Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Muzz Buzz
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Muzz Buzz 10/17/2010 - 2:48 PM

Am There was a moment in the middle of the first set that made me think Andy Murray might be in good shape. He was up a break at 4-3, but down break point at 30-40. He had just double-faulted. The match seemed poised to turn, maybe decisively, in his opponent Roger Federer’s direction. Federer had started poorly, nearly shanking his way to a love-3 start, but Murray had allowed him to hang around and stay within one break of serve. Now it appeared that Federer, as he has done so many times in the past, would be able to ride out a bad patch of play unscathed. Once he does that, we know what’s next: full-flight Federer time, and nobody wants to be on the other side of the net when that starts.

Certainly not Murray, who, while earning an early lead, wasn't yet fully confident in what he was doing. He’d been playing even more passively than usual, and he'd been lucky to escape with a hold at 3-1 when Federer dumped an easy drop shot into the net at break point. Now Murray faced another break point at 4-3. This time he took a little extra time setting up. He reached back a little farther than normal with his backswing. He went right for his favorite spot, out wide in the ad court, and painted the sideline for an ace. Murray turned around and muttered a few possibly profane words to himself. We’re used to seeing him do this when he’s angry or frustrated, and we’re used to seeing him do it in the direction of his player box. But this time he was muttering to himself, and he was doing it with an edge of determination rather than anger. For the ever-dour Scot, this is called pumping yourself up. Murray held. Then he broke for the set with two running forehand passes. Announcer Robbie Koenig called the first one “miraculous.” The second one was even better. He’d reached full confidence.

But just as in the first set, Murray won the second with the kind of big-point grit and resolve that we didn’t see from him at the U.S. Open last month. He went down 15-40 in each of his first two service games. In the first, he hit a big forehand to save one break point, and in the second he came up with a backhand winner up the line to save another. In both games, he again reached back and hit aces when he needed them. Saving those break points loosened Murray up even as squandering them left Federer increasingly testy. Rightfully so: Down a break point at 1-2, Federer thought he’d won a point with an easy overhead, only to hear that the base linesman had incorrectly called his previous shot out. The point was replayed, Federer sailed a forehand wide, and a couple of minutes later Murray was up 4-1 and the match was all but over. Bad break. What made it worse was that Federer had already given that linesman a glare for missing an out call a few games earlier. Now there was nothing Federer could do but glare harder.

Afterward he said, “missing so many important shots, over and over, took a lot of my confidence away.” Federer was missing them right from the beginning. His first shanked forehand came at 40-30 in the opening game. The second one came on the next point. By the time he was down 0-2, Federer was shadow-stroking his forehand to try to smooth it out, even as the shanks started to spread to his backhand side, and even to his overhead—he sent a sitter off the throat of his racquet and over the baseline at 2-4. While Federer steadied himself eventually, he did, like he said, commit some surprising errors on important points. The most surprising and important of them was a hanging forehand that he sent 5-feet long for no apparent reason. Federer put his hands on his hips and stared in disbelief. It was that kind of day. He ended it with twice as many errors as winners. He was zero for six on break points. For anyone who thought he should have gotten in more, that wasn’t going to work, either—Federer won just 13 of the 24 points when he made his way forward. Most stunning of all, he had a 27-percent success rate on second-serve points.

Shanghai was a mixed signal from Federer. He reasserted his authority of Novak Djokovic in the semis; it’s clear to me that Djokovic must play above his norm, the way he did at the Open, to beat Federer. Otherwise, he winds up playing the lion’s share of the rallies on his heels. Federer also reclaimed the No. 2 ranking and began his fall campaign with a lot of good tennis. And while no big changes have been made to his game, he has presumably begun to settle in with Paul Annacone. At the same time, Federer lost his second straight Masters final of 2010 to Murray, and, while this one was closer than the score indicated, it wasn’t exactly close. As we’ve known for a while, the long victory streaks are over, and the occasional days of unexplained shanks are here to stay. None of this is new for Federer; all Murray has done is to make their match at a major that much more intriguing and pressure-filled. A showdown between them in London next month is a potential highlight of that event, and like their match there in 2009, which Federer won, it could set the stage for another encounter at the Australian Open.

Murray won’t worry about the future today. Once he relaxed in the middle of the first set, he played a masterful match in all ways, and he did it without “getting more aggressive,” which is what everyone, myself included, has been telling him to do for weeks, months, years. It’s not going to happen anytime soon. Murray’s going to live and die with his counter-puncher’s game. It’s the way he plays, the mindset he has, the speed and strokes he uses. Today it all worked. More than that, though, if we stop to watch Murray’s game closely and stop worrying about what he’s not doing, it only gets more interesting.

Murray is, as I said, a counter-puncher, an anti-authority type. He uses his opponent’s game rather than dictating play. His return, rather than his serve, has always been his signature shot. But unlike a counter-puncher such as Jimmy Connors, who took the pace of his opponents and flung it back in their faces with a grunt, Murray works in subtler ways. Federer said after the match that, “the target seemed to get smaller and smaller and that’s a credit to him.” What makes Murray unique is that while he plays from a defensive position and uses his speed as a weapon, he’s not a grinder. He doesn’t hit the ball with heavy topspin and put it in the same place every time. He changes speeds with his shots almost unthinkingly. He can rally with moderate pace from the middle of the court, but if he’s forced to run to his right, he’ll suddenly smack the ball back with considerably more oomph. Just when you think you have him is exactly when you don’t have him, and that’s a tough thing for an opponent to work around. Likewise, on the backhand side, Murray will be satisfied to chip the ball or loop it back a dozen straight times, but he also possesses a flatter version of the shot, almost a two-handed forehand, and he caught Federer off guard with it a number of times today.

Murray’s 2010 has seemed like 10 years in one, and it’s not even over. He was up in Melbourne, then way down until Wimbledon. He reached another peak in Toronto, then tumbled again at the Open. But he's never been higher than he was today at the end of the first set. With Murray off the court, Federer hit what he had to think was a winning volley. With his long strides, Murray raced from off camera toward the ball, but you never actually thought he was going to reach it until you saw it come off his strings and slide crosscourt, past Federer, and dive inside the sideline. Koenig went berserk, yelling something unintelligible. I had one of those automatic, I-can’t-help-myself spectator moments, blurting out “Oh my God!” and snapping my head up at the ceiling. Whatever disappointments have come in the past, whatever may come in the future, whatever flaws he may have in his game, all of it could be forgotten today. Whether he was reaching back for a serve, muttering a curse of determination, or hitting a miraculous pass, it was a good day to watch Andy Murray play tennis.


 
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Comments
 
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Posted by Philcallsit 10/17/2010 at 03:20 PM

FIRST!!!!!

Posted by Philcallsit 10/17/2010 at 03:20 PM

I did that one jsut for you steve ;)

Posted by Steve 10/17/2010 at 03:24 PM

thanks

Posted by Philcallsit 10/17/2010 at 03:28 PM

Ok now I feel bad LOL.

