Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Thinking (Too) Long Term?
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Thinking (Too) Long Term? 09/08/2009 - 6:36 PM

Am On Sunday night Andy Murray stood under the bright lights of Ashe Stadium. He looked crisp in light blue, and he played even more crisply in slicing up that bull in a China closet named Taylor Dent. The spotlight seemed to sharpen the Scot, in both style and substance.

This afternoon in Ashe, the sky was hazy and gray, and Murray’s game followed suit again. In losing to Marin Cilic 7-5, 6-2, 6-2, the No. 2 seed was as sluggish and unfocused as he’s been all year. He said he’d been troubled by a wrist problem for a week, and by a lack of energy in each of his last two matches. I didn’t notice the wrist problems, but the emotional and physical flatness was obvious throughout the last two sets.

Still, it was what happened at the end of the first set that spelled the difference. Up 5-4, 15-40, Murray had two sets points on Cilic’s serve. Until this moment, the match had been going according to the expected script. Cilic, who had never beaten his opponent in three meetings, was “shanking a lot of forehands,” as Murray put it afterward. But the Croat extricated himself with an ace and a well-played point to make it 5-5. Winning this type of game will usually help a player relax, but nobody expected Cilic to relax quite as comprehensively as he did. He went on to play the two best sets of his life. “I’ve never seen him hit the ball so cleanly,” Murray said.

I spent the match watching from a press seat that's lined up with the baseline at the south end of the stadium. This vantage point was telling, particularly when Cilic was on my side of the court. He was obviously hitting the ball well, but he was also playing intelligently and taking advantage of exactly what Murray was giving him, without overcooking it. On many of the rallies, he would set up on top of the baseline, take a floating Murray slice, and hit a penetrating forehand to the inside-out corner. On most occasions, this was enough either to win him the point or put him in an aggressive position. But if it wasn’t, Cilic didn’t feel the need, like so many players, to keep hitting the ball harder and harder and with less and less margin on each subsequent shot—that's a mistake which Murray has built a career on. Instead, if the Scot returned his foray with any kind of depth, Cilic would back off, slice the ball back down the middle, and start his attack over. He said afterward that he was happy that he’d “moved into the court” and “moved him around,” but that when he was “in a tough position, he’d stay in the rally.” Of course, Cilic also bashed aces and on many points he didn't need to step back at all. He would just send the first forehand he saw blazing into the corner for a blatant winner.

All of this is a testament to Cilic’s patience and the tactical acumen he brought to this match. His longtime coach, Bob Brett, has always lauded his intelligence and willingness to do what it takes to get better and not take short cuts. The trouble was, as Murray noted today, that Cilic simply gave away too many points with his loopy, busy ground strokes. He didn’t hit the ball cleanly enough for long enough to go deep at a Grand Slam. In his presser today, Cilic said with a laugh that he was relieved to finally get past the round of 16 at a major—this was his fifth trip there—and get that “blockade” out of his head. 

But Cilic’s ability to choose his tactics from the baseline today, to have the opportunity to press forward and then step back, is also a testament to how much time and turf Murray gives up in a rally. This season has been his most defensive, on clay, hard, and even grass courts. He’s relied on his speed, his ability to counterpunch in a varied and crafty way that can’t easily be attacked, and a return of serve that he uses as a forcing weapon. The formula has worked on most days; Murray is 53-8 in 2009. But it’s also a tactic that’s predicated on his opponents ultimately making a mistake or giving him an opening, and those aren’t as easy to come by at the Grand Slams. Everyone in the Top 15 or 20 has arranged their schedules to peak for these two weeks. Over the course of seven matches, you’re virtually guaranteed to come across at least one player who is dialed in. And Murray has: His four Slam losses this year all came to guys who were playing above their normal levels. His passive style is a giving one, for better and for worse—Murray gives his opponents a chance to self-destruct, but he also gives them a chance to find their best form.

Murray, hunched low and with his voice even lower, spoke in his usual inflectionless, philosophical monotone in his press conference afterward. Asked if this was the biggest disappointment of his career, he said, with the ultimate in matter-of-factness, “My tennis career, yeah.” Asked a few seconds later what he would learn from this U.S. Open and this match, he said, “I’ll go and sit down with the guys that I work with and see what went well this whole year and what didn’t go so well, and work as hard as I can on it to be ready to win a Slam in Australia.” Murray also stated that he was very pleased with his season overall.

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with these statements. What else can he say, really? But to hear Murray deliver them so flatly, after watching him play with so little fire, I started to wonder if he’s thinking too long term, if he’s putting his progress and his setbacks in too much perspective. There’s no one more rigorous, even-keeled, or methodical in his training than Murray is right now. It’s almost as if he’s trying to take his famously edgy emotions, which overtook him on more than a few occasions in the past, out of the equation. When your focus is the long view at all costs—notice that Murray didn’t say what he would learn from this Open, but from the season as a whole—you can treat each loss as just another in an inevitable chain of losses. Murray stopped short of saying afterward that he couldn’t do anything out there against Cilic, or that his opponent was simply playing too well. But that’s how Murray looked when he was playing; he and his entourage exchanged bitter smiles after a few of Cilic's winners. 

At 2-3 in the third, already down a break, Murray ran out early after the changeover and fired himself up when Cilic shanked a backhand to make it 0-15. On the next point, though, he missed an easy forehand long, and the surge was over after one point. It was clearly way past time for a Plan B; but what Plan B would Murray have instituted? From where he’s used to playing on the court, it would take an eternity for him to work himself into the net. At most tournaments, you can lose and still believe that your overall system is working, that it will even out in the long term. But there’s no long term when it comes to Grand Slams. If, like Andy Murray, you want to win a few of them—most top guys have about 40 decent shots at the majors during their career—you don’t have that luxury. You have to live in the here and now.


Posted by gliciouss 09/08/2009 at 06:41 PM


Posted by Andrew 09/08/2009 at 06:58 PM

Steve, I didn't see much of the match, but I liked this piece of analysis: "On many of the rallies, he would set up on top of the baseline, take a floating Murray slice, and hit a penetrating forehand to the inside-out corner. On most occasions, this was enough either to win him the point or put him in an aggressive position. But if it wasn’t, Cilic didn’t feel the need, like so many players, to keep hitting the ball harder and harder and with less and less margin on each subsequent shot—that's a mistake which Murray has built a career on. Instead, if the Scot returned his foray with any kind of depth, Cilic would back off, slice the ball back down the middle, and start his attack over."

Ernest "Nuke" Gulbis, take note.

