from permanently joining the Big Three, it will be this.

As the second set progressed, it looked like Koenig might be proven right. Simon had stopped missing, and Murray had been unable to change his game to break him again. It briefly got worse in the tiebreaker, when, as I said, Murray went back to the bad old days by drop-shotting four times and letting out an audible f-bomb. Down 4-6, double set point, Murray tried the final of his four drops and was fortunate when Simon flicked a forehand a few inches wide.

Then the New Andy reappeared, right on time and at his most impressive. At 5-6, he hit a forcing but not risky forehand approach and won the point at the net. At 6-6 he belted an extremely confident backhand down the line winner; this was a shot he hadn’t needed to hit all day, but it was there for him in the end. Finally, he finished Simon and his second Masters title off with a big first serve and a move to the net. Just when it appeared that Murray would succumb to the old weaknesses, that he’d only come so far as a player and that he had more room to improve, he showed that he’d come even farther. If he can let a match develop passively, and then take it to his opponent when the moment calls for it, I’d say he’s filled up most of that room for improvement already.

Murray didn’t agree afterward. His head determinedly level, he said he still had a lot of work to do and a lot of consistent results to show before he could put himself in the same league as Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic. He’s right on the consistent results part, but he’s being a little modest otherwise. Since the summer, Murray has shown he can hang with the Big Three on a regular basis. His wins against them are no longer flukes.

Watching him through the week and on the winner’s stand at the end, what struck me was how comfortable Murray seemed, on court and off. At the start of the year, he explained his decision to replace Brad Gilbert, who was hired by the LTA, with a group of coaches/trainers of his own choosing. It has taken awhile, but it’s clear now that that decision was both a sign of, and a step toward, his maturity as a player. He’s no longer the rebel who never got along with the LTA and screamed at his own coach. Like Nadal with Uncle Toni and Federer with Mirka and their co-entourage, Murray moved away from the celebrity coach concept in favor of having people he likes and trusts around him. Ten months later, he’s in charge of his strategy, his serve, his temper, his destiny. Murray has always had the skills and the underlying tennis DNA to win a Slam. Now he’s given himself the authority to use them.


Posted by Charles 10/20/2008 at 03:03 PM

Great article, love to see Murray improving, especially on the serve. I was also super-impressed with Simon, this week. Wonder if he'll make Shanghai?

Posted by ergo 10/20/2008 at 03:06 PM


Posted by ergo 10/20/2008 at 03:07 PM

I mean second!! hehe

Posted by Donal 10/20/2008 at 03:09 PM

Hi Steve, great post. Back when Hingis was dominating Heinz Gunthardt used to say of her "the more of her magic she is showing us, the less well she is playing."It seemed an odd comment to make but watching Murray win I understood what he meant. The Scot has learned to play meat and potatoes tennis when it counts and saves the magic for emergencies. Donal.

Posted by Vanessa 10/20/2008 at 03:10 PM

I have always liked the way Andy plays although I used to criticize his general attitude. I think it was that same mentality which hurt him the past. I can actually see him passing Djokovic and perhaps even threatenning the top two. I guess we will have to see how he manages at clay/grass tournaments to know for sure.

Posted by Kenneth 10/20/2008 at 03:38 PM

Murray has now developed a b-game which, together with his A-game, is good enough to best the rest of the tour. It only remains to be seen if he can mentally peruse those levels when the time calls for it. He wasn't able to for most of the USO, and it cost him the final. But the difference in playing times for the Madrid finalists speaks volumes for where his game lies. I thought Murray would be a little rusty, boy was I delightfully wrong. He couldn't have come out sharper, calmer, and more in control of his emotions and his swings.

As for Simon, at least we know mentally he is as strong as they come. A few more pecan seasons, and France might be looking at their first slam winner in 25 years. He'll definitely need to boost his athleticism though, in order to compete in long and draining 5 set matches.

Posted by SwissMaestro 10/20/2008 at 03:48 PM

Murray, if he just had a "natural" and not only an "opportunistic" (?) offensive approach to his game, then I'd be his fan. For the time being I'm still sticking with Tsonga and Gasquet from the young guns.

Posted by anyone but roger 10/20/2008 at 03:57 PM

It's good news for tennis that the ego queen Federer goes another week without a title.

Posted by Bibi 10/20/2008 at 03:59 PM

It is about time to break this press-pushed Federer-Nadal rivalry.
There is few more equally good players on the tour and Andy Murray is one of them. When it comes to AO it will be hard to predict. All
the players will be well rested and motivated...I still hope my favorite guy Novak Djokovic will keep his points.

