Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Flying Coach-less
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Flying Coach-less 08/16/2010 - 9:22 AM

Am Andy Murray may never win a major. If he doesn’t, there’s a very good chance he’ll go down as the best player not to do so. His game has its flaws and its holes—the biggest one being that he can’t close his eyes and belt his way out of trouble—and he’ll always have the big British monkey on his back. Beyond that, his at times tetchy demeanor doesn’t make him an easy player to love; his fan base presumably consists of students of the game and diehard lovers of all things pale and Anglo. But this past week in Toronto, Murray showed that for the span of six days, he can play circles around the world’s best, steal their games out of their back pockets, and leave them spinning in confusion.

In the quarters, Murray put David Nalbandian exactly where he didn’t want to be. In the semis, he gave Rafael Nadal, not normally known for indecisiveness, no good options and left the world’s best player temporarily unsure of what he does best. In the final, Murray did a little of what he usually does, by punching holes in Roger Federer’s net attack, and a little of what he usually doesn’t, by striking first and piling up more winners than his opponent.

“He was aggressive,” Federer said of Murray. “He was taking the ball early. He wasn’t giving me much, and he clutch-served at the very end when he had to, and he deserved the victory.”

Murray came in with four things going for him. He had the momentum, after his win over Nadal. He had the hunger, after what has thus far been a disappointing season. He had less outside pressure, with no coach’s tactical advice ringing in his ears. And he was rested. Federer was coming off two straight three-set night matches, while Murray had finished his semifinal the previous afternoon. All of that added up to a hot start: Murray broke Federer twice to open the match, winning 12 of the first 16 points.

Big early leads can throw you off. You’re suddenly out in front by yourself, with nobody running neck and neck with you anymore—think about sprinters and the pace-setting “rabbits” they hide themselves behind. Murray double-faulted to start the fourth game, and within a few minutes he couldn’t get the ball over the net. It didn’t take long for both of his breaks to evaporate.  Partially this was Murray coming down to earth, but it was also due to how difficult it still is to finish Roger Federer.

Serving for it at 5-4, Murray slid a nice first ball out wide into the deuce court. It looked for a split-second to be unreturnable. It was, by virtually anyone but Federer. But he was able, as he so often is, to get the barest edge of his frame on it, just enough to get it to creep over the net and land in a tricky position for his opponent. Murray wristed it inside out, but Federer was there to time a perfect backhand pass. Frustration in his face for the first time, Murray double faulted to be broken a few minutes later. The early upbeat aggressiveness was gone; the doomed hangdog look had returned. There’s been talk at various times over the years about how Federer has lost his invincible aura, that the “locker room” isn’t scared of him anymore. From the evidence this week, it’s obvious that that’s not true, or not true enough to make much of a difference. The thought of beating Federer is still as daunting and exciting and nerve-wracking as ever for these guys.

It all seemed to be going according to Federer’s Toronto blueprint. He had broken Berdych when he served for the match in the quarters, and broken Djokovic to end their semi. But against Murray, after he’d won the first point of his own service game at 5-5, Federer shot himself in the foot. He served and volleyed, and Murray drilled a return that he couldn’t handle. His momentum had been stopped in its tracks, and he was broken. Federer is constantly being told, for lack of any better advice, I suppose, to come to the net more. But that hasn’t been his game for many years. I’m not saying he should never come in or never mix it up. But he had Murray on the run at 5-5; there was no need to change a winning game at that moment, especially against one of the best returners in tennis, and a guy who loves a target. The same thing would happen at 5-5 on Federer’s serve in the second set. He began that game with two trips to the net, and two lost points, and he was eventually broken.

At the start of 2009, Murray was beating Federer with a largely defensive game. That wasn’t the case this time. Like Federer said, he came up with bombs at the end; one of them was the hardest serve Murray has ever hit, a fact that the Scot happily volunteered in his presser (though it still wasn't enough to bring a smile). Murray also got free points serving to Federer’s backhand—Federer looked fooled by the shot on a number of occasions—and he used both of his ground strokes to open up the court. Few men can create so well with their crosscourt backhands.

