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The Great Unrealized 05/24/2010 - 3:16 PM

100377569 by Pete Bodo

Does it get any better than this? Suzanne Lenglen was packed full, creating a canvas that puts the most accomplished of French pointillists to shame. There was just enough breeze to snap and ripple the flags around the rim of Lenglen; whoever first thought of placing flags at intervals around the top of a stadium deserves immediate enshrinement in the International Tennis Hall of Fame. And down on that red-clay battleground, the two fellas were playing like they meant it.

This was merely the second day of a Grand Slam event (traditionally and psychologically, the first - but don't tell that to Vikki Azarenka), and a first-round match. But it made a full-force, preemptive statement about majors and why they matter. Granted, the combatants were high-value names - Richard Gasquet and No. 4 seed Andy Murray. It was a delectable and perhaps unfortunate match-up, and by consensus it was the match of the first round. But set it up at any other tournament on the calendar, and it would never come near the measure of significance - and, well, cruciality - that you may also have felt as it unfolded before your eyes.

This could be a critical test for both men, albeit in different ways. For Gasquet, the great unrealized, it offered a significant step toward professional redemption and a greater measure of rehabilitation in the eyes of his countrymen. It's tough, having to pursue those life-stabilizing goals before countless pairs of eyes, and with a scoreboard to tell you precisely how you're coming along on that quest. But that's what you sign up for as a tennis pro.

For Murray, the draw must have appeared to add insult to injury. His life appeared to get considerably more complicated instead of easier after he reached and lost the Australian Open final at the start of the year. Ordinarily, a guy who makes a Grand Slam final and loses to the Greatest Player of All time ought to be entitled to strut around with his chest flung out. Instead, Murray's diaphragm seemed to cave in, and over the ensuing months he's been adrift, like a man trying to resolve or maybe even just suppress the nagging existential question: Is it really worth going through all this, especially when the cup that ought to have tasted so sweet has left a bitter taste on my tongue? The match-up had numerous resonances for both men, but that didn't stop them from going at it, tooth-and-nail - at least not for nearly three of its four-plus hours.

I watched this one in the still chamber of my living room, on a good television (I think it's HD; all I know is that the screen is flat and I can actually see the tennis ball), with good dog Buck sleeping nearby, occasionally whimpering as - I imagined - he dreamed that he was trying to catch one of those optic yellow tennis balls that Gasquet and Murray were batting around.

John McEnroe was the color commentator for Tennis Channel, which holds the broadcast rights to Roland Garros. I'm glad they opened up the purse strings to hire him, because I like the fact that McEnroe doesn't overwhelm me with his expertise, and he has an appealing way of stating what ought to be obvious, but isn't, always. Like when, late in the second set, he pointed out how Gasquet, serving into the deuce court, was going for the big first serve right down the pipe. He did it, McEnroe speculated, because he was a little tired, not very tall, and the net is lowest at the center. Three solid reasons, which is still three too many if you're making a bad choice, or merely a choice of convenience.

Of course, Gasquet was coming off a big win over Fernando Verdasco in Nice - a 7-6 in-the-third win, which is a pretty good stint of rehab. He had barely a day of rest, but you sometimes have to play the hand you're dealt, whether you like it or not. And that's something for which Gasquet, with his princely bearing and that long-lost but once radiant aura of predestination, does not have a great talent.

Gasquet probably was tiring long before the rest of us could say that was the case, but early enough in the match to be in conspicuous danger of hitting himself out and losing steam. The match was competitive for two-plus sets, and early on I got to thinking about the two questions every fan, and maybe every player, ought to consider: Where are the balls landing, and where is the one or the other guy playing?

For part one, the formula is pretty simple: the closer to the sideline, the better, and if you can hit close to the sidelines and also get halfway or better through the other guy's backcourt, you're in with a shot - no matter what the rankings or form chart suggests. As for the latter, decisions like where to serve, and even the specific serve to use, ought to be made taking into account the receiver's position. And in rallies, the further back a man (or woman) is playing, the more room you have to improvise and innovate; just make sure that if you go for the sharp angles in a rally, you cover your line, especially when your opponent is hitting the forehand.