Posted by Master Ace 10/20/2008 at 04:08 PM

I do not see Gilles winning a Slam but he may sneak out a Masters Shield. Seems like his game is somewhat similar to Nikolay. Even though Andy won Cincinnati and Madrid along with a USO finalist appearance, we need to be careful before appointing him winning the AO in January even though his chances are pretty good. At this time in 2007, a lot of posters(except Sam) were saying that David best chance of winning a Slam was at AO earlier this year and he will finally have a consistent season in Slams and Masters Shields.

Posted by Nigel 10/20/2008 at 04:10 PM

AO... Nole is defending winner's points; Murray's defending a first-round defeat. There could be a major swing in January.

Posted by moe276 10/20/2008 at 04:10 PM

has andy murray won enough money by now to fix his teeth.. i mean seriously i'd throw him a fund raiser.... not to be mean but an athlete is a public figure and should be considerate of his image..

Posted by Gerry 10/20/2008 at 04:17 PM

Your mention of Robbie Koenig's comments prompts me to recognize how well these Masters Series events are presented on TV. From the insightful commentary to the unique camera shots to the intros where they follow the players walking in from the locker room and watch them until they sit down at the changeovers.

Posted by Andrew Miller 10/20/2008 at 04:32 PM

Speechless. What a good posting (like the picture too). Excellent analysis.

I too wrote off Andy Murray's move to a "team of coaches". But doesnt Federer or Agassi or Sampras - had they not a team of coaches (Gil Reyes AND Cahill or Gilbert, Sampras, Annacone AND a fitness coach, etc).

If anything, it shows that Gilbert ALONE did not create the path to Agassi's titles. More like, Agassi's decisions AND consulting Gilbert AND working on fitness helped him bridge the gap between massive talent, and real results.

So much for the lone voice in a player's ear. Apparently, it's the space between the ears that always made the difference!

Posted by Sher 10/20/2008 at 04:45 PM

>Like Nadal with Uncle Toni and Federer with Mirka and their co-entourage, Murray moved away from the celebrity coach concept in favor of having people he likes and trusts around him.

I couldn't agree more with this sentence! This is something that I've been thinking ever since he switched away from Gilbert, and been taking punishment from the media for doing so. But it was a good move in retrospect and that he had the head to make a risky move like that and was proven right is one of those remarkable things worth noting.

Posted by 10/20/2008 at 05:16 PM

Hope Murray passes Djokovic early next year as # 3! Djoker is a choke artist and cry baby! Novak has great skills but lacks tennis fitness and is too sensitive. Murray is a student of tennis and works hard at his craft while Djoker is no longer improving his game even though he has the talent but no heart! He quits matches and gets down when things do not go his way! Oh by the way, I am a Novak fan!

Posted by LXV 10/20/2008 at 06:07 PM

Murray has finally arrived to live up to his potential. I remember Federer saying that he had expected Murray to be ahead of Djokovic and was surprised it had not happened yet. Well, Djokovic better watch out as his hold on #3 may soon vanish indeed. Murray lost in the 1st round at the AO last year and has no points to defend, while Djokovic will have to defend 1000 points from his title.

What goes around comes around, and it's about time the Djoker learns that lesson the hard way after all he said about himself and Federer last year, lol !

Posted by no djoke 10/20/2008 at 06:12 PM

wut the heck? y would u diss novak if ur a fan? im kinda upset about his recent results as well, but it's all a part of a person's career. u have ur highs and lows. and plus there's a lot that murray would need to do to catch up to djoko. djokovic is still clearly the better player.

Posted by Argiedude 10/20/2008 at 06:22 PM

I'll buy the whole "big 4" thing when Murray wins his first slam. Untill then it'll still be the "big 3".

Posted by 10/20/2008 at 06:27 PM

have you watch what has happened the last six months?
clearly andy murray is better
and he's proved it by beating him two times in their last two meetings

Posted by Sam 10/20/2008 at 06:28 PM

Steve: Nice piece. I've been really impressed by the improvement in Murray's game this year, and he has become one of my favorite players. During the summer hardcourt season (I think at Cincy), I noticed that his transition game had improved quite a bit, and he was volleying quite well. He has a great feel for the ball, and he seems much more comfortable with the one-handed slice than other players with two-handed backhands.

Master Ace: Thanks for the shout out regarding my comments last year.