Afterward, Murray said that he was calmer than normal last week, and that he didn’t miss having a coach because he’d been working with one so recently; it wasn’t like he had no ideas or tactics to fall back on. But like I said after his semi, Murray has a stubborn streak, one that naturally counters authority. As with many of the pros, we’ve watched him go through various stages in his maturing process. He tried a celebrity, LTA-payrolled coach in Brad Gilbert before dumping him. Then he tried to take some control of his destiny by surrounding himself with a committee of coaches—Miles McLagan, Alex Corretja, and the various trainers and pals who play video games with him all over the world. What’s the next step? Murray says he’ll start looking for a coach after the U.S. Open, but in Toronto he may have found out a little more about what he’s capable of when he trusts himself. Because Murray can do a lot of things, but not one obvious thing, he doesn’t have an easy game to use. Last week, on his own, he used it better than he ever has when he was listening to someone else.

This win doesn’t mean Murray is the favorite for the US. Open, or even that he’s “back,” as we like to say. Every week is its own week on the tour, worthy of appreciation in its own right. So I’ll appreciate one particular shot that Murray came up with in the final. Federer hit a drop volley and closed in on the net. It didn’t look like Murray could possibly reach the ball, but he did. More than just reaching it, though, he slid his racquet under the ball, lifted it over Federer’s head, and brought it down inside the baseline, at a virtually impossible angle. You could almost see Murray, as he swung, decide to do something creative and trust his hands and his talent to pull it off. It was a unique, brilliant, artistic, unnecessary shot, one that almost no one else on earth could have made. And there’s not a coach on earth who could have told him to make it.


Posted by wilson75 08/16/2010 at 09:42 AM

Steve: Good article and I'd like to say I've enjoyed your dispatches from Toronto. Although I will never be a fan of Murray for the same reasons you outlined in your opening paragraph, he did play a good match to win. As you said, it still doesn't make him USO favourite but it will be good for his confidence going forward. In fact, I believe the top 4 could feel very confident after their performance in Toronto and I'm looking forward to even better in Cincy.

Posted by Reptile_Yuks 08/16/2010 at 09:43 AM

Convention requires me to write:


Posted by Reptile_Yuks 08/16/2010 at 09:46 AM


Posted by naughty T....urbane gentleman 08/16/2010 at 09:46 AM

That game at 5all in the first made me switch off and go drink vodka. Never seen Fudd that tactically inept. Horrible. But all kudos to Muzzard for staying calm and winning.

Posted by Blue_Mountain 08/16/2010 at 09:49 AM

I think Murray was only able to impose his game because Federer did not start like he did with Berdych and Djokovic. Kinda expected that to happen for playing 2 consecutive nights in 3 days with less than 24 hours to recover for the finals.

Posted by Nina 08/16/2010 at 10:03 AM

Steve, you don't seem to write about Djokovic anymore and it's a damn shame. I think his match against Federer was worthy of your analysis. Anyway, I'm glad at least you comment on Murray. I'm so bored with all the articles about Nadal and Federer... Please add some variety.

Posted by pov 08/16/2010 at 10:37 AM

"The world's best player" is Roger Federer. Nadal is - well prior to the Toronto tourney - the player who's playing the best currently. There is a sizeable difference between those two assessments.

Posted by Mike 08/16/2010 at 10:40 AM

I think ... ala Delpo, that Murray has the mental and physical game to win a Major away from the Top 3. Just a matter of time and experience. Whether it will be this USO, I don't know ... though you'd think it his best chance due to the speed of the court.

Posted by weak40player 08/16/2010 at 10:40 AM

Didn't get to see this match, but I have it on DVR and hope to skim the highlights.