Gasquet was at his mercurial best through the first two sets, taking those enormous cuts and going for broke time and again, especially with that roundhouse one-handed backhand. But Gasquet and others have shown time and again that you can't bank on such heroics to get you through a five-set match on a slow surface, and certainly not when you're coming into an event with a lot of recent mileage on your odometer. Murray certainly knew where Gasquet had been this past week, which may help explain why he seemed to be in no hurry to handcuff him. Give him enough time and fatigue, or the law of averages, would accomplish that.

For a while, it looked as if Gasquet might get the job done before the law of diminishing returns kicked in, and in all honesty he should have gotten it done. Other players have come off a taxing week of play and just continued to roll. Gasquet led by two sets and a break, when it suddenly looked as if he realized that he didn't really have to win. And in the blink of an eye, Gasquet lost his grip on the match. He went from a man who looked to be in charge to a player who seemed to take stock of the situation and, quite irrationally, decided: Well, there's no way I can win this one. Or, perhaps, There's no way I must win this one. . . Or, perish the thought, Maybe I should just lose this one to stick it to the arrogant snits - my countrymen! - who wouldn't deign to give me a Tuesday start. I know, I'll lose, that'll show 'em!

Let's face it, he wouldn't be the first person in history to bite off his nose to spite his face.

If you saw how downcast and frustrated Gasquet looked on the changeover after he allowed Murray to break back in the third, you might have thought he was the one in the deep hole. Was it fatigue, whispering in his ear, telling him he could bail, that there was no shame in losing a long match because he felt spent? Was it the smoldering resentment he surely felt, having had a request for a Tuesday start turned down cold?

One beauty of five-set matches is that it asks all the tough questions of a player. It can offer him every temptation to throw in the towel, tease and tantalize him (or her) with numerous options for quitting, offer up the best of all reasons for quitting (including spitefulness), whispering, Go ahead, it's just another tennis match, and you'd be justified. . .    A long five-setter always demands that you be tough for its own sake, because it's a value unto itself. But let's remember, it's hard to be tough when you're spent, even if that's when toughness would be most meaningful.

On this day, Gasquet wasn't tough enough, and despite the fact that showed plenty of sand against Verdasco, that was Nice, and this is Paris. Were it a competitor of a lower order across the net, Gasquet still might have found a way to win. But a top player is by definition a great competitor, and therefore an opportunist of the first rank. And any concern for Murray's own level of fatigue was unnecessary. Murray appears to have been born tired, but he's got a knack for navigating around that one with a Beckett-esque mantra: I can't go on, I will go on. That's the language toughness understands.

It was a good day for rehabilitation at Roland Garros; Murray made significant strides in his own; Gasquet is still working on his.


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Comments
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Posted by Papo (Got Nadal?) 05/24/2010 at 03:29 PM

Nice post, Pete. Too bad Gasquet ran out of gas. A great match none the less.

Posted by Papo (Got Nadal?) 05/24/2010 at 03:30 PM

BTW, First again, hehe.

Posted by Pspace (Hopp Fed and Ajde Glitter Queen!) 05/24/2010 at 03:35 PM

Gasquet needs to see a fitness coach, stat. Ridiculous. The guy can't move his feet for three sets? That's just a joke.

Anyway, I'm happy with Muzz's win. He needs to build some positive momentum going into the grass season. And, nothing like winning a few matches to whet the appetite for battle.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 05/24/2010 at 03:43 PM

Really good summarization of the match Pete - thanks !

Posted by Andrew 05/24/2010 at 03:52 PM

You never once had the feeling, even a break and two sets up, that Gasquet thought that he was certainly going to win the match.

You did have the feeling, starting the fourth set, that Murray thought he was going to win.