Posted by Sam 10/20/2008 at 06:39 PM

Sher: Well said in your 4:45 post.

Posted by Eric 10/20/2008 at 06:39 PM

Steve, I think you re-posted your award-winning article on Andy Murray about 2 months ago and I recall posting in your comments section that, while watching Murray dispatch Nadal in the USO semis, I suddenly came upon this rgand realization that Murray was Miloslav Mecir incarnate. At the time I thought I was being so insightful, but the very next day, during the 2nd part of that delayed semi, Mary Carillo said the exact same thing and then instantly it was no longer novel to compare Andy to the Big Cat.

But just because it's no longer fresh thought doesn't mean that it isn't true. Murray's game really does appear to have the same template that Mecir's did, both mechanically and strategically.

So here's the thing: You mention that Murray's game inherently sets him up to be vulnerable to the player on a hot streak, presumably meaning that there isn't enough there by way of his meeting the heat to avoid being simply hit off the court.

This made me think about the 89 Aussie Open, where Mecir was on top form and stormed to the title match, only to get hit off the court by a recently-displaced-at-No-1 and very motivated Ivan Lendl in straights, 2, 2, and 2. I think the same thing happened to Murray in the USO final against Federer, under similar circumstances.

So I'd theorize that in a tennis vacuum in the Open era, you pit opposing players, on form, against each other, and usually the big-hitting gamer will destroy the varied, artistic guy most of the time.

I'm a big fan of Murray's game; it grows on the the observer and I imagine that it endears itself to most tennis purists. But I think Murray is helpless against the players that can come into a match immediately disregarding his penchant for drop shots, pace changing, basically all the cute variety stuff, and just hit right through all that fluff. In this sense, I always get the feeling that Andy's a perennial underdog, even when he's favored.

Posted by sexist male pig 10/20/2008 at 07:00 PM


Posted by Sam 10/20/2008 at 07:21 PM

Eric: I like the Mecir-Murray comparisons except for the power part. Murray has improved his power this year, and I feel that he is more powerful relative to the big hitters of this era than Mecir was relative to those during his era.

Posted by SufM 10/20/2008 at 07:28 PM

Steve, go back and look at your picks. And then know that you're a moron. Del Potro beating Federer? Hah.

Posted by Syd 10/20/2008 at 08:12 PM

Steve, thanks for a good, interesting, read.

Maybe it was Pete, or maybe it was you, who gave a nod to the tendency for the Big Two to have a let down after the slams are over. The extra bit of desire that has them win the big ones, while the medium ones, not so much. (I think it was Pete.)

Against Simon, Murray successfully played a drop shot in the second at 2-3 and again at 4-4, and as you said in the tiebreaker. I think he succeeded in all but one, so he's not shy about using it. Against Federer, really, it could have gone either way but Roger was not serving at his elite best and Murray was serving well—the one shot of his that has improved tremendously this year imho.

I think of all things his temperament is going to be his biggest stumbling bloc—though he seemed to improve after the F-you's in the 3rd of the Federer match. He should have been warned for foul language, but wasn't. I feel as if he won Madrid by default against a less than elite-game Roger and a totally spent Simon.

I'd love to see a rematch between the Murray & Simon when they're both equally fresh.

Posted by Quadruple Bagel 10/20/2008 at 08:34 PM


"So here's the thing: You mention that Murray's game inherently sets him up to be vulnerable to the player on a hot streak, presumably meaning that there isn't enough there by way of his meeting the heat to avoid being simply hit off the court. ... This made me think about the 89 Aussie Open, where Mecir was on top form and stormed to the title match, only to get hit off the court by a recently-displaced-at-No-1 and very motivated Ivan Lendl in straights, 2, 2, and 2. I think the same thing happened to Murray in the USO final against Federer, under similar circumstances. ... So I'd theorize that in a tennis vacuum in the Open era, you pit opposing players, on form, against each other, and usually the big-hitting gamer will destroy the varied, artistic guy most of the time. ... I'm a big fan of Murray's game; it grows on the the observer and I imagine that it endears itself to most tennis purists. But I think Murray is helpless against the players that can come into a match immediately disregarding his penchant for drop shots, pace changing, basically all the cute variety stuff, and just hit right through all that fluff. In this sense, I always get the feeling that Andy's a perennial underdog, even when he's favored."

Brilliant, sir!

The comparison between the finals is apt.

Posted by 10/20/2008 at 08:57 PM

where was andy roddick in all this?