I just don't get people who doubt Murray's skills. The guy can do just about everything on the court and is clearly one of the very best in the game today. Of course, he has yet to prove he can do it for a full two weeks, and maybe he never will, but he has the goods. Glad to hear he took an aggressive approach--he needs to convince himself to do so more consistently, as the match situation demands. Mr. Tignor's description of the lob sounds like he could be talking about McEnroe, and Murray is one of the few players I've seen who you can say that about. That he has that kind of creativity in his hands; like good old JPM had (still has).

Disclosure, I am a fan of all things Anglo, and (I hope) a student of the game.

Posted by Syd 08/16/2010 at 11:01 AM

Nice read Steve, enjoy these reports!

Never be a Murray fan due to his on court demeanor. Smart move of though to get California under his belt before playing an important tournament. Can never understand how some of these guys can come into the Rogers Cup cold after such a long layoff.

Fed always delivers some of his brilliance in any match he plays, but he was pretty spent by the time he got to Muzzard. Not taking away from Murray, he deserved to win.

Posted by petewho 08/16/2010 at 11:01 AM

I saw a bit of this match and was suprised by some of Federers tatics , at one point I almost got the impression Annacone had thrown down a dare for him to try and win each match with clutch shots and coming in like Pete used too .

Good win for Murray but Im still not convinced he has it in him to win a GS , he doesnt naturally go for the big shots , which is why hes good - but also bad.

Question is has he peaked too early ?

Murrays lack fo coach is smart on his part too i.e. to get him to believe in himself , but I just dont think he has the technique thus " confidence " his shots too hit them bigger when they matter most.

His serve was prob the key reason he did so well , when its off and its down to 2nd serves its a whole other ball game..

Posted by pschwarztennis 08/16/2010 at 11:08 AM

True that re the comparison to JPM ... only one remotely like that out there now ... along those lines what I enjoy is that he's emotional and engaged with what's going on around him in a somewhat more entertaining way than, say, our good friend Nole... maybe because Nole looks like he's looking for the exit when things are going poorly and Murray seems to be looking for ways to succeed when he's not at his best ... but, die hard fan of Fed that I am, I've got to hand it to Andy ... he did take it to TMF throughout the entire match ... good for him ... we can all stand four or five guys fighting it at least every Masters 1000 rather that a monopoly or duopoly, right ?

Posted by pass-by lurker 08/16/2010 at 11:09 AM

POV - oh, just SHUT UP!

Sorry, everyone, back to Murray ....

Posted by weak40player 08/16/2010 at 11:13 AM

petewho, what technique is it that Murray lacks? Beyond his 2nd serve, what holes do you see in his game?

Agree with you that he has a much tougher time when his 1st serve is off. He needs to improve his 2nd delivery, or at least find a way to minimize it as a liability. There's no reason it has to be a weakness, but right now it is.

Posted by TD 08/16/2010 at 11:16 AM

Murray played good and almost pressure-free in Toronto. Nice to watch.
I still think Nadal is the top favorite to win the upcoming Open. He just came back from a long break and in 3 weeks time he will minimize his errors and it will be very hard to break him in 5 sets.
Federer should be satisfied after also coming back from a long break. On one hand, his game is not at its best yet, and it is kind of worrying to see him drop serve so many times. On the other hand he still passed 2 mental tests with Berdych and Djokovic and he is back to winning matches without his best tennis (something we haven't seen in the last few months). He can still find his tennis and those wins should bring back his confidence.

Posted by Aneirin 08/16/2010 at 11:26 AM

I agree, Murray has the goods when he wants and I agree with the comment ... Fed had almost a 2 month rest and started Cold Turkey in Toronto! I think he can come to net, but he has to choose the correct side. To come to net on Murray's backhand is a poor tactical decision, even worse on serve, since there's no time to close the angles.

Those are the things Annacone should polish on Roger before he can reliably try those on a GS semi or final.

Sadly, out of the top 4, I find myself liking only Roger and Rafa, it is an emotional binding to what they do on court. The next guys Ic an bind to that way are Verdasco and Delpo.