Murray is brilliant at "resetting" points - making gets from deep in a corner, then getting back into position in time to split step as if he'd not had to move at all. As you write, this can frustrate a player into overhitting. Not Cilic today, apparently.

It's also worth mentioning, I think, that Murray hits further from the lines during baseline rallies than most of his top 10 peers. Reminds me a bit of Guillermo Canas, who also relied on "box tennis" - hitting the ball into the box made by the baseline, sidelines and service lines, but not aiming most of the time for depth or width.

He relies on mixing up his spins and pace to keep an opponent out of rhythm, and his retrieving ability to keep himself in the point. I call this "anti-flow" - a way of disrupting and demoralising an opponent. It's worked a treat against Federer, much of the time. Problem is, you have to get to Federer first.

Posted by zer0 09/08/2009 at 07:04 PM

nice pic

it really describes the "arrrrrrgggghhhh"

Posted by mirko337 09/08/2009 at 07:06 PM

You have to live in the here and true

Posted by Rea IV 09/08/2009 at 07:06 PM

"His passive style is a giving one, for better and for worse—Murray gives his opponents a chance to self-destruct, but he also gives them a chance to find their best form."

I think for me, the question is wether Murray has the ability to be agressive or not. I notice that he lacks power, and that's for me explains why he's too passive on court.

Posted by tennisfan14 09/08/2009 at 07:35 PM

i think murray played sluggish and wasnt aggressive at all

Posted by SK 09/08/2009 at 07:48 PM

I thoroughly enjoyed this - a nice insightful piece of writing.
I haven't seen the match, but the analysis crystallizes Murray's general playing style very well.

Posted by TennisFan2 (vamos flying under radar) 09/08/2009 at 07:58 PM

Murray was just too passive today to play against someone as good as Cilic. Kudos to Cilic.

Posted by tahera01 09/08/2009 at 08:02 PM

Sorry to burst anyone' s bubble but I am not surprised that Murray lost. He might be the number 2 player in the world but he can't hold a candle yet to Federer or Nadal. He is not aggressive enough. He might win his first slam when Fed retires. Until then he needs to wait and wait. It's one thing to beat the big boys in non slam events. It's a whole different story trying to win 3 sets from Federer or Nadal in a slam. To me Fed and Rafa are the best.

Posted by theGuo 09/08/2009 at 08:20 PM

Seems to me like Federer is the only tennis player right now to be able to consistently win a lot of 3 out of 5 matches. His mentality is really tough, and I don't think Murray has that confidence or ability to win a grand slam yet. Just my opinion.

Posted by reckoner 09/08/2009 at 08:24 PM

jemaine... present
bret... present
murray... (not) present, going home without a fight, completely crumpled and capitulated to cilic in straights

Posted by John 09/08/2009 at 08:28 PM

"He might win his first slam when Fed retires"
Or maybe when Rafa can't play so well because his injuries?
I hope from now Rafa can be "injuries free" and he can play his really game, then it's going to be very difficult to all of them to beat him

Posted by Maria 09/08/2009 at 08:28 PM

Hi Steve,

Nice analysis -- I always thought that Murray's game is too defensive and his style of waiting and really teasing the opponent into making errors is even a bit distasteful at times. Obviously this style is not very successful when he runs into someone focused, hitting well and aggressively. What helped establish his reputation more than anything was that he enjoyed success over Federer a few times -- but this was over a short stretch of a few months while Federer was in a bit of a slump. I doubt this trend will continue in the future. With Nadal he's had far less success. (Other than that, he's won a few Masters tournaments but this is not really so unheard of or impressive.)

Posted by Ray T. 09/08/2009 at 08:36 PM

Great analysis of this match, Steve. While everybody was repeating Gulbis' echo machine last year, Cilic slowly and steadily rose through the rankings getting as high as #13 this summer after winning 3 singles titles and taking Croatia to the Davis Cup semi-finals. Being still only 20, it was a given that he would eventually break through at a Grand Slam, and it's only surprising to those who haven't paid attention (ie: ESPN's gossipers and the regular kids here).

Cilic is indeed an intelligent player and he is taking it one step at the time mastering it all along the way. It will be quite amusing to see the shocked reactions when he will without a doubt cruise to win a Grand Slam someday...

Posted by Ryota 09/08/2009 at 08:40 PM

Why does Murray have to be always lumped with Nadal and Federer? Again, what has Murray really done to be mentioned with those two? I've always maintained that until he wins a grand slam by beating either of those players he doesn't and shouldn't be classified with them. Djokovic has done more than Murray.

Funny thing is when Murray ascended to Number 2 in the world there wasn't a lot of howl (unlike what's happening to Safina) even though he has underperformed in the Slams. At least, Safina got to 2 finals this year! With this loss, will Murray go back to Number 3 or remain at 2 depending on Nadal's progress?

Posted by andrea 09/08/2009 at 08:45 PM

jeez. it really puts into light what roger has accomplished. i mean, how does he keep doing it? with all these youngsters self imploding (save for nadal), fed really has to be off his game or have his opponent play the match of his life to lose.

but then again....roddick DID play the match of his life at wimbledon this year and roger still found a way to win.

roger has kind of soldiered on at the US Open this year with all the hype and drama really on the women's side and then the upsets on the men's side (roddick, murray). this has been one of the most interesting US opens to date. the new few days will be outstanding tennis!

Posted by teejustice 09/08/2009 at 08:45 PM

LOL! Nice FOTC reference reckoner! And Murray is usually the one taking roll

Posted by teejustice 09/08/2009 at 08:46 PM

oh, and of course great analysis Steve. I really enjoyed this piece.

Posted by David 09/08/2009 at 08:49 PM

Is Murray's greatest strength, namely his high level of fitness, directly correlated to his strategic failures? He seems too content to wait out the point, is too confident he will outlast his opponent, and thus leaves too many openings for the opponent to hit a winner. 8 point enders in a Grand Slam match should send up the red flags in Murray's camp that he needs to hone his attack.

Posted by vv_varaiya 09/08/2009 at 08:56 PM

On balance the torpid play of Murray allowed Cilic to dictate. Cilic has several technical flaws in his forehand which in the cool overcast weather did not break down as normally it would.

The commenting on ESPN has been vicious regarding Murray.

The ESPN chicken hawks: Patrick McEnroe, Pam Shriver (a bitter scorned woman) and Chris Fowler and to a lesser degree Mary Jo and Darren Cahill. These clowns have never won a Grandslam singles title. Yet they are merciless/ruthless/condescending regarding any player that stumbles in their ascent to one. Murray is eviscerated for poor tactics, mis-directed training, questionable effort, lack of heart and mediocre talent because of this loss. How quickly they pile on and brand Murray's 2009 a failure.