Posted by Papo (Got Nadal?) 05/24/2010 at 03:57 PM

Poor Gasquet can't catch a break. You'd have thought the RG organizers would try to help him out. An extra day of rest might have made the difference. Even when he was the one to win a five setter from two sets down vs Roddick at Wimby, he was scheduled to face Federer about twelve hours after that marathon match, lol.

Posted by Master Ace 05/24/2010 at 04:01 PM

Richard also won a challenger the week before Nice so he has played 2 solid week of tennis and despite Richard request, the organizers choose to let the top half start on Sunday. The losing finalist at Nice, Fernando Verdasco, first match is Tuesday so Richard had bad luck with the draw.

Posted by State of the game 05/24/2010 at 04:15 PM

After losing to Murray in Wimbledon with two sets lead, Gasquet said he wanted to meet Murray in French Open someday, so he can give Murray the same medicine. Today, it all looked like he would keep his promise. Who would guess he would lose again with two sets lead?

Posted by Kieran 05/24/2010 at 04:28 PM

Bizarre logic on why Gasquet "realized that he didn't really have to win," but probably spot-on! Who knows what tricks the mind can play when it's trying to avoid a screeching pressure point, ie, the pressure to win a big match...?

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 05/24/2010 at 04:37 PM

Thanks Pete, Well Au Revoir Richard.I also agree with Master Ace coming off a win in the final at Nice,he had no luck with the draw.

Posted by Or 05/24/2010 at 04:39 PM

WTF. Just - WTF.

I left when Richie was up a set and a break.

4 hours later... I couldn't believe it when my brother had told me. I'm happy it seem to be tiredness rather than choking.

Pity.

Posted by mick1303 05/24/2010 at 04:42 PM

It was clear he was tired in the end of the 2nd. He knew it and Murray knew it.

Posted by Mr.X (Live, from Minionland!) 05/24/2010 at 04:42 PM

Didnt watch the match, except for the last game, but it seemed like Gasquet got soem sort of redemption with his home crowd. After he lost, they were chanting his name and he left to a standing ovation.
Maybe you are right, Pete, and knowing all that, in his mind he just went "Well, i've shown what i'm capable of, but they know i'm tired and they'll understand the big effort i made".
Gasquet is a tremendous shot-maker, but often he's proved that he isnt the biggest of the fighters, not on a regular basis at least. I guess the match had a similar feeling that his match with Nadal in Canada in 2008, when he played great for a set, won a tremendous tie-break, and then disappeared and got destroyed. It's like he thought proving that he can do it was good enough.
As for Muzz, it was a very unlucky draw, and playing a 4-hour match in the first round probably wont help him looking ahead.

Posted by just horsen 05/24/2010 at 04:42 PM

One obvious sign of fatigue. Through the first couple sets Gasquet's shots were landing deep in the court and Murray's were landing short, manytimes barely getting past the service line. By the 5th set this had reversed. Richerd was the one hitting short and Murray had all of a sudden found out that he could hit with depth. That one little detail is often a clear show of who's in control and comfortable and whose not.

Posted by Gerry 05/24/2010 at 04:48 PM

I hope that they never abandon the 3 out of 5 format in the early rounds of the majors.

Posted by jb (Chocolate FTW!! ) 05/24/2010 at 04:49 PM

Nice post Pete. I was a sad camper when i saw these 2 meeting in the first round. Two of my favs, and did they have to meet first freakin' round? sigh. Sometimes i just think reeshard just cannot catch a break; that maybe if he did, and came through with flying colours, it would get him over the hump and propel him up to the top.

though i thought that win over roddick at wimby would do that, but alas, no dice. So maybe it never will happen for reeshard. :(

Posted by BrooklynNY 05/24/2010 at 05:39 PM

Tsonga and Gasquet also requested a later start time.

Tsonga bc he was ill. Gasquet because he was playing a final 2 days before.


No requests were granted

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/24/2010 at 05:56 PM

I totally agree Gasquet should have won this match today. I was really disappointed when he couldn't close out the match in three. As soon as Muzz got a set I could tell Gasquet was going to lose. And that's kinda sad. It would have been an awesome "warrior" type moment if he could have pulled off the upset, at home, 48 hours after winning a title in Nice. Would have been a great story. But it wasn't to be.