I have quit feeling bad about Nalby not living up o his potential, but it sure would make me happy to see him win at least 1 GS. He probably over did it, 10 matches in 14 days are too much to come and face a Murray with his A game on.

Posted by jem 08/16/2010 at 11:27 AM

Full marks to Murray for maximizing his situation. Roger should be please with his results, too.

1) He was better-rested than Roger (what kind of lunatic scheduling was that), which is a significant advantage, given a 14 hour turn-around and Roger's age, conditioning, etc. Plus Roger had two bona fide competitors to vanquish; Murray dismissed an exhausted Nalbandian and was given token resistance by a no-show Nadal.

2) I believe Rafa will be content to reach the semis in Cincinnati as well; his goals will be to cover previous points earned and conserve energy for N.Y. This is what Rafa does in all of the North American Master's tournaments. Check out the pattern.

3) If Andy is smart - and I have reservations on that score - he will erase all Rafa's fawning praise if they are to meet in the US Open.

Any discernible effects of Roger's new coach?

Posted by Kombo 08/16/2010 at 11:32 AM

weak40player "petewho, what technique is it that Murray lacks? Beyond his 2nd serve, what holes do you see in his game?"

His forehand has been a liability. He appears to be working on it and hitting it more aggressively. It's getting close to Nole's because his forehand is not as good as it once was, it's loopier and doesn't carry through the court like it once did (same thing happened with Roddick's FH), but it still doesn't match up well against the truly great forehands on hard courts: Fed & Delpo. At the end of the day, if either of these two get grooved on their FH, they can dominate play with it.

This critique is lessening as his forehand slowly improves.

Posted by FED FRED 08/16/2010 at 11:36 AM

POV you are a total idiot.

FED is not the best player right now.

He hasn't won a tournament sent the Australian...

Idiot Boy.

Posted by tennisforthebest 08/16/2010 at 11:42 AM

I had the feeling that Fed won't be able to pull the final off against AM since he was very lucky to win against Bedrych and Chokovic (not a spelling mistake). Both Bedrych and Chokovic played a lot better than Fed and he was lucky that they both either choked or committed tons of unforced errors and Fed was able to get through. His game is still where it was after winning AO. He has the same two problems which he had before. One is gifting the break back the moment he gets it. Second is not being able to close out the match when he gets himself in a winning position and both are kinda related to each other. The game lacks consistency and he finds it difficult to keep playing at a higher level, like he started really well both against Bedrych and Chokovic and then faded out and some flashes of brilliance here and there but that's not going to get him more grand slams and then that stupid drop shot he has started to play so often that keeps him confusing when he has an open court and sometimes he totally butchers it. Forehand has been misfiring a lot due to thinking too much what he wants to do with that ball. Still a work in process for me hopefully Mr. Annacone can fix a few things before US open otherwise Fed can forget about it.

Posted by JJB 08/16/2010 at 11:43 AM

The questions about whether Murray is peaking too early this summer are intriguing. He's the only one of the top four to have played a hard court tournament since Wimbledon and he was certainly the least rusty with his game. The other three weren't necessarily at their peaks, though in Djokovic's case I think the physical stamina problems are more troubling than anything else.

Looking forward to Cincy and USO.

Posted by Shan 08/16/2010 at 11:44 AM

I raised three eyebrows when I witnessed the tactical decision that Federer made at 5-5 in the second set. I totally agree with Steve, there was no reason to switch tactics at that point. It was a bad decision that sealed the match. Murray must have sorely gotten into Federer's head.

Posted by weak40player 08/16/2010 at 11:48 AM

Kombo, well, no, couldn't argue that Murray is the equal of either Fed or Delpo on the forehand wing, but not many are. But I don't think you could call it a weak shot. Murray's main problem is between the ears, which may be the hardest problem to solve. It's clear to me (at least) that he can win a major, but not certain that he will. I hope he does win a basket load of majors, but if my hopes ruled the world I'd have a couple of slams myself, to go along with multiple lottery wins.