Honestly Steve, i'm just teasing. Your a great writer but you can't take what we say so seriously. Seriously, great article, glad to have you back.

Posted by Philcallsit 10/17/2010 at 03:28 PM

Ok now I feel bad LOL.

Honestly Steve, i'm just teasing. Your a great writer but you can't take what we say so seriously. Seriously, great article, glad to have you back.

Posted by maedel (vamos Rafa!) 10/17/2010 at 03:31 PM

Steve, nice post giving Muzzah his due. I'm sorry I didn't make the effort to wake up early enough to watch the match, but your descriptions are detailed enough to make me want to order it from Matt H.

Btw, I don't know why people criticize Muzz for not smiling more. It would be so phony, to borrow one of Holden Caulfield's fave words.

Posted by Steve 10/17/2010 at 03:34 PM

it's ok phil. should have put *makes pretend angry face* or something next to thanks.

maedel: true murray just isn't a smiler, but i was surprised by how muted his reaction was today. more muted than ever. reminded me of when tursunov won a tournament a couple years ago.

Posted by maedel (vamos Rafa!) 10/17/2010 at 03:47 PM

Steve: Hmm, interesting. Now I _really_ have to order a DVD of the match!

Posted by ladyjulia 10/17/2010 at 03:49 PM

When Murray had won Toronto, the Toronto Sun wrote that Muzz looked like he had been told that his dog had just been run over and had died.

Muzz did say in the presser that he was "incredibly happy"..its just that he looked the opposite.

But why is it a big deal about Murray similing? We know the guy has emotions. He cried at AO, he laughs occasionally. It's nice to have him in the mix.

It would be boring if everybody did fistpumps,jumps and flicked hair like Rafa and Fed do.

Djokovic's US open SF win was good..its not everyday that a player looks stunned. We need some variety, and Muzz provides that.

Good for the Muzz..Fed had predicted last year that Muzz's first slam will come at Wimby (as opposed to AO, USO like the media says).

Things have just gotten very interesting for the WTF.

Posted by crazycaro21 10/17/2010 at 03:52 PM

Hi Steve,

I read what you write but don't take time to write much (I think it's my second time here). But great post that gives Muzz his due, which is something he fully deserves today. He played unbelievebly and forced Federer to overplay a lot, which led to terrible mistakes from Fed (in my view of things).

True, he was quieter than usual today, as he nearly always is when facing Federer or Nadal. Not that he doesn't respect his other opponents, I'm sure he does, but that kind of Muzz-calm is really how he seems to show that he respects those two guys even more than any other player on tour.

I just hope that Murray can finally bring this A++ game he had today in a Slam final so that he can finally win one.

Posted by ladyjulia 10/17/2010 at 03:55 PM

I also think its interesting that while before, Murray had multiple coaches and Fed had none, now Fed has multiple coaches and Murray has none.

I don't think its affected the pattern of their matches though. In almost all their matches,the wheels fall off for one or the other player. If its not Fed, the wheels fall off for Muzz.

Posted by crazycaro21 10/17/2010 at 03:56 PM

About Muzz not smiling, he explained it during the trophy ceremony interview, when actually asked: he's shy in front of the cameras. OK, that much was obvious. But he really should do it more often when he wins, on-court.

Today, he seemed to me like he was kind of not celebrating because he won almost too easily against Federer and looked a bit uncomfortable about it. Maybe it's just the impression he gave me.

Although on the photos, he really does remind me of Friends' Chandler in the engagement pictures episode. LOL

Posted by Steve 10/17/2010 at 04:05 PM

cc21: i had the same impression at the end of the match. it may have been like nadal's muted celebration after the 2008 french final. murray didn't think it was appropriate to overdue it.

but even after that, when he made eye contact with his box, nothing, just business as usual. you'd like to see the guy reward himself a little, savor the moment. but everyone does it differently

Posted by tennis mama 10/17/2010 at 04:08 PM

Steve: Don't pay attention to all the grumpy posters who responded so negatively to your earlier post. I have always enjoyed your writing and you were absolutely right to comment on some of these idiots who post here.

What's up with "First!!"?? Please grow up, people!!

Posted by fernando 10/17/2010 at 04:11 PM

Andy played amazing today when Roger had break points. Andy is capable of beating anyone when he plays at this level. For some reason,he has not been consistent enough to do it at a GS yet. I thought Roger actually played very well today, it's just that today Murray was too good. Unforced errors stat can be misleading. Sometimes they are a result of a player trying to do too much because the other player is hitting so well. Like Fed said, Murray made the target very small.

Posted by wilson75 10/17/2010 at 04:13 PM

Steve: Bottom line, Murray played better than Federer. Still not sure if this will translate to slams success for Murray but it makes him one of the favourites for WTF. This match makes me excited for the next time they meet. I have a feeling Federer will win their next showdown.

Posted by crazycaro21 10/17/2010 at 04:18 PM

Steve: Murray used to show much more when he won, not so long ago, but I think it might depend on who he faces and on which circumstances.

But I watched Murray (and mind you, he's been my favourite player ever since I first saw him play, at his first Wimbledon) and his reactions on-court in this tournament and I didn't see the same pleasure in the game that I saw in, say, Pico Monaco, who just looked, especially against Melzer, as he was totally enjoying himself and showed it without much restraint. Maybe Muzz just keeps it inside now. He used to be quite a basketcase on court in the past.

Posted by wilson75 10/17/2010 at 04:22 PM

cc21: I don't think Murray's so sentimental, he's just not a smiley person. Maybe he's like Victoria Beckham who doesn't smile because she doesn't like how she looks.

Steve: Good piece as usual.

Posted by x-fan 10/17/2010 at 04:26 PM

Well I don't know Murray or have really noticed much in terms of how he reacts to wins/losses but I was surprised to hear a couple of British friends who are serious Murray KADS say the other day that more and more it's looking like Andy is not enjoying the game.
I hope this win lifts his spirits (if indeed he's not having fun out there)
He is a talented player with much to add to today's game.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 10/17/2010 at 04:26 PM

Nice article, Steve. Yes and he did play well, didn't he ? Just be yourself, Andy, and smile when you feel like it. Good job and well done today.

Posted by crazycaro21 10/17/2010 at 04:26 PM

wilson: I don't know about that. I've seen my share of Murray matches, interviews, etc. over the years and he can smile and has a pretty nice smile too when he does. I think he really is the kind of guy who keeps it all inside. At the AO, when he started crying, I think it took everyone by surprise because he finally showed that he's really human and does have feelings.

LOL about Victoria Beckham.

Posted by cami 10/17/2010 at 04:28 PM

Great article, Steve, I liked your analysis of Murray's game. I saw the match but I must say, it looked much better described by you.

I almost like Murray's game when you describe it :)

Anyway, Fed played awful. Can't wait for London.