Congrats to Murray for hanging in there.

Posted by Pspace (Hopp Fed and Ajde Glitter Queen!) 05/24/2010 at 05:59 PM

Hmmm...should I be the lone Murray fan offended at the lack of praise for his fighting spirit ;-). Last I checked, fitness is a part of tennis. Reeshie should get his lazy a$$ out on the track and do some wind sprints...not that I blame him for slacking off...wind sprints are kinda boring.

Posted by Larry 05/24/2010 at 06:01 PM

I don't know, but I think Richard is soft in the head.

What people say about Murray translates to me as basically 'Big dopey basset hound on court.' That hardly means he can't play, it's just his persona - droopy, tired, and generally a taciturn kid from a cold and melancholy northern country.

In fairness to Murray, and to Gasquet, Andy has more game. It's been enunciated. He's just a better player.

Posted by gabriela valentina 05/24/2010 at 06:18 PM

very nice post but too sleepy to comment!! gasquet got a raw deal . he needed another day to recover from Nice. Andy as usual started to play well after feigning indifference to the outcome for the first 2 sets...

Posted by Maurício Fonseca 05/24/2010 at 06:45 PM

I don´t know, it's strange... leaving aside the fact that Gasquet was playing two weeks in a row, a lot of French players have shown a somewhat fragile fitness in these last years. From Simon through Tsonga, Gasquet, Mathieu, Monfils...

Posted by beth 05/24/2010 at 07:29 PM

I am so sad that Richard did not close this match out . Yes, another disappointing and disheartening 5 set loss for him . And congratulations to Murray for winning , today he was not playing his best tennis , but he hung around and figured out a plan - and managed to cool down an on fire player and win the match
Nothing against him at all - he won , he deserved it and he should be proud
But , I have to take issue with the Gasquet and fitness theme. True , in the past , he has not been known for his dedication to off court training . And it will take time to turn him into a stronger physical specimen. He will never be a 6'4 inch physical beast. However, his new coach , Gabriel Markus , who Gasquet hired earlier this year, is known for his work with talented , mercurial players and putting emphasis on the off court training. In interviews I have read from him, he has been pleased with Richard's progress and willingness to work on this deficit - and the progress they have made is beginning to bear fruit . Richard has moved up to 43 in the rankings - from a rock bottom of 86 just two weeks ago.
I have also read the post match interview that Richard gave - and he admitted he wished he could have played on Tuesday , but it did not happen , so he did the best he could . He admitted he was physically exhausted . He has played 11 matches in three different cities over the course of 15 days. That should wipe out the reserves of just about all but the most Herculean of athletes .
I am not going to condemn him for that , Had he , as Pete suggests, given the french crowd a half hearted performance , or thumbed his nose at them - then yes, I would be bailing on my support of this player. But he did not . His post match interview states that he was encouraged and thrilled by the french crowd support - and he was happy to be back - and will hopefully do better with a win next time .
He is scheduled to play doubles with a soon to be retiring Sebastian Grosjean before he moves on to England and the grass court season.
He can only gain points between now and the US Open - if he can put together a few good matches , the possibility of a seeding for that even is not impossible.

Posted by James 05/24/2010 at 07:41 PM

Here's a question that comes up in our household during every Grand Slam. Why do the men play Best of 5 four times a year but the women never do? There is no other sport that I can think of where the men play more than their female counterparts. A marathon is 26 miles regardless of who is running it. The triathlon is the same for men and women. So why is it that 4 times a year men have to battle each other in a best of five situation and yet the women stick to their familiar best of three scenario. I think it's time to resurrect the equal prize money/equal pay debate and have the women play best of five in the slams.

Posted by James 05/24/2010 at 07:43 PM

BTW I have 5 sisters and if you think women are physically inferior you should see them kick my ass on a tennis court!