Posted by fRED 08/16/2010 at 11:58 AM

Hey Fed Fred, before insulting other people, read carefully what they write, POV wrote the best of the season so far is Nadal and for him Federer remains the best overall.

idiot poster

Posted by Pancho50 08/16/2010 at 12:03 PM

I thought Darren Cahill's commentary was spot-on; Fed was tired and flat. I hope Fed loses the pink shirt with the uncomfortable looking collar! Hat's off to Murray - he deserved to win this tournament!

Posted by Statitician 08/16/2010 at 12:08 PM

Agreed overall. Good win by Murray, if not exactly telling. One of the things that has confounded Murray is knowing when to be aggressive and when to allow his opponent to overplay. At the end of the first set, he definitely became visibly passive. So he'll have to learn to harness his aggressiveness and play to win when it most matters for victory in seven best of five matches. His game isn't too far from Federer's when he's attacking. He has all the variety, but notice that he used very little of it in his Sunday win.

Posted by jem 08/16/2010 at 12:12 PM


I agree with two things you said, "...thinking too much what he wants to do with that ball. Still a work in process for me hopefully Mr. Annacone can fix a few things before US open otherwise Fed can forget about it."

Posted by TennisRone 1000 08/16/2010 at 12:25 PM

Good wrap up by Steve on this match. I have to say, it was a very pleasing tournament overall. There was a lot of quality tennis played across the board. It was good to have all of the top players back in force.....that goes for the women as well.

Federer should be pleased to have been where he was. It's hard to understand why his FH has become so volatile. Perhaps the nagging back thing is holding him back a little bit. Or maybe he's just getting accustomed to the Annacone retro-fitting of his game. I have to say, I like Fed at the net....he has to compensate for having a BH that is now a liability compared to the rest of the Top 10 men. He has to take advantage of his speed and agility, which he can by visiting the net.

I'm not usually a Murray backer....but I have to tip my cap to him. He played some assertive tennis and really fought off the Fed charge very well. It was just difficult for Fed to find an opening that he could take advantage of. When he did, Fed was trying to REALLY run around his BH and hit a laser guided FH DTL from the Ad court position....a highly difficult move. To that end, it matches the Murray strategy of trying to lay the risk upon his opponent and minimize the risk he takes. The second serve is something Murray has to be careful of.

If we see a little more consistency out of Fed fans may have reason to believe he can ascend and maybe chalk up 3 or 4 more GS titles. I like the more aggressive Fed.....even though he was misfiring, it looked like he had some renewed vigor out there.

Even Nole impressed me by coming out and battling to the death. i mean....his groundies were all over the place, but he hung in there quite well.

Bravo to all! Looking forward to Cincy to see what's in store.

Posted by john smith 08/16/2010 at 12:29 PM

Indeed, Murray may never win a GS, though he played a solid tournament. Federer, Djokovic and Nadal are having a slow start, nevertheless I think these guys really know when to peak.

I still don't get why people keep consistently talking about Del Potro. He must be one of the most overrated players in the last 20 years, if not ever. The guy has been out for almost an entire year, he's never shown consistency, never won a Masters while playing only one final. To me, he appears to be a pure one slam wonder, a Thomas Johansson or Petr Korda kind of guy. It was solely Federer's stubbornness that gifted him that US Open Trophy. He plays like a butcher, that is "I can hit harder than you" type of game. He's pretty much like those pitchers who have only one pitch and throw it at 100 mph to end up injured or being hit hard. No art, no finesse just flat firepower.
Some feel admiration for it but I feel sorry... tremendous way to waste a career.

Posted by amc 08/16/2010 at 12:35 PM

Steve - no previews for Cincy? Have I missed them somewhere?

Posted by BrooklynNY 08/16/2010 at 12:39 PM

John Smith:
Del Potro is the real deal. You sound like your talking about Soderling.