Posted by wilson75 10/17/2010 at 04:33 PM

cc21: I'm not a Murray fan but I did feel for him at AO when he was crying. He's under enormous pressure to win a slam. Maybe, MS wins do not really mean as much to him as before, hence the reaction. He was probably saying to himself "yeah I won Shanghai but I lost AO". He just needs to relax about the slam thing it will happen when it's supposed to. I don't believe it will be next year, Rafa and Roger are going to dominate the slams again.

Posted by Ruth 10/17/2010 at 04:35 PM

Fix those teeth, Andy, then smile, smile, smile! LOL

I think that, although Murray must be thrilled withese top guy wins, he must be asking himself why, why, why he can't dothesame thing in the Slams. It must be rather frustrating.

Posted by wilson75 10/17/2010 at 04:42 PM

BTW, is their a line in Murray's Adidas contract that states that he has the same outfit for every match? I'd love to see him wear something other than blue and white.

Posted by crazycaro21 10/17/2010 at 04:44 PM

wilson: It's possible that it can be what he thinks. And he definitely needs to relax come the Slams, totally agree with you. But that must be awful for him to have such pressure on his shoulders.

Next year, I don't know. I hope Murray will win one, and that my other fav (that's Delpo) will be in good shape and win his share of big tournaments as well. But that's for sure that Fed and Rafa will be the biggest contenders, as usual.

Posted by elle 10/17/2010 at 04:46 PM

that's more like it :)

great article Steve - very visual in your analysis, and it was like replaying the match...bravo!

Posted by Ryan 10/17/2010 at 04:48 PM

I think Andy remains reserved after big victories because he expects to win, and he hasn't surprised himself if he has won easily. He has to represent his status as a top-tier player. We'll see the emotion if/when he wins a Slam.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 10/17/2010 at 04:52 PM

I do believe that Andy is shy. Enough comments have been made about his teeth though and, perhaps, that is why he doesn't smile much.

I do think that he will win a slam some time in the nest year or two and I will be very happy for him when he does.

Posted by Voltaire 10/17/2010 at 04:52 PM

Steve:

Glad to see your 'oldself' back. This is what we expect from you....though we kinda knew everything you wrote it's still delightful how you intervweave play with personality and with FEELING. Muzz is really an ultimate counterpuncher and he needs someone like Fed or Rafa on other side to display all his desperate/wicked/beautiful skills. His backhand is definitely a weapon and acute angles he can create is major advantage.....but, but, as we discussed million times here he needs a harder/flatter forehand and consistent serving. Despite the improved velocity his serve is still very jerky and can get him into double-faulting mode. I cannot understand for the life of me why he cannot smack the short balls in middle court to corners.....is it really that difficult for an elite player? He's also on imminent GS winner list for the past 2 years without getting anywhere closer. Life Rafa may be Murray can use his superb movement, returns and decent volleying to sneak a win in Wimby sometime. On hardcourts he's prone to be outhit by any of the top 20 players and lesser said about Red Clay is better(Berdych really smacked him all over the place). But congratulations are due for a fantastic win.

Posted by Ivo 10/17/2010 at 05:13 PM

A agree with Fernando. Despite the unforced error count on Federer's side, this was not a bad day for him. In many ways I think that Federer played better yesterday in Shanghai than he did at the U.S. Open in the semis against Djokovic. The level of play was simply extremely high and Murray deserves all the credit - he was returning and counter-punching in a way that only another player knows how to against Federer: Rafael Nadal. This match, in my mind, was really decided by a few points - I know you can always say that about any match, but I really felt yesterday that these three were the most cucial:
1. 1:2 - Federer chooses a drop-shot instead of a killer forehand. he looked bad the first two games, but the next two - until this point. I felt the momentum was shifting towards Federer but he killed himself with it. I wonder, did he chose this shot because of vanity? I mean it, I always thought that he did the same in AO2010 in the final in the 3rd set - in a way to not just win a point, but win it pretty. This is something Nadal never does. And this is a reason why I like Federer's game better and why it frustrates me more at times.

2. Second set: Federer has 2 break point opportunities and a forehand sitter in the midcourt - why did he shank that? confidence was slipping awy.

3. The call by the linesman and Federer having to replay a breakpoint that he just managed to win. From that on, he was out of the game...and Murray could not be bothered at all .

Overall, a fantastic day of tennis and an amazing performance by Murray. He didn't beat Federer on a bad day (something which Steve seems to suggest), he beat Federer when he played well and would have won against most his other opponents. this was the first time that I appreciate Murray's tennis. I wonder whether it'll happen again.

Posted by thebigapple 10/17/2010 at 05:14 PM

I did not wake up to see the match. Congrats to Andy Murray. He has had a hard time over the lasy months..

Allez Fed! Next time or whenever.

Posted by AAA 10/17/2010 at 05:15 PM

Murray strikes me as someone who expects a great deal from himself, all the time. He's won top tournaments before, been a favorite at the start of majors, and then not come through, and it must be devastating for him -- he showed it at the Australian. The U.S. Open lost had to weigh on him, especially since his fitness, which had so advertised, was a factor in his losing against a lesser player. This history has to shape how he is reacting to a win like today's. He has said that he knows he has the talent to beat the top guys, so this must shape how he's reacting to a win like today's. We'll have to wait until he wins a major, which I think he has too much talent not to do eventually, especially with Federer in decline, Rafa prone to injury and let downs on hard courts, and Novak still Novak, to see him explode with the kind of cathartic joy that has now become standard. I'm on an Amtrak train (thank heaven for wifi), and it's great to read this while letting time pass. Good to have you back in full stride.

Posted by Honeychile 10/17/2010 at 05:33 PM

Another great analysis, Steve, and well worth the wait. Congrats to Andy! I may never be a fan of his of style but there's no doubt of this young man's talent. He will be a slam winner especially when his "slam nemesis", begins his decline. Federer played masterful tennis this past week, just came up a bit short against Andy. I think the pressure got to Federer from the start causing him to overplay make-able shots, though credit to Andy for applying the pressure, then the situation quickly got out of control for Roger. I don't think Federer will feel too bad about losing today, considering he made the finals beating some top players along the way after a long layoff. I expect to see Fed and Andy square off again this year and would expect Roger to be uber-competitive in revenge mode. All the more exciting for us tennis fans!

Posted by Master Ace 10/17/2010 at 05:42 PM

Murray is now second on the active player list on winning Masters Shields on HARDCOURTS with 6 to reclaim his title back "King of 3 sets on hardcourts". However, this road have been traveled for the last 2 and a half years as the media has been looking for Murray to capture his maiden Slam.

Steve,
So far, in the comments, I have noticed that Murray's game(described as counterpuncher by yourself in your thread) has not been slammed saying that he won't win a Slam like Wozniacki has been recently for the past few weeks. I guess it must be due to what Murray has done in Slams in the last 2 and a half years. Therefore, like Wozniacki and despite what Federer has said in his presser, the jury is still out on Murray. Also, Murray draw to the final was not that difficult while Federer played 2 Top 5 players in his draw.