Posted by Geellis 05/24/2010 at 07:56 PM

@ Larry
I could not disagree with you more. I think Gasquet has every bit as much game and is a ton more athletic than Murray. If Gasquet had the fitness of Murray, he would have burried Murray in str8 sets today. I mean seriously. Those first two sets, Murray played his best. And it simply wasn't good enough. It's only when fatigue set in (and, yes, fitness is a part of tennis, but it does not speak to talent) that Richard was toast. But, on a pure shot-making level, he simply knocked the socks off of Murray. I felt really sorry for Richard. His BH is the single most beautiful shot in men's tennis. I mean, what a glory to watch. It was a shame for both men that they had to meet in the first round. And that one of them had to lose.

Posted by Larry 05/24/2010 at 08:22 PM

Back at ya', Geellis. Richard has a great backhand, but it is not enough. I haven't seen him play in a few years, but he just lacks the strength and explosiveness on other shots to complement it at a Top 10 level, I believe.

But I'm really not dissing his game. I recognize he is a great player. I am trying to say that Murray is - imo - one of the 3-4 top talents in the game, with great anticipation, surprising speed, an amazing two-hander of his own, a really good serve and excellent touch and really decent volleying skills.

I am seeing so many anti-Murray posts the past year or so that I wonder if people just don't 'get' the game that he has because they dislike him.

Posted by beth ( Jake is graduated !!!! ) 05/24/2010 at 08:58 PM

Larry - I totally get Murray's talent . And I do think he is one of the best in the game. His style of play is an interesting contrast to the prevailing big ball hitting that is out there. He is the in the Brad Gilbert mold - of paceless, let the air out of the ball tennis . I hate playing that sort of player - but I have to admit they are often effective - on every level . Couple that game with his good serve , court sense and improved fitness - he is someone to be reckoned with at the top of the game .

Gasquet has his talent - and I think we are just going to have to enjoy the classic beauty of it while we can - for as long as he can stay out there . If he can improve his fitness , he will be a contender as well . He will always be a streaky player , i fear . So if you are a fan of his , you just have to be willing to ride the roller coaster - ya know ?

I still thought the first two sets of this match were some of the best I have seen played this year - very competitive and entertaining stuff.

Posted by skip1515 05/24/2010 at 09:17 PM

Un-friggin' perfect title Worthy of a trademark. Or copyright. Patent, maybe. Just fab.

And a great post. Thanks.

Posted by Geellis 05/24/2010 at 09:34 PM

@ Larry
Were we watching the same match? Did you not see how many FHs went flying by Murray. Certainly Gasquet's BH is the shot that gets all the attention. But he was just bone-crushing FHs as well and has been for some time. He outserved Murray (easy to do) and, for the first 2 sets, out-returned Murray as well. Listen, I love Murray and was on the band-wagon early. However, Doug Adler was asked by his co-commentator, a brit, whether the Brits have over-estimated Murray's talent and Adler, to his credit, said yes. Murray has great court sense, no doubt. He's also possesses a high-class BH. But he really doesn't have any single "lethal" shot/s. He has an overall high-quality game, but it's one that also tends towards the hoe-hum. And against a shot-maker like Gasquet, one really saw how pedestrian Murray's game is. It was a workman-like performance and he simply outlasted poor Richard. But, seriously, the timing it takes to hit the ball like Gasquet did (off both sides) is emblematic of extreme athleticism, an athleticism that he of the perfect cat/mouse game simply does not possess.

I think Beth summed it up well. That said, I would say again, if Gasquet had the fitness of Murray, he would have burried Murray today in str8 sets, no question. I think Peter probably thinks so too (or, at least, his article would suggest he was of that mind).

Posted by Larry 05/24/2010 at 09:43 PM

Good points all, Beth. Except that Andy can strike the ball quite a bit harder than Bradley ever could.

Geellis, actually I did not see the match. I don't have a tele, or whatever they call that thing these days, and since ESPN3 or whatever doesn't seem to be showing the matches, it's not appearing on my computer either.