Posted by Bibi 10/20/2008 at 10:03 PM

To all the ones who claim Murray will push into Novak's spot soon;
Do you really know or just hope that would happen?

Posted by Bibi 10/20/2008 at 10:09 PM

All respect to Murray.

Posted by the baller 10/20/2008 at 10:46 PM

You got to like that Murray is his own person. I like his firey attitute, even if it cost his at times it has helped him more. People who say that he is not aggressive enough, well that is not his game plan most of the time. When he decides to he can hit the ball very flat and hard. Like def. Nadal at the US Open. But he feels his varriation is a bigger weapon against most players. 90 % of tennis players, especially players like you and I can learn from this.

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!!) 10/20/2008 at 11:04 PM

Bibi - obviously, noone knows what will happen; but given Murray new found consistency, he's got quite a good shot to scarper up some major points to close the gap w/ Nole. He'll be in Shanghai, and he's hot; he could pick up quite a few points there alone. And he's defending essentially nothing in Oz, whilst Nole has the chmapions points.

If Murray was still in his - 'win a tourney, lose 1st round' stage, I'd say he's got some ways to go, but he's not. He's playing much more consistently, and with both power and control.

Nice to see him putting his game together, slowly, and in his own good time. He's so much more comfortable with both what he can do and what he NEEDS to do now; i don't think that's something that will easily desert him midmatch anymore.

Posted by ncot 10/20/2008 at 11:47 PM

i just didn't buy into that big three thing. djokovic isn't at nadal and federer's league yet. he hasn't won anything since...and he hasn't dominated (fed/nadal) since...

novak went into a hot streak, just like most feisty breakout star (with complete technical arsenal) do, and then when he got the initial big dog tag, he wilted under pressure of expectations. tag should be removed.

here's hoping murray proves to be different from djokovic.

Posted by rg.nadal ( 10/21/2008 at 12:31 AM

Fantastic article. Very enjoyable to read. Thank you, Mr. Tignor.

Posted by jewell 10/21/2008 at 01:57 AM

I'll agree with the Big Four when Murray wins a slam. :)

Posted by lennon1980 10/21/2008 at 05:57 AM

Enjoyed the article, and I agree that Andy Murray is on his way to challenge the big 3 on a regular basis. Disappointed for Roger, but I believe that 2009 will be a pivotal year for him. He really seems to enjoy his craft and I expect him to pull off some surprises in the months ahead. It will be an exciting period for the pro tennis players and fans alike. Along with viewing exceptionally played matches, I have to remark on Tennis Channel's brilliant decision to (once again) have Robbie Koenig, Jason Goodall and Chris Wilkinson in the broadcasting booth. These guys are restrained, insightful, witty and "spot on" terrific. No constant chatter or blathering while points are being played. ESPN, CBS...are you listening?

Posted by jon 10/21/2008 at 06:14 AM

it's the big two right now, as far as I'm concerned. murray could definitely make it the big three, it's obvious Madrid was a turning point in his development. he played brilliantly at times. was also very impressed with simon's playing in madrid. i agree with the guy above me- I love those guys they have on the Tennis Channel. they know when to shut up and just let you watch tennis, and when to offer some insight.

Posted by skip1515 10/21/2008 at 06:59 AM

Of course he's authoritative. Look at how those beautiful women flock to him!

What's that? It's a set-up, a promo shot? Oh........

Posted by mina 10/21/2008 at 07:18 AM

nice article!

i agree with Argiedude: the Big 3 becomes the Big 4 only when Andy wins his first Slam...and before that even happens, he's got to prove that he can hang on to no.4...

Posted by Master Ace 10/21/2008 at 07:39 AM

To all saying that Andy do not belong to the Big 4 until he wins a Slam,
Did some posters put Novak as part of the Big 3 before he won the Australian Open? We had a post called The Trivalry. At that time, Novak won Key Biscayne (d. Canas) and Cincinnati (d. Federer) along with a finalist appearance at the United States Open.

Posted by Rosangel 10/21/2008 at 08:10 AM

Right now at a Slam I want Murray in Federer's half, not Nadal's half:) Unless it's Roland Garros, in which case it's less relevant. I think on a one-to-one basis he's the bigger threat to either of the top two right now, compared to Djokovic. That could change again. I'm not particularly counting the US Open final, because Federer is Federer after all, and Murray got the worst of the scheduling in the runup to it, was deprived of a potentially important break by a bad call that he didn't challenge - and most importantly, was in his first Grand Slam final, and admitted that he did not play all that well, but vowed to learn from the defeat.