Brad Gilbert has a balanced view, and gleans positive and negative impressions. Patrick McEnroe comes off childish in his absolute condemnations of players' games/abilities. Johnny Mac, no stranger to dishing tough criticisms, also has a more nuanced analysis. Patrick McEnroe doesn't belong. He's progressed from a deer-in-the-headlights commentating style to a "I'm in charge here" over-confident quick-to-blame mode of commentating.

Would you ever want to be in a dark room with Pam Shriver? She would kick you where it hurts for fun. The woman exudes negativity from her crow-feet lined eyes and wrinkled visage... no wonder George dumped her. She enjoys piling on negative comments.

Posted by d'alba 09/08/2009 at 09:00 PM

Sooooo happy for Cilic, and extremely happy not to have to hear more about smug AM.

Posted by les 09/08/2009 at 09:15 PM

Why no discussion of the up and coming Celic - only 20 years old and an intelligent, powerful, tactically strong and dangerous player. It is as though only Murray existed in that match.
Damn it - Celic earned his win profoundly and soundly. Give him credit and a chance to be counted as a future star.
The pundits are just sore because their predictions are crumbling all around them - the latest being Tsongas. It is an insult to the numerous great talents - older and new- out there to harp incessantly on just a chosen few. It is also a distortion (and boring one at that) of player dynamics on the tour - men and women alike.

Posted by kchowcrazy - Get Your 12th ReRe!!! 09/08/2009 at 09:17 PM

I think this point perfectly crystalises Murrays problem -
"His passive style is a giving one, for better and for worse—Murray gives his opponents a chance to self-destruct, but he also gives them a chance to find their best form."

His increased fitness has made him more defensive because he knows he can wear down opponents, however where he differs from say Nadal is that he can't as quickly change his mindset in a macth from defence to offense, meaning he allows opponents another shot when hes got them where he wants them.
I'm really dissappointed with Murrays loss, after last year final i was expecting him to build on that instead he got taken out by hot players he shouldn't lose to, at all the slams. The worst in my eyes even though most won't agree was Gonzo at the French. The draw had opened up so well for him and even on his worst surface if he had played even at 80% i think he could have made the semis, instead hes gets bagled and goes down in 4. I give him till next years USO, if he hasn't won a slam by then i can't really see it happening.

Posted by tina (ajde, Marine!) 09/08/2009 at 09:23 PM

I thought the ESPN team was far more condescending towards Cilic - the winner! Pat Mac kept wondering aloud if Cilic could hold his nerve in the 3rd set today, and predicted that he wouldn't be able to do so against JMDP in the quarters.

For a so-called expert, commentating on television, Pat Mac apparently wasn't even watching Cilic as Croatia blew away the USA in Davis Cup less than two months ago.

Posted by gustavo kloh, brazil 09/08/2009 at 09:26 PM


Posted by tina (ajde, Marine!) 09/08/2009 at 09:27 PM

hold his nerve in the 3rd set when he was up a double break, I might add.

Posted by Julia 09/08/2009 at 09:32 PM

How about some focus on the true young talents coming up - Cilic and Delpotro? And more on the two giants at the top, Rafa and Roger?

Murray has been totally over-hyped by the too powerful British media. If he was from South America his failures on the big stages would have rung alarm bells more. Instead all these commentators persist in picking him to win for no reason except hype.

Oh, and most of his wins against Federer have been when Federer was in his post mono slump (including first tournament after recovery) or with his back problems (this year earlier on and at Shanghai Masters). Rafa thrashed him at Indian Wells.

Posted by Sufer 09/08/2009 at 10:11 PM

Have you even been right with one prediction this year? Besides Wimbledon, because I am not sure who you picked there. But you picked Murray for TWO slams to win. You're a bandwagon jumper just like most other tennis journalists. Despite having won two slams and a beaten Murray two weeks ago, you still went with the bandwagon and didn't pick Federer.

Posted by yawn 09/08/2009 at 10:28 PM

I think all the tennis journalists and other "experts" (Johnny Mac) get into a kind of group-think frenzy. Hence, last year the Djoker was the consensus pick to win the US Open 'cos he had gotten to the final the year before; the Fed was over the hill and all that. This year, MAndy was the pick for the same reason. All the "experts" talk among themselves and come up with the same storyline. Doesn't say much about their powers of observation, but as long as they pretty much all remain way off base, none of them looks more clueless than the rest. You'd think that intelligent humans would learn from their past mistakes, but somehow I suspect that come the Australian Open, all the "experts" will leap on the same group-think bandwagon again, citing their own collective "wisdom".

Posted by evie 09/08/2009 at 10:30 PM

To be fair, he was asked about how he would sum up his season, not the USO. Why do reporters always take answers and pretend there weren't questions first?

I can't imagine what happened to Murray today, or in his Slams this year overall. Your theory is as good of one as any. He always seems relaxed, I wonder if he is a closet panicker. I agree with him that he was also flat against Dent. He didn't seem to be enjoying himself like I'd expect with a night crowd, even if it was against an American.

This exit is about on par with Nole exiting in the second round of Wimby. A huge shock that no one, probably even him, can completely explain.

It's a brutal, unforgiving sport. One bad day and you're out.

Posted by matt.tippen 09/08/2009 at 10:59 PM

Great Article ..

You pretty much express the same fears I have over Murrays game i.e. theres no top gear - or altenratively for matching fire with fire .

Posted by Ade 09/08/2009 at 11:10 PM

Agree Steve. Murray can't just wait around and wait for errors. Some players are too smart for that tactic. That's why Fed beat him in Cincy. He played more aggressive.

Poor Andy. I like him and feel bad he lost. Just had a bad day....and picked the wrong strategy.

Posted by mw 09/08/2009 at 11:35 PM

Ryota said:

"Why does Murray have to be always lumped with Nadal and Federer? Again, what has Murray really done to be mentioned with those two?"

I absolutly agree. Just alot of wishful thinking out there..

Posted by mw 09/08/2009 at 11:37 PM

Ryota said:

"Why does Murray have to be always lumped with Nadal and Federer? Again, what has Murray really done to be mentioned with those two?"

I absolutly agree...Just alot of wishful thinking out there.