I guess we have a difference of opinion. OTOH maybe Gasquet's streaky brilliance matches up with his personality, his emotionalism and his lack of fitness. That is, he's a stylist, a performer. He doesn't much like the grinding aspects of preparation, and he has also been out of the game. As for 'if his fitness' and similar sentiments, then the question is 'When does he start' (on the real, Agassi/Verdasco level fitness)? Tennis provides a short window. A guy with Sampras' talent and serve could glide a bit on the fitness front and still win Slams towards the end of his career, and accommodate his physical limitations (anemia).

What I think is that Richard was hyped a bit, has a fragile mind, and is now five years older than when he broke through sensationally. In five years the game has only gotten to be more of a basher's game. Murray has the size and strength to deal with the big big hitters. I am not sure at all that Gasquet can.

As for Andy Murray being overrated, well, I think they are very critical of him in Britain. I don't think he's overrated, just hasn't solved Roger Federer yet.

Posted by sod'sfriend 05/24/2010 at 09:43 PM

another classic, pete!

i didnt watch the match, but your piece brings me into it so fully, i feel as though i watched it. i plan on watching it as soon as i'm done writing this and before hitting the sack tonight.

in many ways, a parallel motivation (laxness) may seem to have been bogging roger federer since winning ao2010. you know, that feeling of, ahhh, shrug, what is a 1000 or 500 or 250 event when i have won the big kahuna? why break my back when i could afford to donate some of my 11000+ points, esp since the second in line only has a puny 7000 or so points?

so when a bagdhatis or a berdych or a montanes pushes him a little, he shrugs and says oh well, i don't really need this puny event; it's ok, i can afford to lose it, and still maintain my #1 ranking. besides, these poor blokes need these points/wins more than i do. it's charity, it'll come back to me, let me donate it.

if there was a way to measure what thoughts went through gasquet's mind as he saw the match slip away from him, i'm sure your musings above would make up 90+% of them.

thanks for writing pete.

Posted by Larry 05/24/2010 at 09:45 PM

...where 'solving Roger Federer' is just about impossible. Ask anybody not called Nadal....

Posted by Larry 05/24/2010 at 09:55 PM

Geellis, if you are a big fan of Gasquet's, I suggest you contact his team/coach and suggest that he spend December with Gil Reyes and Darren Cahill. I'll bet he would go into Oz summer stronger, fitter, healthier and happier.

Posted by Geellis 05/24/2010 at 10:03 PM

@ Larry
Agree with most of your points. Gasquet is a head case. No doubt about it. But one can see why there was such hype around him. He's just gifted with fantastic hands. It's a pity the stuff between the ears isn't as gifted. If he had a head like Nadal, Gasquet would be the No. 1 player in the world. No question. But hey, one can probably say that about loads of players (i.e., if they had a head like Nadal they'd be No. 1).

As to Gasquet's size/strength, you would have to watch the match from today. Really, Murray played his very best in the first couple sets and still got blitzed. Recall, Gasquet beat Roger in Monte Carlo in 2005, a year in which Federer lost only a small handful of matches. He played Roger better in 2005/06 than any player not named Nadal. And those were years in which Federer took every tournament seriously and hardly lost. So, really, the kid's got loads of talent everywhere but btwn his ears and, if he were fitter, would have no problem taking care of bigger players. As the announcer for the match today noted, he was hitting clean winners past Murray from 15' behind the baseline. This is simply unheard of on a clay court. Unheard of. This demonstrates that there's no shortage of amperage to his shots.

Posted by Geellis 05/24/2010 at 10:09 PM

@ Larry
I've clearly stated over and over that Gasquet has fitness issues. Similar in many ways to Verdasco of a cpl years ago. But Gasquet's got more game.