Posted by Steve 10/17/2010 at 05:47 PM

MA, Murray vs. Woz: well, murray has reached two slam finals and he owns a lot of wins over federer and nadal. it does seem like it's only a matter of time. i think the main point with wozniacki is that she's no. 1 without a major. if she were to go out and beat serena three times in lesser tournaments, a la murray, then the expectations would change.

if murray never wins a major, he'll clearly be the best player never to do so.

Posted by Master Ace 10/17/2010 at 06:02 PM

Steve,
Understand your point where Murray has loads of wins against the Top 3 while Wozniacki, as the 20th number 1 in the WTA of all-time with a good chance of being the 10th Year End number 1, is winless against the Williams Sisters and Belgian ladies but as some media or posters will say, it is all about the majors.

Speaking of the best player never to win a Slam, who is the best ATP player in your opinion that could not one? Also, on the WTA? I say Dementieva on the WTA.

Posted by Ivo 10/17/2010 at 06:09 PM

correction on my previous post:
I arguing that the dropshot Federer attempted to play last night at 1:2 was a "vanity" shot. Well I mean don't mean to correct this but rather add that: Federer, seems to me, attempts such shots in two or three situations: 1. to win pretty, when he's super confident and sort of wants to break the other opponent psychologically in a way of "of all these tihngs I can do this I can do this too!" 2. or when he's confidence is not there and he seems to feel that he has no options but to play such a shot - sort of a panic shot (this was certainly the case with Nadal in 2009 AO final and he played a similar one with Del Potro in US final..lost both). Now to me the attempted drop shot yesterday at that crucial break had much more to do with the first proposition: he was feeling it right in the 3rd and 4th game of the 1st set, and wanted to frustrate Murray - i.e. get him out of his confort zone and we know that Murray does have great tendencies to get annoyed at himself. It seems to me that that's what Federer tried...it was not just about winning that single point...he wanted to stick it to Murray - and he failed.
I think that in the AO final 2010 in the tiebreaker against Murray, Federer also attempted a vanity shot (you could see how he laughed afterwards) and it could have cost him dearly - it eventually didn't but that was more luck than intention for in the third tiebreaker Murray played a tremendous tennis and the momentum could have shifted.

To sum it up: it seems to me that Federer plays 3 types of drop shots: 1. those that make sense given where his opponent stands on the court (not played in the most crucial situations); 2. vanity shots to win pretty just for the heck of it or 2b. vanity shots to win win pretty and destroy the opponent's confidence in a very crucial moment (definitely that was more the case yesterday); 3. drop shots played in a state of panic in crucical moments - I remember that he played some of these against Nadal and Del Potro in respective grand slam finals and in my mind they cost him those matches.

I have no doubt in my mind that of all those shots Federer hit yesterday he will hate that attempted drop-shot the most. I mean in this moment this guy exchanged one of the most lethal forehands in the game of tennis for a tough drop shot against a very very good mover such as Murray.
To me it was about Federer showing off to Murray that he's not afraid to do such a thing, to crack him mentally. And that gamble didn't play off. On the contrary, Murray dropshoted Federer in the latter part of the 2nd set (i think it was at 4:1) almost to show at that point: and look what I can do to you! The commentator said: Murray is now toying with Federer. and you could see that Federer didn't like it..
I can't help it but think that deep down these two guys really don't like each other - just for the reason of this "cat and mouse game" they sometimes impose on other players and that they wish they could do to each other as well. Murray was the more successful at it yesterday as much as it pains me to say that.

Posted by Davo 10/17/2010 at 06:10 PM

I think there was a slight change in Roger's game this week. He went for the down the line backhand much more often then he normally does. This might be Annacone's influence.

Dissapointing loss, it was a pity Roger couldn't convert the breakpoints he had. Murray played great, but if Roger is on his game he will beat a counter-punching Murray. I hope to see a rematch in London, just like last year.

Posted by imjimmy 10/17/2010 at 06:15 PM

Steve: Great post. Although, I must say that I would have liked it even more, were it focused on what Murray did right than what Federer did wrong.

Of course with Federer and Nadal, match analysis can be slightly skewed because of the belief that if they play well they will always win. Anyway, I don't believe this tournament was a mixed performance by Federer. In obliterating Soderling, and outplaying a Djokovic (who played UsOpen like in the 1st set), Federer showed that he was not far from his best. Murray just outplayed him yesterday. Murray forced Federer to doubt his own shot selection and go for too much. Thus, leading to even more indecision and UFEs. Sort of similar to what Nadal does.

Murray had won EIGHT times against Federer. Outside of Nadal, he is clearly the player who knows BEST how to beat Federer. In my view, he's always had a mental block in the final. Not so much against Federer. but in ultimately winning a slam. How else can one explain the performance in AO 2010, where Murray only played freely, in the third set, when he had nothing to lose. Of course, Federer played excellent but when one player plays bad the other obviously look good.

All in all, this was Murray's MOST dominating victory over Federer. Towards the later stages of the match, he seemed to be toying with Federer, just as he does with Nadal on a hardcourt sometimes.

While he's won MS titles before, the muted reaction indicates to me that Murray knows the job is not yet done. His understated demeanor at the end belies the confidence he must have gained from such a comprehensive victory. When he is next in a slam final, he will be much better of because of it...

Posted by Steve 10/17/2010 at 06:25 PM

imjimmy, i think there's quite a bit about what murray did right in there. the first two graphs, the stuff about his particular counter-punching style and how it affects fedferer, and the last part. i really thought this match was a pretty equal mix of good murray and bad federer.

for now, the world tour final has become more interesting. next slam is a ways away.

Posted by wilson75 10/17/2010 at 06:29 PM

Steve: What do think of theory that Murray's reaction to winning was tempered because hasn't been able replicate his good performances in a slam final? I think winning a Masters title may have lost some lustre for him.

Posted by betelgeuse 10/17/2010 at 06:31 PM

Ivo, 100 percent true. If not for that drop shot at 1:2, I think Fed would have won it.

The whole match just didn't make sense for me. I wasn't like Fed was shaky (like he usually was this year) and I could feel his confidence and healthy aggression. But just at the moments when he was a point away from breaking back, something really strange happened to him and he somehow managed to lose the point. I mean, usually it is almost palpable that Fed is going to make a mistake, but those plays were good, Fed was hitting deep and with enough pace, and it came as total surprise even for himself that he couldn't win those points. He wasn't even in his signature negative mood in that 1st set. He was just kind of confused.

Posted by cmac 10/17/2010 at 06:33 PM

Can you imagine the pressure Andy is under with the whole of the UK counting on him to win a slam? Not to mention the fact that the media there is brutal.

Posted by noleisthebest 10/17/2010 at 06:34 PM

It's nice not having to be objective and just enjoy the ebbs and flows of tennis tides.....I hope tennis journalists canat least do it in private....

Posted by Steve 10/17/2010 at 06:35 PM

wilson: i guess that's possible. but i think it had to do with the score of this match more than anything. if he beats federer in a third-set tiebreaker, i can't see him just putting his head down and walking up to shake hands. it would have seemed like overkill for him to drop to the court or something when the score was 3 and 2.

ivo, i don't think fed hits the drop shot to make it pretty or to crack anyone mentally. it wasn't a bad time for the shot; he was way in and murray was way back. he just hit it too casually.