Posted by kevin 09/09/2009 at 12:06 AM

Andy murray love to talk and he really want to become # 1 but he just talk and it never happen . i want every player get a Gl accept him

Posted by lois 09/09/2009 at 12:11 AM

One thing I do know about murry is- He won't be #2 anymore,thats Rafa's place........VAMOS RAFA

Posted by Sher 09/09/2009 at 12:18 AM

Steve, I'd like to congratulate you on your very accurate prediction about Murray in january this year. When every single tennis observer was predicting at least a slam for Murray, starting with AO, and practically turning into a calendar slam by the time they were done, you predicted that he wouldn't win a single slam this year. And you were right. Unfortunately. (I agreed with you back then, which is why I bring it's not entirely unselfish).

I think that it was the right call, obviously, because there was too much hype around Andy and Roger and Rafa are still way too good to be beaten without a monumental effort at a slam (who knows, maybe there's a hero in this very draw, tho!). And I think that next year Murray will be an incredibly dangerous opponent because he'll be feeling a bit more pressure to win NOW, rather than thinking he has all those opportunities...

Posted by JimF 09/09/2009 at 12:19 AM

The McEnroe's were ridiculing Cilic's serve, but that was largely what won him the match. The McEnroe's said he doesn't serve as big as del Potro, which is true, but Cilic served in ways I don't recall seeing before.

Murray tried to come in on Cilic's second serve, so Cilic served short in the box -- something you'd normally be ridiculed for -- using his height to make the ball land short and kick up high on Murray even when he crowded the service line. Murray had no idea what to do with those balls. Very interesting.

Cilic also passed well when Murray made (rare) attempts to get to the net.

McEnroe's bias against Cilic was also remarkable. Terrible announcing that instead of increasing our enjoyment of a good match, got in the way.

Posted by Sher 09/09/2009 at 12:20 AM

[His passive style is a giving one, for better and for worse—Murray gives his opponents a chance to self-destruct, but he also gives them a chance to find their best form.]

And Federer was lambasted by the media for mentioning that this very passive style would cost Andy... But it's true.

Posted by JimF 09/09/2009 at 12:21 AM

I'm glad to see how many commentators agree that the McEnroe's TV dialog is extremely poor and biased.

Posted by Azhdaja 09/09/2009 at 12:34 AM

well, Murray has been overhyped again. The media just damaged him. Just like they did to Djoker. (That guy has tough timer to find his lost game that he already had 1.5 years ago.).

When Murr is gonna win his slam? Maybe never? He has to wait for Rafa or Rog to retire. Well, that's not gonna do it. Now DelPotro already stepped in, Cilic is coming up too, and Djoker is already past due for his next slam title. So, Murray might have to wait long time before he gets his turn. If ever. Some new kids showing up every season.

Posted by roGER 09/09/2009 at 12:45 AM

Andy has simply been really unlucky this season - he's had the misfortune of meeting Roddick (at Wimbledon) and Cilic yesterday. Both men happen to have been playing their best tennis ever. Roddick in particular was inspired at Wimbledon.

At this US Open Roddick pretty much returned to form; maybe a notch below it. The same return to the average level will happen to Cilic, either next game or next tournament. To win a slam for the first time, a player may have to have a little luck. Murry's certainly had luck this season - the bad kind.

Posted by Ryota 09/09/2009 at 12:56 AM

Players make their own luck. In all of his 4 loses in slams this year, he was outplayed. The players simply didn't want to play his style of game - they took the initiative and pounded Murray. He didn't step up. Luck has nothing to do with these losses.

Murray may be the best player in the best-of-3 format but he needs to get his head wrapped around the fact that slams are best-of-5. Passivity won't get him near the title. If anything, one ca argue that, Murray was the lucky one last year when he played a gassed Nadal in the semis.

Posted by palii 09/09/2009 at 01:14 AM

Andy too much of a long term thinker.

I think Ana has the opposite problem. She dwells too much on her losses.

I love the psychology involved in tennis. love. it.

Posted by Betsy Y 09/09/2009 at 01:24 AM

Great piece by Steve. I like the reader comments too, especially ones by Ryota. Murray has just been underwhelming at the slams this year and I don't think it's because he's necessarily performing under par, but the expectations are probably way too high! By the way, I didn't see most of the Murray match so I can't comment on Johnny Mac's calling of it, but i have to say that I prefer his commentary and believe it is very tempered compared to some of the other espn/ commentators. Particularly the arrogant & horribly self-righteous Doug Adler (who is he anyway?) and his British sidekick who just loved to agree with him, as they destroyed any ounce of enjoyment from the Tsonga-Gonzalez match today. They not only judged but tore apart both of the players, barely expressing any awe or positiveness about these 2 explosive unpredictable players. Do they want every player to be as clinical and boring as Murray?? Also Luke Jensen is almost as bad with his diarrhea of the mouth and overanalyzing. Pat McEnroe is also bad. I don't mind Pam Shriver or Darren Cahill.

Posted by ahmed ashraf 09/09/2009 at 01:52 AM

murray's defensive game absorbs too much energy, and in a grandslam playing best of 5 sets it is really difficult to stay healthy for 2 long and tiring weeks.
what murray needs to develop in his game and would help him alot if he can win more free points on his serve, and try to use his excellent return of serve by moving forward and capitalizing on it instead of getting behind the baseline .

Posted by linex 09/09/2009 at 02:06 AM

A very good analysis. But still I guess every player has a style and Murray if happy about his. I do not think that he will change his tactics because of these losses. He may yes try to further improve his serve and add some aggresiveness to his shots but I guess he will live or die by his own standards and skills. And in my view, his game does not include a killer weapon. His return of serve maybe his best shot but still he is not a better returner than let us say Rafa Nadal or the best David Nalbandian. His shots lack pop. As I said plenty of times he is the masculine version of Hingis, only that Hingis was a prodigy, a genius who managed to win 3 of her 5 singles Grand Slams when only 16 years old.

Posted by Ro'ee 09/09/2009 at 02:18 AM

At one point, Andy chipped back two forehands when he wasn't under pressure. he won the point, but maybe losing it would have been better for him. All it did was reaffirm his view that he could win without taking the initiative.
A couple of days ago Pete talked about Delpo playing too cautiously.
It struck me as weird that we were considering JM as too cautious while Murray's still around.

Posted by Ro'ee 09/09/2009 at 02:20 AM

btw, with the loss Murray loses his #2 ranking.
when the points come of it's RMF,DBR,Andy,Djoker, and either ARod or Delpo

Posted by ashok korwar 09/09/2009 at 02:54 AM

i think the plain fact is Murray is over-rated.. I was amazed at journalists who picked him to beat Federer in the finals - when has he ever done that, or come close to it? The US Open rewards aggressive play, and punishes defensive play - even the great Borg never won here.. you can't win at Flushing Meadow without weapons, and Murray only proved that again..