Posted by Larry 05/24/2010 at 10:18 PM

Good points. Maybe I haven't watched him enough to really understand where he's at. I do think he suffers from the 'too talented to lose' syndrome, and has probably been less on fitness than he should have been. Yes, I agree, more than anything he needs a good psychologist. Or here's an idea, put him in a padded room with Brad and Mary Carillo for about 12 hours, and after he escapes he'll have a whole new lease on life! :)

If there was one thing I always hated about tennis, it was super-fit roadrunners who would nullify my stylish shots and have me exhausted after three or four games. Really hated that...I can relate to the guy. At my level I was usually more 'talented' than the other guy and never did the drudge work. There's no substitute for it in the end, as I learned.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 05/25/2010 at 02:38 AM

Loved reading this, Pete. Thanks. :)

Regarding Murray & the press, I feel like it's a mix of hyper-critical and mad over-praising, rather than one or the other.

Posted by AlsoLoser 05/25/2010 at 05:40 AM

When people say Gasquet has a problem between the ears, does it mean he's stupid or mentally soft. Personnally, I think it's both.
If he has a bad physical condition, why does he play so much just before a 2-weeks long, proverbially gruelling clay tournament where people expect him to perform. That is at least not very smart. BTW, I would say the same about Verdasco that may have even higher expectations in Paris.
About the softness, statistics is helpful: Gasquet is 2-8 in 5-setters, having lost the last 4 from 5 (to Murray, Gonzalez, Youzhny and again Murray) when being up 2-0 and sometimes with a break.
You could say, it's fitness. Well look at how many 3 setters he lost after being up a set. The guy is a professional choker. I even daresay, he's as good at choking as he's gifted at shotmaking.
I love watching him play, it is usually entertaining until the point he's sure to win. Then it gets painful. Too bad.
However, if he wasn't so fragile, he would be a frightening player (e.g. Fedex and Rafa), maybe even more. So this is maybe a good thing...

BTW, I challenge people here. Can you name a bigger choker/underachiever?

Posted by Mary Lennon 1980 05/25/2010 at 06:22 AM

Pete, Did I read correctly? In reference to Roger Federer; The Greatest PLayer of All Time??? Have you ever stated that before? Thanks, made my day. BTW: Gasquet and Murray, great match, love wathching these two mopey guys.

Posted by vernonbc 05/25/2010 at 06:35 AM

"I am seeing so many anti-Murray posts the past year or so that I wonder if people just don't 'get' the game that he has because they dislike him."

Larry, on top of Murray not playing a particularly exciting style of tennis which might get people excited to watch him, he's just an ugly person to watch. I don't mean ugly in physical appearance but ugly in behaviour with his whining and cursing and complaining and histrionics. He's very very negative and it's just hard to like the guy.

Posted by tina 05/25/2010 at 07:11 AM

Nice color, Pete, I almost feel like I watched the match. I feel sorry for Gasquet not getting a Tuesday start when the first round is spread over three days, but then from what I can gather, he could have closed out the match in straights. Plus, I'm not a big Murray fan. Much as I admire his coming back from two sets down, I'm hoping this first-round battle has depleted him somewhat. It would be far more fun to see Murray do well at Wimbledon. But I must give him props for his new-found fitness. Is he among the players who sought out Gil Reyes?

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/25/2010 at 07:48 AM

vernonbc: agree on your take on Murray. However, he appears to have quite a nice personality off-court so i'm really trying to like him more as a player. no luck so far..

hi tina! Are you happy to be back home? Is the govt. blacking out all the matches except for countrymen playing?

Posted by Wouahah 05/25/2010 at 08:19 AM

Gil Reyes ? Corretja ? Agassi ? Verdasco ? Murray ?

Any suspicion of doping ?

For Gasquet, it was "just" cocain... Yes, he is really stupid ;-)

Posted by Peter 05/25/2010 at 08:24 AM

I agree, Jonh M is great. Keep the guys that cover 'lesser' events, bring Jim Arias in, and get rid of Martina Navratilova.