Posted by wilson75 10/17/2010 at 06:35 PM

cmac: The pressure is going to on him to win WTF. I'm sure he'd prefer that it wasn't taking place in London.

Posted by wilson75 10/17/2010 at 06:40 PM

Steve: I don't think the score has anything with it. I believe he's like been there done that when it comes to Masters events and beating Federer. Considering how hard he took losing AO this year, I just think his victory today was a reminder that he couldn't beat him when it really mattered most. I feel that he still hasn't gotten over that loss.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 10/17/2010 at 06:44 PM

I think that has been the problem for Andy - too much pressure in UK for him and from a young age too.

Posted by Ivo 10/17/2010 at 06:48 PM

Steve: I would never deny that drop shots are a rational choice in anyone's game, including Federer's. That said on the professional level it seems to me that playing a drop shot in a crucial moment of a tennis match is always a second-best option - all those pros are too fast and you need to execute too well to get the double-bounce. If you drive it hard you play a high percentage shot (both high percentage in terms of execution and the likelihood that you'll win the point), if you go for a drop shot you are reducing both; the likelihood to win a point and to likelihood that you'll hit it right. that's why I argued that when he played that shot he "subconsciously" was attempting to do more than just win a point - that it was a matter of greater strategy (keep the guy guessing, crack him mentally) than of that single moment.

Posted by crazycaro21 10/17/2010 at 06:50 PM

Lynne: I totally agree with you. The problem now with Murray is that the UK media only have him as a tennis hope and it has been like that since about the beginning of his professional career, as, then, both Henman and Rusedski were too near retirement to be any serious prospect for a GS anymore. So they jumped on Murray, who, even then, showed he should have what it takes to go all the way (after all, he won the US Open Junior event just the fall before).

Posted by Steve 10/17/2010 at 06:55 PM

ivo, yes, keeping the guy guessing is always a part of the drop shot. more than just about anything else in tennis, the shot is all about execution. Make it and it was a brilliant change of pace; miss it, from the same place, in the same situation, and it was a pointless risk.

my college coach outlawed them entirely. just thought they were never worth that risk.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 10/17/2010 at 06:55 PM

crazycaro21: It makes me very sad for Andy and I don't think anything will ever change. You only have to open the Brit newspapers to see the pressure he is under. I'm not saying that is sole reason for him not winning a slam so far but it must contribute to a large part of it.

Posted by wilson75 10/17/2010 at 06:56 PM

cc21: I forgot to mention that too. He's the only hope for the British, at least on the mens side.

Posted by Ivo 10/17/2010 at 06:58 PM

btw. Didn't Federer himself despise the drop-shot just two or three years back? I guess whether it wasn't for the same reasons that i mention?
I remember he made a breakthrough with that drop shot in the year he won the French Open final. I argued back then that this new additon to his arsenal, that one thing, which helped him win FO. I still hold that drop shots are a great way to win matches....you keep your guy guessing, have one more shot available from all those things you can do, you crack the other opponent (still believe that pros like Murray take it very badly when they get drop-shoted), you tire your opponent out....so many things going for this shot. And yet I would not play it in a critical moment in a match unless it's a total sitter, an easy put-away. And that was not the case yesterday - Federer needed to execute it too well, that just reduced the likelihood he would be successful with it. I mean in that whole game how many successful drops did he actually execute? I don't remember any.

Posted by crazycaro21 10/17/2010 at 07:03 PM

Lynne: Makes me sad too. He said often in interviews that it doesn't affect him, but the guy's not a machine. He must be reminded of it very often and somehow, that kind of an expectation kinda weighs on one's shoulders. I'm sure that it contributes to it, too. It makes me think of the pressure on the goaltender in my hometown's hockey team... Immense and impossible to miss, even if the athlete doesn't read the news. And I've seen how harsh the British media is towards Andy.

I think that part of the problem is that there has not really been many great talents in Britain for a very long time and so, when one comes, they all tend to get their hopes up and so expect a lot, criticize a lot and forget the most important: encourage a lot. Sad, you said it.

Posted by Steve 10/17/2010 at 07:04 PM

the thing is, whether murray wins this tournament or loses in the semis, the pressure will be largely the same for him at the next slam. he is the only tennis contender in the country, and each of the major london papers has a reporter following him around the world no matter what he does. When the aussie open comes, he'll be all over the news no matter how he's been doing.

federer did say he hated the drop shot once, but he's always used it to a certain extent. more in the last two years, especially with the forehand.

Posted by crazycaro21 10/17/2010 at 07:06 PM

Ivo: I think that the fact that Federer probably knew in some corner of his mind that Murray would get to the ball anyway didn't help. Because during the semi-final match against Djokovic, he did amazing drop shots and didn't miss many (Nole did, though). It was very different today and I think that the quality of the opposition counted for a lot.

Posted by Ivo 10/17/2010 at 07:12 PM

to change the subject. I hoped to ask Steve and everybody here to speculate on this:
Annacone and Federer: do you see anything that's significantly different about his game since Paul took over?
I can't figure that out. I see that Federer's become a bit more consistent...seems to me. Ever since they are together, it seems to me that Federer's game is not as prone to easy shanks as it was in the first part of the year (with the exception of AO). I also had the feeling that he was approaching the net more often..but seeing how he played this week I was not sure of that. Can't really figure out if there's any change in his game or what Paul want Federer to work on?
to me this is the most fascinating part of analysing tennis: how players change and developed. I loved seeing Nadal introducing that new serve - it's just fascinating to see how a complete player like Nadal can add to his game these little things here and there. And that's the same thing for Federer (ie. he revolution when he started using drop shots etc.). When i watch Federer from 8 years ago on a video I also see that he's smoothed out his serve and strokes...they look much better technically today than when he turned pro. and even though he's not winning the way he used to I believe him when he says that he's a better player (at least in terms of his technique). Though one thing is confusing to me: I think that young Federer had a better net game than the Federer we know now.
I see similar developments in the game of Murray - his forhand definitely looks better than it used to, so does his serve.
The only guy from the top who seems to be playing pretty much the same is, in my opinion, Djokovic. now that will sound strange to you given his recent success, but I just don't see much of improvement in his technical skill. He's got still a weird swing movement when he serves (I think if he corrected that he serve would produce more pop) and his net game is the worst of all the top-4. I.e. Federer, Murray, Nadal and Djokovic when it comes to net game .
What do you guys see?

Posted by SimonSays 10/17/2010 at 07:16 PM

man of course Murray was happy he won an MS title. Hes probably drinking champagne as we speak. as for playing in london he will love it.. i dont even think he cares about the UK press.. why should he..

Posted by crazycaro21 10/17/2010 at 07:18 PM

Ivo: in the case of Novak Djokovic, I would say that his attitude has a lot to do with his recent success. Have you seen how calm he's been since the US Open? No more antics, much more focus, serve got better, ergo more success.