Posted by Foot Fault 08/16/2010 at 12:45 PM

Nit picking, but here we go:

"He had less outside pressure, with no coach’s tactical advice ringing in his ears."

Hmmm. Maybe I'm reading too much into "body language", etc. but I cannot imagine a world wherein Andy Murray is being badgered by a coach. I think it's clearly the opposite. Remember how he used to routinely berate Brad Gilbert DURING MATCHES? There is something profoundly unsettling about the way Murray and even his Mom, conduct themselves. Sure, everyone wants to win, but can there be anything uglier than Murray's baboon-faced roar? They seem to want to annihilate whatever is front of them.

Some tennis folk may be weary of Roger and Rafa's stranglehold on the game, but their courtly behavior in the heat of battle is pretty much beyond reproach. Enjoy them while you can. We will miss them greatly when they hang it up.

Love your posts, Steve. You are the best tennis writer we have.

Posted by proclear ep 08/16/2010 at 01:32 PM

Anyone who straight sets Nadal and Federer would appear to warrant closer examination as Grand Slam champion material. But I have my doubts, and see a couple of reasons why I don't think Murray will win a Grand least not yet while Federer and Nadal are healthy.

While beating a rusty Nadal and Federer was noticeably impressive, we've only seen the "good" side of the coachless Murray. We haven't yet seen him in a real spot of bother where his opponent is on top and he's had to figure/hit his way out of trouble.

Secondly, his weakness is glaringly obvious. He HATES being played up the middle of the court. He isn't the direction-changer Djokovic is by any means and appeared completely clueless how to counter Nadal for two games where Rafa played him deep-centre of the court. Why Nadal changed tactics after that is still beyond me.

Look for it in Cincy - take a look what he does with balls up the middle of the court and that's one area that can be definately exploited over 5 sets since it's a lot easier to execute then hitting line to line.

Finally, I'd love to see how Murray can respond to a "in mind" Nadal or Federer in the heat of battle on the Big Stage where they really "bring it". Something tells me neither of them will be so generous in gifting him points.

Semi-final against Nadal at this years Wimbeldon. First set unforced errors from Nadal:


Posted by HybridStrings 08/16/2010 at 01:41 PM

I wonder if Murray would go after Darren Cahill or someone who can put some fire under him or slap his head and say go get it! Unfortunately, Annacone is already taken unless Fed parts with him. Maybe, Brad Gilbert?! Gulp!

Posted by cami 08/16/2010 at 01:51 PM

"the doomed hangdog look". Oh, Steve, lol. I'm curious how you would describe Murray's expression when he waits to return. It's hilarious. Reminds me of a confused, scraggly badger. Not that I've ever seen a confused, scraggly badger, but I imagine it must look similar.

It goes without saying, I loved your articles from Toronto.

Posted by Christopher 08/16/2010 at 02:14 PM

HybridStrings-- Murray had Gilbert as a coach a few years ago.

Posted by Sneezy 08/16/2010 at 02:14 PM

Great article. So happy to see him win yesterday. However "The term Anglo is used as a prefix to indicate a relation to the Angles, England or the English people"

Posted by JJB 08/16/2010 at 02:26 PM

proclear ep, I think it's a good point. Murray moves so well and hits great on the run from both sides. I think he jams himself and his long arms, on the forehand especially, when the ball is down the middle. Nadal never should have gone away from that tactic.

Posted by Kristy 08/16/2010 at 02:36 PM

I don't think Murray is that bad with his competitive roar. All the players have to amp themselves up, and I see Murray as struggling to overcome the reserve that's bred into his culture (here I mean Brits -- I don't know anything about Scots). If he goes over the top sometimes, asking for vocal crowd support in a way Roddick, for instance, would never do (because he wouldn't need to, but also, he just wouldn't), I think he's trying to rouse his people to a fierceness they don't always embody.