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 09/09/2009 at 02:54 AM

Interesting piece, Steve, and good point about putting everything into perspective.

What I want to know is what happened to the stunning changes from defence to offence? Have those gone, or have other players got wiser to Murray's tactics?

for me, Murray hasn't been playing as well this HC season as he was last season. First serve not as good, and more passive than he was then, too. But perhaps I'm just making it up.

for all this talk of the horrible British press - you know, some of these comments make them redundant. LOL.

The prediction of Murray taking this one was not insane before the tournament began, based on previous form up to the USO and last year's tournament result for Murray. I think most people had Federer as the favourite, no? I do not understand why people are personally offended by someone picking Murray to win...It was just a prediction, not a calculated insult to other players.

Posted by Thomas 09/09/2009 at 04:22 AM

Very nice to see Cilic win!

Murray is not exactly a rethorical gifted person (either). 80 "you know"s during the training too? (That goes for Nadal as well by the way.)

Posted by rock 09/09/2009 at 04:30 AM

steve,your two btes are,roddick and murray.Next time,stop predicting...

Posted by rock 09/09/2009 at 04:32 AM

murray will not win grans slam,until federer,nadal and djokovic retires...

Posted by rock 09/09/2009 at 04:40 AM

Steve, your two bets to win the us open are gone.Next time stop predicting...

Posted by barry (not Barry) 09/09/2009 at 04:41 AM

talk about short term thinking! appears everyone is jumping off the bandwagon.

luck is a huge part of life, the timing of when one is born, who you get in a draw, when a verdasco, roddick, or cilic catches on fire.

murray has the game and will win multiple slams, perhaps they'll come sporadically like with sharapova, maybe it'll happen in a burst as with mauresmo. (can't use any recent males as examples thanks to rafa and roger)

he'll learn to go to plan B sooner, that plan being aggressive play mode. he's into continuous learning. andy will learn from this very, very successful year of his (with the exception of his performance in flushing). he has shown the ability to execute a different game plan like in madrid and paris last year, taking the offensive against rafa.

andy will learn to change plans in midstream, he didn't at AO against Verdasco, was simply outserved at Wimbledon, perhaps the wrist affected his willingness to fight yesterday. we will see in andy the ability to do what nadal accomplished against monfils; weather the storm and get a bit more aggressive to induce doubt in his opponent. and then watch them crumble.

to win a boat load of majors, join the ranks of rafa and roger, andy will become a bit more aggressive and especially improve upon his 1st serve percentage. the big 5 (Djokovic and JMDP) will rule another couple of years until an Isner/Karlovic like player with better coordination takes the game on a path in which we wonder if the net needs to be raised or the playing surface expanded.

Posted by Thejo krishna 09/09/2009 at 05:35 AM

Murray has a lot to work on his basic style of hitting the tennis ball if he needs to hang at the top.
If you repeat the question --- why are Federer and Nadal, simply the two best players on the planet?
Answer == The way they hit their forehands, period.

Take Fed's case --- In a rally, how many times have you seen him hit a ball with too much top spin, looping the ball over and over? very little. His forehand is lethal, why?? because he gets into position early and hits the ball in a laser like motion --- FLAT and low. If the opponent is good enough to return, the next shot is even more lethal because the return would not be deep enough.
The technique is the key here. Notice how Fed's arm moves and his chest is flat to the net.

Now take Nadal's case ---- He does the exact opposite of what Fed does. Tremendous top spin, extreme grip. So, if you want to make a living out of loopy top spin shots, play like Nadal, but there can be only one Nadal.

Now, come to Murray's game --- His forehand is never flat (unless its a sitter), keeps moving the ball to the left and write with top spin, but easy ones which can be put away by a player who can flatten the ball --- Guys like Cilic, Gonzalez and of course Fed.
Most importantly, notice Murray's upper body --- the whole body rotates for his forehand, it might be helping him in changing direction, but never speed. Your chest ALWAYS has to be parallel to the net, and if you are playing the pros you have to be balanced.

This has been the perennial problem for Roddick, he was like this for several years, just looping the ball to the left and right. He has improved now with his ground strokes though.

Posted by Thejo krishna 09/09/2009 at 05:43 AM

I can never forget Andre Agassi's commentary when Fed was playing Andy Roddick in last year's US Open. He was comparing Fed's game with that of Sampras. He said, "If you play a great game with Pete, he will beat you 5 and 6 (7-5, 7-6), if you play a bad game with Pete he will STILL beat you 5 and 6. If you play a good game with Fed, he will drop 5 and 6 on you, BUT if you play a bad game with Fed, he will drop 1 and 1 on you. Basically he squeezes you from every part of the game, from every part of the court."

The most important thing with Fed's game is, you can feel that he is on the lookout to make things happen rather than simply hanging around and hitting the ball and waiting for the opponent to make mistakes. This natural strategy has so many advantages to it --- you play fewer rallies, you are less tired, hence fit to play many tournaments. Remind us of Nadal's strategy, right? Now look how he is struggling to change his game and strategy, but lets give it to him, he is a fighter, the best the game has seen, he will learn and soon be invincible.

Mr Murray, you are a solid player, but these are the things we have to learn from the top 2 before it is too late.

Posted by Sliceman 09/09/2009 at 06:24 AM

When I watched the Cincy semi between Fed and Murray, it seems clear that Roger had though long and hard about how to play Murray after the losses early in the year - perhaps Nadal's extended absence made him focus on the Scot more too. The world number 2 is a pretty big target for players and everyone knows how he plays now. Cillic's patience in resetting points shows this.

Murray's not doing too much wrong but he's is relying on others for his fortune imo. He will likely stumble to a slam or two in this manner, particularly when Fed is further along his career arc, but he will be aiming at more than that I think. It will be hard for Andy to modify a style that has established him as a top player but I think some minor modification is likely over the close season. At his best he seems a counter attacker rather than a defender...

I think men's tennis is better off with a tactical player of Murray's ilk in it. Let's not get the the hero to zero stick - leave that to our(I am a Brit) idiotic press.

The British hyping of Murray does skew things - and not just expectations. Bettfair had odds of 13.1 (about 12-1) on Cillic before the start. I'm no gambler but I could not resist those!

Posted by princepro110 09/09/2009 at 07:35 AM

Yes, I was surprised Cilic beat Murray but then again this was the most errors I saw Murray make in a long time. It had to be he worst match at the Open in the last few years.

I sat through the Cilics 5 set match with Jesse Levine on Court 11 last week and saw a guy who should have been gone in the second round but for a total breakdown of Levine after a two set lead. Cilic did not win it but lost to a guy who broke down without a clue.