I agree with pretty much everything that Steve is saying here. I think Murray and Nadal are the two most improved players of those "big four". By the time of the Cincy final, Murray was looking physically fitter than Djokovic. The evidence is that he's worked extremely hard on this front, going right back to his days with Brad Gilbert, and afterwards.

I was never one of those who wrote off his new approach to coaching, after parting with Brad Gilbert. I mean, my view was pretty much that if the Murray-Gilbert relationship had run its course and they weren't getting on, it was better for Andy to move on and find a new path. It took a while (the AO wasn't a high point), but he's been winning titles this year. I also thought that he made some strides on clay - working with Corretja seems to have been a sensible decision for him, and he did play one near-perfect match at Roland Garros against Acasuso before going down to Almagro.

Paris and Shanghai could be very, very interesting.

Posted by Roger for President 10/21/2008 at 08:28 AM

I agree with most of the article. Andy Murray has improved a lot since his defeat in Wimbledon against Rafa. His match against Roger was very clever. His double-handed backhand is quite precise and his serve is becoming a very strong weapon (compared with Rafa or Gilles), although I don´t think he´s at Roger´s level yet.

All this is true. But there´s still a couple of facts I´d like to add...

1.- His win in the USO against Nadal was on a big part due to Nadal´s lack of physicall/mental reserves after the Olimpycs. Nadal´s weakness was evident (see his almost always short forehands in that match). When Andy went to the final he was run over by a looking-for-revenge Federer.

2.- You can say Andy is a very big threat for the Big Three, but until he wins a Major (his best chances, to me, are the AO and the USO) I would not talk of a Big Four... In fact, and after 2008 I would better talk of the Big Two (where has the Djoker been since February???).

Posted by Rick 10/21/2008 at 09:04 AM

For me there are now a "FIRST BIG TWO" and a "SECOND BIG TWO" not a big four. For now it is like that. I hope the second big two will prove that they are worthy to be grouped with the first big two next year. Or may be somebody else might come up. I can still see a toss between Rafa and Roger in 2009.

Posted by Comcast CEO 10/21/2008 at 09:55 AM

I like drop shots.

Posted by deni 10/21/2008 at 10:47 AM

I like Murray's game alot but his one weakness is using too often the slice backhand, because it will put him on the defensive when guys like Nadal or Davydenko who can hit thru those low balls with no problem.

Posted by dynamo 10/21/2008 at 11:15 AM

i love murrays two handed backhand! i think along with safin he has the best two hander in the game!

Posted by Dynamo 10/21/2008 at 11:31 AM

Murray has really suprised me in the last 4 months. back to back masters series titles along with a final appearance in the us open and diminshing the top three players in the last 3 months. that is a feat not a lot of players say they have done. He looks the most fittest player on tour. at the us open when he came back from two sets down to win in 5 after playing a four setter and a doubles match two days before clearly underlines his fitness. especially in comparison to 2005/06 when he did nothing but complain about pains and bundles of injury timeouts. if he keeps up this level or improves then he will rattle the like of nadal and djokovic on hard courts. but still some way behind federer on hard and grass, nadal on clay grass. I like to see him in the same side of the draw as nadal on hard!

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 10/21/2008 at 01:55 PM

Nicely done, Steve. I have always loved the way Murray approaches the game, and we're now beginning to see what his nick-and-cut style can do to his opponents. As you said, he does just enough, not putting himself in great risk, while keeping the pressure on his opponents with a great variety of spins, pace, depth and placement combinations. It's tennis the way it was meant to be played, a la Martina Hingis, but with the advantage of power when needed.

I do like Simon's game, and Gulbis', too, who I think moves beautifully -- superb balance.

Posted by Valevapor 10/21/2008 at 01:57 PM

Murray brings a refreshing degree of strategic cognizance and variety to the game - great post. His tennis mind is possibly the keenest on tour and his physicality has improved greatly. Even Roger and Rafa win most matches based on sheer lopsided talent and confidence, rarely having to deeply think their way through matches. That said, I don't think Murray's quite ready to threaten the Big Two week-in, week-out. Agreed that Djokovic has played himself out of the Big Three for the moment and I hope Murray passes him soon. Looking forward to Shanghai!

Posted by Bibi 10/21/2008 at 02:36 PM

While I wish and hope Nole pulls himself together I think that Murray will keep on doing well and will become not just Nole's worry but the top two's as well. However, there is going to be a nice break after China and next year will bring lots of unpredictable results.