Judy Murray does look fierce, but it doesn't seem that extreme to me. Remember, these people are trying to overcome a giant underdog syndrome.

Posted by JohnP 08/16/2010 at 02:51 PM

Makes for a very interesting US Open. I'm not sure who the favourite is; perhaps there are three co-favourities (Fed, Nadal, Murray....although it's hard to tag any favourite label on anyone who hasn't won a major). Then, the next tier of contenders, in which I would include Djokovic, who I thought looked better against Fed in Toronto than he has in a while (although, Djokovic, like Murray, has some convincing to do in my books) and Roddick, if he can be healthy.

Could discern an Annacone influence already in Fed's game, with him chipping and charging a few times - uncharacteristically. Don't think I've ever seen Fed chip and charge off of a guy's serve. Good to see. Tennis needs some of that.

Posted by No Game 08/16/2010 at 03:00 PM

All things pale...come on Steve, you can do better than that!

Posted by Kristy 08/16/2010 at 03:06 PM

By the way, I really love the last paragraph of this piece. It's a beautiful way to end it.

Posted by murrayFan 08/16/2010 at 03:10 PM

i really like murray's game and have said nothing but flukes were keeping him away from the big one. i'm feeling good for him and pray he continues on what i think is a new door for him filled with sheer confidence. i wish remainder of year and 2011 is his in a most convincing way.

for me i see unique talent there even though he is at no.4. i have always felt if he has the moxy to just hang in there his day will soon come. congrats, Murray.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 08/16/2010 at 03:59 PM

"Federer is constantly being told, for lack of any better advice, I suppose, to come to the net more. But that hasn’t been his game for many years. I’m not saying he should never come in or never mix it up. But he had Murray on the run at 5-5; there was no need to change a winning game at that moment, especially against one of the best returners in tennis, and a guy who loves a target."

This is spot-on true, Steve. But what's interesting here, to me at least, is WHY it's so true. And it has more to do with Federer's lacking a natural serve-and-volley game than with Murray's loving a target, IMO.

So often over the past three or four years I've watched Federer make that gambit only to watch helplessly as his opponent's passing shot whizzes by -- another great passer by another of the game's many counterpunchers. But look more closely, and you'll often see that Federer had barely reached the service line, if even that far, and his split step was practically nonexistent.

So, when I see Federer get pased routinely these days, I, too, find myself yeling at the TV -- "Stay back, Rog! Just stay back and pummel forehands." If Federer had possession of the kind of couorageous, fearless attack that we saw from mcEnroe and Edbrg and Rafter and Sampras, he'd make a lot more believers out of the all-court and serve-and-volley styles. But as it is, he simply doesn't close far enouogh or fast enoguh, and is not willing often enough to hurtle himself at the ball for a stab-volley winner to give his opponents too much to worry over. When mcEnroe came to the net, or Rafter, they meant business. By contrast, Federer's move to the net seems a lot more like a head fake designed to distract his opponent and cause an error, rather than a seious maneuver.

Posted by Spectrum 08/16/2010 at 04:02 PM

Congrats Murray. Nobody has commented on the superior commentators on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp coverage. Not only are their comments very enlightening and full of expertise, but they DO NOT TALK during points - something that John McEnroe and other U S blabbermouths might learn from but won't.
Never knew that Murray was a survivor from the Dunblane school massacre.

Posted by Nalbandian 08/16/2010 at 04:18 PM

As usual, people like or dislike something or someone without really knowing why. Then, and only then, rationalize their likings and dislikings. I bet most of the people here (lovers of coca-cola, hamburgers and all things American) that dislike Murray's "tetchy demeanor" were big fans of McEnroe, the most arrogant and annoying player ever to hold a racket. Funny thing is, even I liked McEnroe......

Posted by weak40player 08/16/2010 at 04:27 PM

Nalbandian, I'm a US citizen and do love hamburgers and coke. Somehow, I find it w/in myself to also like Murray's game. (OK, ok, McEnroe is my all-time fav, so I obviously have a high tolerance for on-court angst.)