If see no way he wins a set off Del Potro.

Posted by ebh 09/09/2009 at 07:36 AM

Not to take away from Murray's win over Nadal at last year's USO, but just trying to add to the "Murray's style tires him out too much to win a best of 5 from the good ones," remember that his win over Nadal was over 2 days. The first day he started out strong, but then Nadal was starting to play really well. I am sure Murray still would've won that day, but it is food for thought. Other than Nadal over 2 days, has he ever beaten Federer or Nadal in a GS in 1 day? Or Novak for that matter?

Posted by FedFan 09/09/2009 at 08:03 AM

Insightful piece, to some extent. I cannot agree more with your analysis of Murray's passive game - much like Nadal's without the killer spin and mentality - and how he has made a career out of making the person across the net make mistakes. However, I do not agree with your analysis of how Murray views this loss. Could it be because this was the last slam of the season that Murray said he has to take a look at what worked the whole year and what didn't? Players like Murray who are financially gifted to have a great team backing them have too much research power to take too long a perspective on one failure.

Posted by rafurafa 09/09/2009 at 08:06 AM

could never agree more with the final comment in the article- "you have to live the here and now". Andy and the british press must start to realise that winning is about now not continuous improvement - murray admires nadal alot I think more than any other current player - but he hasnt learnt what rafa learnt years ago - you have got to strike when the iron is hot - the only important point is the next one. Come on Andy lets start winning when you have to win.

Posted by ebh 09/09/2009 at 08:14 AM

I wouldn't say Murray's game is like Nadal's. Both are great defenders. Murray serves harder. Nadal plays the net better (his backhand overhead is the best in the game). Both get to balls better than anyone (well, Fed and Monfils do as well). Murray returns better than anyone (I think). But, Nadal has one huge quality that Murray does not have yet. Nadal can be on the run in defense mode, making incredible gets and then all of a sudden he does the impossible. Instead of simply getting the ball back over the net, he will make an increidible offensive shot from a seemingly impossible position. Murray does not do that yet. No one does that better than Nadal. Not even Fed on a regular basis. Oh and someone said earlier that Fed does not hit with topspin much. That is not true. I think only Nadal hits with more.

Posted by Moose 09/09/2009 at 08:16 AM

I think the player really flying under the radar is Verdasco. Did everybody forget the Aussie semi and an overall good year by the Spaniard. He's scary. I'm glad Murray lost too much hype and he's just annoying to watch on court. Still I called a Nadal-Fed final and I'm sticking to it. Just hope that Verdasco or Del Potro doesn't rain on that parade.

Btw, I saw Del Potro in person this past week, he's absolutely ridiculous.

Posted by Ian (Bitter, Scorned) of the Desert 09/09/2009 at 08:36 AM

--from vv__varaiya:

"Pam Shriver (a bitter scorned woman)"

LOL! Wow, vv. My jaw dropped at that...perhaps in distaste, perhaps in agreement. I'm not certain which, but I think that's just a bit much...and, trust me, I'm usually a guy who says a bit much, m'self.

Weirdly funny line, though. I applaud you for making my day, vv. I'm obviously easy-to-please.

In perspective, Tignor, Bodo, and others have never won a Grand Slam title, or have even competed at the pro level. For all we know, vv, your granny could could kick Peter Bodo's butt on the tennis court.

Nevertheless, these guys are still exceptional tennis analysts and commentators. I've been a tad frustrated with bits & pieces of ESPN's maiden voyage into this extensive Open coverage, but I'm grateful for its maidenhood, because (like many of us here) I couldn't get to the Open this year. Go, ESPN! They'll improve, if we show some love.

Overall, I'd have to give the highest marks (in terms of TV commentary) to Mary Joe Fernandez. She's morphed into a graceful, sharp, insightful analyst and, best of all, she's not too gabby...not always trying for some witty quip that falls flat. Granted, her tennis clout is subtly HUGE. Her hubby is Roger Fed's trusty agent, and Mary Joe is no slouch to begin-with.

I love her beautiful, graceful Latina composure. She's very natural, and, in my opinion, Mary Joe remains the best women's player never-to-have-won-a-Slam, hands down. She peaked during the Graf/Seles/Sabatini/Sanchez-Vicario era (reaching No. 4 in the world, 1990), and the girl never "played down" (i.e. entered a ton of low-tier events just to get lots of titles under her belt). She put herself on the line, against the best, constantly. Still, MJ managed many deep runs at Slams, including three finals and some heartbreaker losses to Seles and Graf in other pivotal matches. Great player. Great perspective. Potentially great Fed Cup coach. I love watching how she has to temper her commentary on the Williams' matches because she desperately needs the sisters. It's lame that she has to do that, but at least she does it with integrity. I love Veenie & 'Reenie, but, one day, the world will *not* be beating a path to their door, and they could be a bit less...well, nevermind.

Pam Shriver may be bitter and scorned, but if she is, she has every right to be--she was scorned by Evert and Navratilova. Scorned by the best, honey. And gawky Pammy still managed to win lots of singles events, many well deserved Slams as a doubles queen with Martina Navratilova, and marry a James Bond. That last, alone, makes Pam eternally cool, even if the James Bond she married was a bit...well, nevermind.

Pam does come across as a bit of a whiner, at times, so I can't completely knock your assessment, vv, but she's always been known to have a really sardonic sense of humor on the tour. Maybe that doesn't always translate well to commentary, but I think she does a fine, funny job with what they give her, in terms of her job, running around the gall-darned stadium like Big Bird from Sesame Street. She's accomplished, and she's a Hall of Fame star--don't be too hard on Pammy.

Mostly, I gotta give props to the commentary this year. Lindsay Davenport is really (possibly) coming into something grand as a commentator on Tennis Channel. Martina Navratilova is...okay. But then again, Martina gets a free pass on anything short of grand theft auto. She's Martina...and it's not easy being Martina. Never has been.

Patrick McEnroe is chipper & earnest as usual. Ho hum. The gifted Mary Carillo is really impressing me more than ever by the way she's obviously learned to keep her trap shut and observe, yet still come-up with knock-out bits and memorable quips ("The Great Oudini" in ref to Melanie was her creation, after all). John McEnroe is overrated but awfully insightful. I can't imagine the booth without him. Cahill is extremely insightful, too, though awkward, and thus who cares about awkward? The guy just spews great inside info about training and coaching mindsets. Love those bits.

Brad Gilbert...well, he still looks like a kid that's been scrubbed too hard by his momma and shoved (reluctantly) into a monkey-suit for his First Communion, but he's blunt and he's got a keen eye, despite his lack of polish.