As for the Federer - Annacone team, we'll see, but one thing I noticed since the beginning of their association is that Federer goes more to the net than he used to, which is a good thing. OK, he didn't do it today, but he did it a lot in New York and he is just awesome at that.

Posted by Ivo 10/17/2010 at 07:27 PM

crazycaro21:
You are right, Djokovic's attitude has been great of recent. That's probably the most important part of his improvement. Technically though I just don't see much new in him - ps. don't get me wrong , I actually like Novak a lot. I like he plays, it's entertaining, he's entertaining. What I was speculating about what more the technical part of his game.
But there's no doubt that a better mental attitude can be considered the "greatest improvement" of a player's game: let's just look at Berdych: no matter what anybody says, this guy has it all technically: gosh he strikes the ball well. But in head, he's a mess. He put it together for 2-3-4 months stretch but once again resorted to a game which is below his standard: a guy with so much talent should do better. but of course that applies to many other players....gosh thinking of Monfils...what a nut case. Try imagining Monflis with the head and work ethic of Nadal..a combination of the two..jeez, I cannot even imagine what a guy like that would be capable of doing.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 10/17/2010 at 07:36 PM

SimonSays:

I think that Andy cares alright. Most people think Andy is shy and I don't know him personally but feel that he is. To what extent, I don't know, but think that with that there would be a certain amount of sensitivity. Just my humble opinion.

Posted by crazycaro21 10/17/2010 at 07:39 PM

Ivo: You're right about the technical stuff of Djokovic, nothing has really changed, I think, but that focus and calm certainly helps him a lot in executing his shots better. I'm actually starting to like him again, now that he's not so arrogant anymore.

When it comes to Berdych, though, I'm just wondering what's wrong with him since Toronto. Has his loss in the Wimbledon finals affected him that much? Same for Söderling. He's been so unconvincing since coming back on hard courts that I cannot stop wondering what's wrong with him. One day, he'll beat the heck out of a player, only to see his tennis collapse completely inexplicably the day after. Had he not be so tired in the third round, David Ferrer would have beaten him, I think, and his result against Federer was just yet another proof that something's not right with the Swede.

Monfils, oh, gosh! That guy has it all but seems to prefer playing the clown than playing tennis. I thought he was getting better since the Davis Cup semis, but it didn't last.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 10/17/2010 at 07:40 PM

crazycaro21:

Are you new here ? If so, welcome to TW.

Posted by crazycaro21 10/17/2010 at 07:48 PM

Lynne: I'm new when it comes to commenting, but I've been reading for quite a while now. And thanks. :)

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 10/17/2010 at 08:26 PM

I didn't see the match today (and look forward to catching it on The Tennis Channel "Encore" or something, but I would like to pose a question to everyone whoi's interested in responding truthfully (and this in light of some recent analysis by anotrher TWorlder whose name suddenly escapes me but whom I'm sure you'll all know)....

Assuming Murray is finally "coming into his own" -- a big assumption, I know, but then again I've been a big believer in this guy's skills for a long time -- and begins to knock dispatch of Federer -- who at 29 has seen the last of his upside -- regularly, are we ready to declare that Murray is/was the better player?

I know how I would answer that question, but that's not really relevant.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 10/17/2010 at 08:41 PM

Slice : I honestly feel that I want to wait a few years before answering that question. Say, the next 3/4 years.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 10/17/2010 at 08:42 PM

.... but at the moment I lean towards No !

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 10/17/2010 at 08:43 PM

Lynne, I totally hear you, but I wanted to pose the question wqhile it was hot on my mind and while the answer is still obvious (or should be). And I suppose the point really is, will it really matter in the grand scheme of things whether Mjurraqy ends up with a better (even far better) H2H against Federer, if he isn't able to get 'er done day-in and day-out for, oh, say, five or six straight years?

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 10/17/2010 at 08:46 PM

Lynne, apparetnly I was typing while you were hitting rhe 'Post' button.

And I apologize for all the typos in my posts. Typepad is amazing at picking up on every one of my miscues.....

Posted by Julian 10/17/2010 at 08:50 PM

I'd surmise that Soderling's downhill trajectory could be attributed to the diminution of his role as the giant killer of Nad/Fed. After his win against Federer at the FO he got decimated by Nadal at FO/Wimbledon and now Federer has re-asserted his authority over him when he dismantled him at the US. He'll still be a lurking threat in the majors, but Nadal and Federer have both shown they know how to dismantle the Swede.

I was highly impressed by Murray today, some of the shots truly were 'miraculous' as Robbie Koenig can sometime ubiquitously put it. I would love to see Murray get his first GS in 2011, even if I don't necessarily support him. I've been very critical of his game before in its lack of aggression, but when he can consistently trouble both legends in the way he has shown this year at Toronto and Shanghai, why complain ?

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 10/17/2010 at 08:57 PM

Slice : Then, I have to agree with that. Consistency in a player's career is everything at the end of the day.

Posted by David 10/17/2010 at 09:00 PM

I also took note of the muted, erm, celebration, if that's what it can be called. Read into that at your own peril, I suppose, but I thought Murray was hurting a little bit out there, like maybe he had some discomfort or was fighting through some unspecified nagging injury. And if that's the case, more credit to him. He was really good today (yesterday?), hit some scorchers out there

Posted by SRao 10/17/2010 at 09:34 PM

Steve,

Is this the 1st time you are responding right away?Hanging around just to see who says 1st and all other crap???Yes...people,pls grow up!
Anyway...but that's nice to read your instant reply.I wish I get a reply too,but that's the flip side to living in Bangalore and commenting-as I write this,you might be in bed,already!

Well,great post,I could finally relax after reading it as I was SUPER,SUPER upset after Fed lost.The match was HORRIBLE to see,and to see it LIVE...nerve racking for me.Only bcoz,I just cannot see Fed lose even a single point,let alone a set/a match/tourney.And especially not the way he lost yesterday.It will surely take me a few days/weeks to recover.

And I hate Muzz game/style.I've never liked a counter-puncher.It's such poor intelligence to posses a game like that.And Fed being just opposite-so clever/intelligent,I'm only glad he's still around and hope Fed will play till the end of next decade.

I cannot wait for Fed to win all other 4tourney's and end the year high.
I mean,good-over-evil,type of stuff,really!

Posted by fernando 10/17/2010 at 10:24 PM

Since Annacone, it is clear that Roger is attacking on his return of serve, especially on the second serve of his opponent. He is no longer just chipping the ball back. He is also trying to flatten out his backhand to try to make it more offensive. It looked like Fed really wanted to win this match for his confidence. A Soderling-Djoker Murray trifecta would done wonders for his confidence. I think Roger is still capable of beating everyone going into 2011 except Djoker and Murray(Rafa beats everyone now especially with his 10-15 mph grip change serve).