Posted by Hiram 10/21/2008 at 02:55 PM

The first big difference between Mecir and Murray is the serve, I would say. Murray has a formidable weapon. I don't remember Mecir having the same. Mecir was a deceptively calm Marcelo Rios, he is more like Gilles Simon than Murray. Mecir was a stalker, that's why they called him "The Cat" I suppose, though he kind of looked like a cat too didn't he? He probably acted like a cat too. Murray a cat? He looks like a baboon when he pumps himself up after winning a point. Baboons are organized and smart. Baboons defecate in their hands and throw it at each other in protest. So much for Wild Kingdom comparisons in tennis.

Murray isn't Mecir. Mecir never appeared hungry, let alone ravenous. Murray wants to prove something, he wants to mark his territory, he wants to beat you every which way. He'll box, play chess, swordfight, fistfight, fish. He won't call a trainer to break your rhythm will he? He out-gladiated Gasquet at Wimbledon. Gasquet acts like he owes a debt of some kind. Murray is more of an Artful Dodger.

Posted by Arcilla Tacones/ Andrea 10/21/2008 at 04:00 PM

I wouldn't anoint him a part of the Holy Trinity yet. I think Andy's got to win a slam first. I felt that way about Djoker end of last year, but he went out and won the AO.

Not to be mean, Murray just isn't someone I like. IMO he's so...bland. Don't know how else to describe it.

Posted by jaeger 10/21/2008 at 05:28 PM

So glad to see Andy doing so well. Amazing what a change of attitude can do!

Posted by 10/21/2008 at 07:13 PM

I am upset at Djoker...I expected more from him and he could not back his talk this year! He has gone cold...lose twice to Federer this year...lost to Murray twice and beat Nadal once this year but not when he could have taken the #2 spot! He blew it big time at the US Open with his attitude! I got embarassed by him cause I believed he was different and was ready to move forward! I still like him but he really blew it towards the end of 2008!

Posted by 10/21/2008 at 07:21 PM

Murray stepped forward this year...Nadal leaped ahead and beat Federer at Wimbledon and deserves # 1. Novak better watch his back cause he has struggled big time! Watch out for new faces in 2009!
Federer to win Wimbledon for the last time! Roger will not win the French ever...and maybe one Austrialian or US Open if draw goes his way! Federer's time is running out! He will never ever dominate again! Nice guy but it's realtity! Djoker is like Roddick.....a one time Grand Slam winner who never will reach his potential! They lack mojo!

Posted by Tatiana 10/21/2008 at 07:29 PM

I agree with comments about Novak....what a shame...he had tennis at his hand and his attitude really messed it up at the US Open...I rooted for him at the Open while he destroyed Roddick and then his outburst was so unappropriate and unexpected! I lost respect/support for him that day! What a role model for his brother and country! He should have known better! Shame on you Novak! Lots of luck and best will never be the same. You blew your chance to continue to impress and you true side came out! What a pity and dissappointment!

Posted by Spain Ball Girls 10/21/2008 at 07:32 PM

Murray's ok...I loved his comments after winning Madrid Masters about the ball girls...they were all model hot! I watched those matches just to look at those beautiful ball girls. Great tournament tactics for the director of the Madrid Masters!

Posted by Arcilla Tacones/ Andrea 10/21/2008 at 07:49 PM

Spain Ball Girls: What exactly did Murray say?

Posted by Drin 10/21/2008 at 10:16 PM

I agree that Roger cannot dominate again, he is getting old and nobody ever dominated on his age and nobody ever dominated as long as he did. He started dominating on Rafa's Novak's and Andy age, we'll see if any of them will dominate as long as Roger.
But Roger will still win couple grand slams and i wish him that.

Somebody there said that "Djoker is like Rodick" i agree with that, he'll be one time grand slam winner like Safin (at least Safin was #1 for a while, Djoker doesn't have any chances to become #1 because of Nadal and Murray

Posted by Rosangel 10/21/2008 at 11:55 PM

Drin: Safin won two Grand Slams.

Posted by Zach 10/22/2008 at 12:03 AM

Roddick makes it a big 4!

Posted by Iain 10/22/2008 at 12:48 PM

You're right, but the Mecir comparison has been around for about two years. But it must be evident if people are noticing that so much. I think Peter and Steve both used it here when Murray first broke onto the scene. In fact Peter's first article about Murray was pretty good. It was after Murray reached the final of Bangkok against Fed in 2005 I think. Steve has always been very supportive of Murray's style of play, tennis for tennis puritans

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