Jim Courier is cerebral, and would be ideal for the BBC's Wimby coverage. Otherwise...

I still say that, if one of the networks wanted to invest a good three-four million into hyping the Slams with an analyst that could not only draw viewers but deliver the goods, they'd never find anyone better than Agassi. I'm amazed by what I've seen from this legend in the booth. I'd tune-in just to watch Agassi call a match--any match. But he's busy improving the planet, and I frankly wish him (and Schteffi) godspeed in those efforts.

My only gripe is Bud Collins. Why? In thirty years of watching televised tennis, I never saw the point of Bud Collins, even in his unofficial role as 'hallowed tennis historian' (BTW: his "historical" book is pockmarked with innaccuracies) and he's jarring. As jarring as a nosedive into an ice-cold lake on an already cloudy day. But that is only my taste and opinion. After all, I happen to really like Peter Bodo's desperately quick video commentaries--the man says his "thang" and doesn't waste time peeling the potato with a butter-knife.

No, I'm not one of the fans who winces when commentators emerge (though I don't judge fans whoprefer to turn down the volume, either). I actually appreciate most of the gang. Look forward to them. The thing I really have begun to hate is the screaming, by the women. Particularly Sharapova. I mean, I actually liked Seles's grunt--her grunt seemed natural, like Jimmy Connors' grunt, i.e. actually part-and-parcel of the groundstroke mechanics. But as much as I'm pulling for Maria, I cannot stand the screaming. Somebody needs to write a book about the 57-flavors of "Scream" on the women's tour. Can't stand it, and I'm already iffy on the girls' tour. I want Chrissie and Martina and Schteffi and Monica back, forever. But...well, nevermind.

By the way: Murray lost because he's overtraining, overthinking, underplaying, and underestimating too many "lesser" guys, too often, in Slams. Tignor is on-the-money, there, and I haven't read a better hard-core assessment in a while. There's no doubt that Murray has Grand Slam potential, but until he breaks through, it remains an illusion. The whole crappy Brit-pressure thing is so huge on the guy, and that sucks, but if he's a genuine Slam champ, he rises to the occasion and blocks out everything else. That's what champs do. Either/Or.

Whew--I must say. I didn't intend to write an essay, but the Pam Shriver "bitter scorned" thing made me hee haw. Indeed. Thanks again, vv. Enjoy the Open, kids. It's Rodger and Rafael in the final, I suppose, and Kim Clijsters is gonna win it and make Serena cry like Kim's big, bawling 2 year-old baby girl.


Posted by Denise 09/09/2009 at 09:17 AM

Murray has worked hard to improve his game, he deserves much credit for that. But, with all the hype (esp. at Wimbledon) I think he got ahead of himself thinking that he would be #1 by the end of the year. He's improved -- but he's not #1 materieal yet. And, after his loss yesterday, he's not going to be #2 much longer either. Roger and Rafa are still the best !!

Posted by Kumar 09/09/2009 at 09:25 AM

Quick question to all those saying British Press hyping Murray and the pressure on him. What about US media constantly talking about Oudin and her potential?

Isn't it more or the same?


Posted by Babe 09/09/2009 at 10:05 AM

It's ironic that Murray's loss brings out the critics. Before yesterday, his name was already engraved on the trophy--to hear the many "professionals" tell it. They all picked Murray to win--even though he has yet to win his first major. He made one final, but got blown off the court in straights.

Everyone is saying the same things that Federer has said about Murray's game--that it's tough to win with only the strategy of waiting for your opponents' mistake. Murray, Gilbert & the British media haven't forgiven him for this honest assessment. They called him sour, jealous, bitter...etc. Yet yesterday, everyone got a first-hand look at what can happen to Murray when he meets an opponent who is unafraid to step in & shove his defensive shots down his throat.

Murray has gone out of his way to insult Federer & to "get in his face". He tried to get under his skin at Wimbledon--we all know what happened there. Murray forgot, of course, that you need to win big before you can talk big. You need to win, at the very least one slam, before you start making plans to end the year #1.

Perhaps, he will learn, perhaps he will not. Ultimately, it's his problem.

Posted by Babe 09/09/2009 at 10:09 AM

Well said: yawn at 9/8 @ 10:28pm. Absolutely, well said!

Posted by fedgirl 09/09/2009 at 11:15 AM

Hopefully this latest loss will calm down the Murray hysteria. I personally never jumped on the bandwagon and continue to remain sceptical. With his defensive playing style, I don't see him beating top players in the later stages of slams. Plus sooner or later the grinding will break down his body. Case in point, Hewitt and Nadal.

Posted by maedal (Vamos Rafa and the Armada!) 09/09/2009 at 11:20 AM

once again, a thoughtful and insightful essay provokes lively, thoughtful and insightful commentaries.

i have enjoyed reading this thread, esp. since i didn't catch much of the cilic-murray match.

Posted by fedgirl 09/09/2009 at 11:22 AM

Hopefully this latest loss will calm down the Murray hysteria. I never jumped on the bandwagon and continue to remain sceptical. With his defensive playing style, I don't see him beating top players in the later stages of slams. Plus the grinding is sure to break down his body sooner or later. Case in point, Hewitt and Nadal.

Posted by fedgirl 09/09/2009 at 11:28 AM

Sorry for the double post.

Posted by yawn 09/09/2009 at 12:46 PM

More idiocy from one of the "experts", Door-Mats Wilander:,188160
"The world No. 1 has triumphed with such regularity in New York thanks to his fantastic aura and reputation and the fact that there have not been the players in this era ready to step up and challenge him." Door-Mats again propagating the myth that Fed only wins by default 'cos of his weak competition. Kinda sad with all these former players who have to shill for a buck, trotting out these same, lame storylines.

Posted by fedgirl 09/09/2009 at 01:22 PM

Just when I thought, Murray and Nadal's recent struggles and the depth in men's tennis make Roger's accomplishments even more astounding, here comes good old Mats setting the record straight! Don't forget your medication before writing the next column!

Posted by ... 09/09/2009 at 01:39 PM

As far as Wilander is concerned:
If Federer wins, it's because the competition is too weak
If Federer loses, it's because he's over the hill and/or not good enough.

I'm sure Fed couldn't care less what Wilander thinks of him, when he's got the true greats like Pete Sampras and Rod Laver in his corner. The little Swedish troll can spew all the bile he wants for Eurosport, the only venue that will employ him.