Posted by MindyM 10/17/2010 at 11:03 PM

In answer to Slice-n-Dice,

No, Murray is not the better player. The guy hasn't even won his first slam. He has been quite successful in these Masters tournaments, where it's best two out of three, but when it comes to the rigors and demands of a slam tournament, he hasn't been able to get the job done.

I would like to believe that he is coming into his own and this was a good win for him right now. Fed really has nothing left to prove in the sport. I do think he very much wanted that #2 ranking back and also to let people know that he is still very much in the mix. I don't see him winning as consistently or dominating the way he did in the past. He is capable of great tennis but not all the time.

I thought that Murray played smart, savvy tennis and stayed focused and strong. He needed this win and the points. Now the challenge for him is to see if he can somehow manage to do it in a slam, where it's best three out of five and seven matches. He may become the better player, but I can't say that he is just because he can beat Fed in Masters events.

Posted by soccer jerseys 10/17/2010 at 11:53 PM

Murray needed this for his confidence, he had an EPIC FAIL of a year in the Slams. He has a chance to win London as well now with Nadal burnt out and him having an edge over Fed.

Looks like the only one who may ruin the party is Djokovic but then again, Murray has been "upset" by lesser players.

Posted by Ezekiel Mellifluous and the Lump Of Kohlschreiber Singers 10/18/2010 at 01:09 AM

This match was closer than the score indicated? I felt it was exactly the opposite. Federer couldn't hit his spots and on the rare occasions that he did Murray was usually there to get it back. He basically should've bumrushed the net like a lunatic in the second set because Murray was playing very deep behind the baseline. Droppers don't work on Murray because he is so fast moving forward so why not? Make him pass you.....over and over. Unfortunately one of the sport's great moments of sheepish embarassment are when you rush the net and get passed. We both know Fed doesn't like feeling embarassed and I suspect this is why he prefers to be a baseliner. If I were Annacone I'd try to get him to pick a 500 or 250 event and throw caution to the wind in it to see what would happen. 30 net advances per set minimum. He has been sneaking in on 30-30 points on his opponents serve lately so I guess there's some hope on this kind of strategy but not much. All hail Skip Spence!

Posted by idlir 10/18/2010 at 01:14 AM

very nice writing steve, totaly agree with you.
robbie koenig and jason goodall are the best commentators outh there by the way.
totally love those guys !!!

Posted by Eddy 10/18/2010 at 01:34 AM

Since when does Fed lose a final in two sets? Grim times ahead...sigh.

fernando: Fed can beat anyone except Nadal this year and that will stay the same next year. He's not declining That fast.

Posted by Ivo 10/18/2010 at 01:45 AM

fernando: I agree as for the changes in Federer's game: he is actually returning much better since Annacone, not just chipping it in on the second serves as he did before. That's definitely something which has changed.

Posted by Legoboy 10/18/2010 at 02:52 AM

This is more like it! I didn't get to see it, but really enjoyed this commentary.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 10/18/2010 at 02:58 AM

I didn't get to see the match but I liked this analysis of it - focussing pretty equally on what Murray's good stuff and Roger's not-so-good stuff. :)

I did hear the result announced at work on Radio Four's hourly news bulletin on Sunday morning, which is pretty rare for a non-major tennis tournament - just shows up the intense focus the media here has on Murray, to me.

Posted by Geellis 10/18/2010 at 03:00 AM

Let us be clear. This win says nothing about the likely success of Murray at the slams. Let's not forget, he already has a pretty good winning record vs. the fed (8-5) and we've seen absolutely nothing at the slams. I've been a HUGE Murray fan and he's done nothing but disappoint. Until he does something at a GS, there's no reason at all to get excited. Nuff said..

Posted by Game Lover 10/18/2010 at 03:17 AM

Oh, I've loved to way Murray played. The speed and the strength.

Roger doesn't seem to training all that much anymore, or maybe he just couldn't keep up with the younger guy today...

And how's your own tennis going guys? Playing daily I hope? :) If you are not, maybe you should play as often as you can yourselves...

Cheers,
M

Posted by Northernboy 10/18/2010 at 03:33 AM

Great match by Murray, but Steve I have to disagree with the following statement:

[Federer] reasserted his authority of Novak Djokovic in the semis; it’s clear to me that Djokovic must play above his norm, the way he did at the Open, to beat Federer. Otherwise, he winds up playing the lion’s share of the rallies on his heels.

I couldn't diagree more. Djokovic was the dominant player in the first set of that match, and is the superior overall baseliner by a slight margin. But what Djokovic did NOT do at the US Open, which he did here in Shanghai, was a) overuse the drop shot and b) Rush the points. Let me explain that last one - Djokovic would get ahead in a rally, go for a kill shot, and Fed would make a good save return to get the rally back on even. Instead of resetting and working the point again until it was in his favour, Djokovic would go for too much, as if he felt he should already have won the point. If he'd had a little more patience working the rally, the match could easily have been his.

Djokovic also tends to take more risks on his own service than most of the top players, such as the boneheaded drop shots, rather than playing percentage tennis and using his baseline abilities, which are among if not the best in the game.

Disappointing Melzer and Novak couldn't sustain their form after their earlier wins. But Melzer had a great week nonetheless, won his 3rd doubles title of the year with Paes and beat the world #1 in singles.

Posted by Cotton Jack 10/18/2010 at 07:48 AM

anyone get teh impression that wen doing his posts steve his wordprosesor sorting out his speelling and punctution but wen hes just leaving a coment on typepad he looks as shoddy as teh rest of us?

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 10/18/2010 at 08:13 AM

MindyM and Geellis... I couldn't agree more. Thanks. "Nothing more to prove" pretty much sums it up in regard to Federer's career.

Posted by skip1515 10/18/2010 at 08:23 AM

There is a world of difference between playing passively and playing neutrally. In this match, Murray gave few openings off the ground, and certainly no sustained patches of wholly-off-his-heels baselining.

Instead he wove a web of bedeviling spins, angles, depth and speeds while responding with strength whenever Federer pressed the issue, most especially with his serving.

We might not think of Murray as an assertive player, but that is the deceptive part of his game: when he succeeds at being mentally strong on 95% of his shots each one of them presents a problem to be solved. They may not be the easily noticed problems of Nadal's high-kicking forehand or Djokovic's relentless pounding, but they are problems nonetheless and of a kind that Federer does not like, especially on days when he's less than sharp.

Posted by fernando 10/18/2010 at 08:27 AM

Djokovitch is a great player but still a bit streaky within the match itself which can cost him. One bad patch on your serve at this level and you are really in a hole. That's what cost him against Fed in Shanghai. Murray generally gives you no free points which is why Fed beat Nole and lost to Murray. Murray won almost all the extended baseline rallies against Fed. If anyone other than Rafa wins a slam next year it will be Murray.