Posted by tennisfan76 05/25/2010 at 09:08 AM

vernonbc - IMO Murray plays a similar style of tennis to Rafael Nadal, although attacking tennis comes more naturally to him than it does to Rafa. Unfortunately, he doesn't have Rafa's ability to "stay in the moment" and sometimes dwells on missed shots or disputed line calls instead of getting on with the job in hand. Roger Federer once said that he was surprised that Djokovic "came into his own" before Murray because he considered Andy M. the more talented player. Maybe Roger was being polite (but I doubt it!) As for his on court behaviour, Murray sets very high standards for himself and gets frustrated when he doesn't meet them. I'd call that "perfectionism" not "whining", but that's probably because I like him and enjoy his thoughtful construction of points.
I totally agree with jewell's earlier point about the British press building Murray up before matches and being hypercritical of him in defeat. A lot of people find the media hype annoying, and I don't blame them. However, blaming Murray for that seems a little unfair.

Posted by Carrie (Vamos Rafa, Venus and Blackhawks!) 05/25/2010 at 09:22 AM

Andy yapping and insulting the umpire over something a machine did. Sigh...Andy I have gotten to like you a lot more but I do dislike your occasional jerkiness.

Posted by TeamNadal 05/25/2010 at 09:24 AM

Ugh Andy, it didn't take long for you to start your bitching ways...

Posted by tina 05/25/2010 at 09:36 AM

Annie - no, the State television only shows matches of their own. I was certain I'd see Ljubicic yesterday - live - but eventually got to see it (taped) at about 11:30 pm, after I'd already seen bits on the news and knew the outcome. The first two days they chose the "wrong" matches for live coverage - Cilic instead of Sprem, then Martic instead of Ljuby. I likely won't get to see a non-Croat until the semis. But such is the life in an island village....

Today's a big day for Slovenia, though, with four singles matches. One big upset, over Monaco, already. But we don't even get to watch our "neighbors".

Posted by Todd and in Charge 05/25/2010 at 10:24 AM

When will AT&T Uverse add the Tennis Channel already?

Sheesh!

Posted by I, TENNIS 05/25/2010 at 11:28 AM

Because it must be said. Dinara Safina should seriously consider retirement. It's gone from predictably embarassing to flat-out sad. I fear it's hopeless...........

Posted by Larry 05/25/2010 at 11:40 AM

I understand, Vernon. I still think most of it is directed at himself; so, while it's unpleasant to watch I think it is actually less whining than what Roddick does when he's in a bad mood, or JP McEnroe, etc.

I watched him in person once, a first-round match at Indian Wells. I think it was against Wesley Moodie, who made a brief run in singles. Moodie is a serve and volleyer and didn't have much chance on the slow courts against Murray, but Andy made it interesting in the first set.

My own take is similar to what someone wrote here a month or so ago. He has childhood trauma related to the massacre at his school in Dunblaine (Sp?), and it is unresolved.

Posted by ashok 05/25/2010 at 12:26 PM

high time we abandoned best of 5 set matches - many of them are too boring anyway and, as the Gasquet-Murray match shows, they often become tests of fitness (Agassi's book Open seems to talk about little else).. this is tennis, not the marathon! I enjoy watching artistry and shot-making, not two gladiators pounding each other to a standstill.. good thing the women haven't been subjected to this madness yet!

Posted by Ruth 05/25/2010 at 12:44 PM

JR: If you're lurking, I want to assure you that ashok is not a second name of mine. (I use just one name -- Ruth.) He/she just happenns to be as smart and as perceptive as I am. ;-)

ashok: The women tried 3/5's for the final of their YEC for a couple years, but they were smart enough to abandon that format when they realized that it proved nothing about the relative proficiency of the players and did not provide any additional entertainment for the fans. Unfortunately, people remember the few very good 3/5 matches and forget about all the others.

Posted by amurti 05/25/2010 at 01:42 PM

So sorry that Gasquet lost - he was definately the better player the first 3 sets and just ran out of steam. He can definately beat any player at the top but must first get into a fitness regime. I just love to watch him play he is brilliant when he is on his game, just magic on the court as he was yesterday against Murraay and especially so against Verdasco last week in Nice. I so want this young man to get his act together and get fit.


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