Posted by vv_varaiya 09/09/2009 at 01:39 PM


Pam Shriver commentary is focused on the negative aspects of players tactics, strokes, training, technique, etc. She was a solid player in the Evert/Martina era (an exceptional doubles player), but as a commentator she is not at all insightful. PS I like the Big Bird description. Mary Jo has an even keel to her, sort of like a Paula Abdul.

Patrick McEnroe is boring and abrasive. His wife told him early on as a commentator he was a doormat to Cliff Drysdale so he goes into the booth looking to disagree and put down players.

Jim Courier is cerebral and insightful. So is Andre Agassi. JohnnyMaC had his run, and he should give it a rest. Cliff Drysdale is interesting: he was color commentator but he's been around so long now that he's become generic moderator.

Gilbert is thoughtful and is insightful. Definitely a positive contributor.

Posted by Nam1 09/09/2009 at 02:15 PM

Re: commentary about Cilic, time and again Pat Mc said that Cilic could not continue the level of tennis, even when he was close to winning the second set....

That man has got to be the most annoying person on tv, what has he ever done to have the right to make comments about other players who have achiedved much more than him in their careers.

Re: Pam Shriver

"Would you ever want to be in a dark room with Pam Shriver? She would kick you where it hurts for fun. The woman exudes negativity from her crow-feet lined eyes and wrinkled visage... no wonder George dumped her. She enjoys piling on negative comments."

This is harsh but hilarious!! :))

Posted by Chris Oglesby 09/09/2009 at 02:22 PM

Both he and Novak want to be #1, in some ways they think they should be, at least that is always how they have represented themselves too me, but the true Champion, no matter how bad the day always digs deep, I am a Federer Fan, but I am always amazed how Nadal Competes; even when the match is all but over; there is no possibility he will win, he is still, down to the last point pumping his fist, hitting his chest, and that is a true champ. Fed is just as great a champ although, it is some times harder to detect, for he does not emote, this is why fans want the Fed-Nadal finals, because (even though ether player can be upset on any given day) you will never see Fed or Nadal throw in the towel unless continuing would put their career in danger. Novak quit once because he was behind and it was to hot, and Murry quit yesterday because he was behind and who knows why. The true champ would never think of that, even Roddick who may have fell short of his career goals is far more a champ than either of the above. Oh, the other two may win more majors over their career than Rodick, and yes both men have got the better of Fed this year alone, but they had better check their attitudes with their games, especially in the Slams. I'll let you guys fill in the rest.

Posted by Matt 09/09/2009 at 08:30 PM

I think Murray's general style of play is not as defensive as some people say. He is aggressive with his first serve and backhand. I think the weakness or defensiveness is in his forehand primarily. He just doesn't hit it with enough pace or spin. On deuce-court balls that would be attacked by other players, Murray simply uses his forehand to continue the rally safely. I'm not sure exactly what technically is wrong with it, but it doesn't look like he goes for it and the stroke feels so different to, say the forehand of Gonzalez, Federer, Tsonga, Nadal etc. I feel like he goes under and over without much acceleration instead of under and through the ball with extreme acceleration. Anyway, I think this technical weakness promotes and makes chronic his defensive mentality. Thoughts?

Posted by Zico 09/09/2009 at 09:32 PM

Every time Murray looses early in a slam, I am surprised. The guy really has the tennis and the self-belief to win multiples slams. Bu somehow he looses against lesser players. If he doesn't make the slams his one and only priority (forget about the masters 1000), this is going to develop into a big psychological hurdle.

Posted by Tony 09/10/2009 at 06:21 AM

This US Open might be the crossroads for the Scot: either Murray retires into Henman mode for the rest of his career (no slam), or he ups the ante and finally breaks through in Australia.

Posted by Babe 09/10/2009 at 09:03 AM

"Every time Murray looses early in a slam, I am surprised. The guy really has the tennis and the self-belief to win multiples slams. Bu somehow he looses against lesser players."

If he really had the tennis & the self-belief to win--then he would win. Murray talks a big game but he does not have the mental stamina, yet, to withstand the heat that it takes to win a slam. To hear the experts tell it: Murray doesn't care, he doesn't feel the pressure. Absolute bull! He caved against Roddick at Wimby cos of the pressure & he caved against Cilic here--both player outthought & outplayed him when it counted. He couldn't even put up a serious fight.

Del Potro, at this stage, has more guts & killer instinct than Murray does.

Posted by Babe 09/10/2009 at 09:06 AM

"This US Open might be the crossroads for the Scot: either Murray retires into Henman mode for the rest of his career (no slam), or he ups the ante and finally breaks through in Australia."

The British media, in their quest to elevate Murray to untenable stature, may unwittingly relegate him to Henmandom. They hype him with the same zeal with which they damn anyone who dares to question his game-style.

Posted by Anon 09/10/2009 at 11:11 AM

Perhaps Federer was on to something when he criticized Murray last year for not being aggressive. The more I watch Murray, the more I feel he is just content getting the ball back in play and hoping for the opponent to make errors. You cannot win grand slams that way.

Nadal was like Murray earlier in his career, but now he takes chances.

Posted by pogiako 09/10/2009 at 06:49 PM

The problem with Murray, he was always focusing on his upperhand win over Roger. He did not think short term. He was not prepared to play the lower ranked players who could get 3 sets from him: Verdasco, Roddick and Cilic. I forgot the one who beat him in the French open. Some people were always expecting him to win. I hope next time, these people will consider other players too.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 09/15/2009 at 10:59 AM

Typepad just stole my comment... crud.

Anyway, nice post, Pete. Spot on.
Matt Zemeck, some mof your best obbservations and analysis yet on TW.

I'd like to make one other observation and posit a hypothesis.

Federer became very angry in the middle of the fourth set, I believe, over the chair umpire's allowing del Potro to bend the Player Challenge rule, which requires the player to issue his/her challenge quickly. According to Federer, del Potro was repeatedly guilty of laboring over his decisions, buying/wasting time, and the chair ump was allowing it to go on. He even threw out a few common cuss words in his anger, especially when the chair ump tried to silence him.

Similarly, in the 2008 Wimbledon final against Nadal, Federer became visible irked over the repeated line calls and Player Challenges that went against him. He also seemed to be more distressed by the fading light conditions than was Nadal.

My hypothesis is that Federer simply does not perform well after a "meltdown" -- even a minor one. Let's not forget that the Miami loss to Djokovic earlier this year came after he crushed his racquet in disgust. Federer is a guy who has worked hard to maintain his cool, to maintain a certain demeaner and to observe the rules of decorum on court. When he gets too rattled, it affects him deeply. Perhaps it reminds him of his earlier days, before he learned how to rein in his temper and his talent and maximoize his potential.

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