Posted by Rahul 10/18/2010 at 08:37 AM

With this match Murray again showed us how gud he is, that he can match anyone, be it Federer or Nadal toe to toe and even better them at times. And yet it amazes he how time and again he falters at the slams. I have failed to understand the reasons, unlike a Davydanko he has the physical strength, the grit and determination to succeed in the best of 5 sets version of the game. Is it because he gives his all in the Masters events and is not left with enough steam at the slams, or is it the pressure of the British hopes? May be some of u can shed some light on that, I ain't wise enough to anlyze tht. But just like Fed said at the presentation ceremony of AO-2010 "You are too gud a player to not win a slam",...I feel the same way. Lets wait and watch wat fate has in store for Murray :P

Posted by Ruth 10/18/2010 at 09:40 AM

+ "Nothing more to prove" pretty much sums it up in regard to Federer's career.+

As I've said before when I've read comments like this one, thank heavens Federer doesn't subscribe to this opinion that is embraced and expressed (usually after a loss) by so many of his fans. I'd miss seeing him struggle, work out, and succeed in solving the problems that the best players of the current generation of players present to him.

And so, continue to...Go, Roger!

Posted by Steve 10/18/2010 at 10:16 AM

true, cotton jack, i'm too lazy when i comment even to hit shift to make anything uppercase.

northern boy, you're right that djokovic was less patient in shanghai, and that was a big difference. but i still see federer, when he isn't shanking the ball all over the stadium, as having the upper hand from the baseline in general against him. the matches still seem to be on his racquet, win or lose.

you going to london again this year, skip? it should be a good one, even though it still seems like a long way away

Posted by skip1515 10/18/2010 at 10:32 AM

No Steve, as much as I'd like to go my sister will be in town with my nephew, all the way from Australia. It might not seem this way when reading Wrap or TW, but family trumps tennis.

(Hmmm, both can be written as TW. Subtle, very subtle...)

Posted by skip1515 10/18/2010 at 10:52 AM

Let me add that I watched most of the this match on replay, and was there at the match at the WTF in London last November. They were very similar in some respects, and clearly very different in others.

Here's what I wrote then, for an online post that never got posted due
to email glitches:

• The first point of the match was an umpteen stroke, intense all
court rally that, if the match progressed upwards from there, promised
an incredible and possibly epic match. But it was not to be. Murray
played well the first set, well enough to take advantage of an off-
form Federer and win it 6/4. Federer picked up the pace in the second,
however, and the momentum had changed dramatically by mid-way through
the 2nd set. Federer had broken Murray, but more importantly had begun
playing too fast for Murray to get into points. Taking the ball
earlier and earlier, and serving more and more effectively, Federer
simply didn't let Murray breathe. For his part, Murray didn't have a
real riposte to being pressed; he didn't serve particularly well, and
more critically never seemed to have a game plan. It was impossible to
say what he was trying to do against Federer, and consequently whether he it could be successful or not. In the third set, especially after Federer had hisfirst break, Murray's whole attitude was, I'm sorry to say it,
terribly weak. My friend Graham said it was a capitulation, and I'd
have to agree.

• Federer entered the transcendental zone once he found his rhythm.
His feel were flying, he was attacking by striking the ball early, and
then on top of that his shot selection became more and more outrageous
as he gathered momentum. I took no notes, but memory says that when he
broke at 2/2 in the 2nd set, including a jaw-dropping down-the-line
forehand winner return off a very wide serve to the outside of the
deuce box, it was all Federer after that. At 1/1 in the third set I
turned to Graham and said, "You know, from Murray's attitude you'd
think he was getting shellacked, but it's only a set apiece and 1 all.
His problem is that, score be damned, it's so clear the match is being
played on Federer's terms." This doesn't excuse Murray's less than
steely resolve, but it was true.
_______________________

So what was different in Shanghai?

A) Murray *did* have steely resolve. Full stop.

B) Because of A, any time Federer began to find his rhythm Murray
stayed the course and was able to interrupt Federer's momentum. (Which
only strengthens one's resolve. Nothing like success to breed
confidence, eh?)

C) Murray served much, much better.

D) Percentages be damned, Federer didn't serve as effectively – mostly lesser location control, to my eye – and Murray returned better (chicken or
egg, you take yer pick).

And in a small but contributing way, when Murray hit that "miraculous" down the line forehand pass I'd bet serious money Federer was looking for the crosscourt, since everyone "knows" it's Murray's Go-To passing shot of choice.

Murray is the modern ATP version of Martina Hingis, and I mean that as
a full on compliment. Sure, there's more power, heft and a real serve,
but he utilizes more of the court than just about anyone else
(except...Federer?) and more spins, changes of pace and craft than
anyone. That's a heady mix. He was rock solid today, and all the more
impressive because of it; as long as he performs well he's always
going to tempt Federer to go for too much and take advantage of any
day on which Federer (or Nadal) isn't playing his best.

I'm not the first person to say the real question is whether Murray
will maintain this level season in/season out. I hope so. It makes for
fabulous tennis spectating.

Posted by Master Ace 10/18/2010 at 11:05 AM

While the WTA fall season is being decimated by injuries despite Wozniacki winning both Premier titles in Tokyo and Beijing, the ATP fall season is running like a smooth machine. Nadal played the entire Asian swing bagging a title in Tokyo, Djokovic defended his title at Beijing, Federer, after weeks off, makes it to the finals at Shanghai and Murray wins his 6th Masters Shield at Shanghai. Federer should win Stockholm this week and after a week off for the entire Top 4, all of them will return to action except Nadal, who will not see a court until Paris resting from playing the Asian tour.

Posted by Red 1.7.17.287⁺ = Legacy Solidified 10/18/2010 at 11:11 AM

Skip1515
SPOT ON!!!

Posted by d 10/18/2010 at 11:52 AM

as has been pointed out, Murray played great on the big points, showed steely resolve, and high confidence. however, I would say that he played not only above his norm (as Steve termed Djokovic's play vs Fed at the USO), but out of his mind. it would be truly "miraculous" if Murray could achieve this level consistently in big matches. it was hugely enjoyable to see Murray employ such an effective rope-a-dope strategy and pull so many rabbits out of so many hats, but I had to wonder whether it was sustainable or a one-off.

one of the great things about men's tennis right is that there seems to be a bunch of top 15-ish guys (e.g. Soderling, Berdych, Davydenko, Melzer, Del Potro?) who can play lights-out for a match or even a tournament. and interestingly, while for any one of them this type of performance may not be consistenly achievable, it almost seems as though week-in, week-out somebody will be on fire on a regular basis. for each individual, as they flash and then burn out we wonder whether they are ultimately going to be among the greats, or asterisks on the records of the greats.

it is perhaps unfair to put Murray in this category, as he's played great ball for a long time, but I do think based on what he's done thus far, as Federer said in the press conference, he's a good player.

Posted by Jo 10/18/2010 at 12:01 PM

Steve,
A wonderful analysis as always. As a Fed fan I was disappointed to see him lose in straight sets, but I think Andy played great and deserved his win. Do you have any plans to interview Paul Annacone? It would be interesting for us to read (in-depth) about their goals for the next year or so. It was reported somewhere that under his tutorship, Fed would come to the net more...I think he tried yesterday but missed one too many easy volleys?

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