Posted by fedfan 08/16/2010 at 04:47 PM

Not to take anything from the accomplishments of Murray and Clisters, I found both finals this weekend to be disappointing affairs. It's as though the players wilted in the heat and humidity, which is understandable, given the conditions, but I was hoping for more scintillating play. Murray and Clisters deserved their wins as the superior performers in the dispiriting weather. I worry about Fed in Cincy, as he has never been a happy camper in heat and humidity, although he has been able to eke out wins on occasion.

Posted by fedfan 08/16/2010 at 04:52 PM

Excuse me, Steve, I forgot to mention, nice post. Loved ' lovers of all things pale and Anglo.'

Posted by Vie 08/16/2010 at 05:13 PM

The way I see how serve and volley is employed:

- it is your style or go-to play. You win or lose by it.

- or it is not your style and you do it as a change-up.

Roger, with his current skill, I guess can do both ways, but he employed it as a go-to play I guess in risky parts of that Toronto final. He is not skilled or practised enough.

Posted by fedfan 08/16/2010 at 05:14 PM

Agree with posters who are dubious about Fed's forehand, it's seemed unreliable since the Australian. Could be niggling injuries. I don't know if Fed is not a 'natural volleyer,' I just think he hasn't done it much in a long time. If you look at his historic defeat of Pete Sampras at Wimbledon, or even his semis and finals performances in 2003, his first Wimby championship, he served and volleyed a lot more, and did it pretty well, too.

I think Muzza's (aka LeStat) bark is a lot worse than his bite. It's just his naturally dour Scots personality. He dislikes being labeled English by the way.

Posted by Roastie 08/16/2010 at 05:15 PM

I went to the Rogers Cup Thursday-Sunday and was really hoping for a Murray win. I was not disappointed. Happy to see him defend his title by beating the former #1 and current #1 in straights. AWESOME! One of the best days of my life!!!

Posted by Red⁺ = Legacy Solidified 08/16/2010 at 05:32 PM

"But like I said after his semi, Murray has a stubborn streak, one that naturally counters authority'.
And who does this remind you of?
Really happy for Andy.

Nice post Steve

Posted by SimonSays 08/16/2010 at 05:33 PM

how many times im gona say this

Tignor master of tennis blogs

Posted by Damien 08/16/2010 at 05:54 PM

SimonSays -> completely agree.

Steve consistenly does the best tennis analysis and writing I've come across on this world wide web. It's why I keep coming back to

Bodo on the other hand...

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 08/16/2010 at 06:21 PM

Hey.... someone at should really tell Ed McGrogan that unless the ATP and WTA have suddenly merged, his semifinal result at Cincinnatio this weekend neeeds to be revised. He has Sam Querrey defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second semiginal, after Kim Clijstrs defeated Ana Ivanovic.

On the other hand, well done, Sam!

Posted by Nalbandian 08/16/2010 at 06:31 PM


Bodo's mind runs deeper...
One example: Bodo, who proudly says he roots for tennis, not for some specific tennis player, has offered a much better explanation on "why he dislikes Murray" or on "why we, the readers, should not feel weird about disliking Murray". Tignor, although using an educated pen (or keyboard), could not come up with something different from what you may read in any tennis fan forum: Any player's (doesn't matter which!) fans says the other players are arrogant, annoying, whatever..... what would Tignor say if Murray was American?
At least Bodo admits that being Scottish is one of the reasons Murray is disliked. He comes from NoTennisLand, he has no right to be this good. The most he should achieve is a Bagdatis status.....

Posted by Douglass Graem 08/16/2010 at 06:32 PM

As a Scot sending this note about the Scot Andy Murray:
Andy is NO ANGLO!

PS Please pass on to Kennedy-kin female TV anchor this message:
to stop needling Murray's seriousness - her pets Rafa and Fed are the champion frowners -
SOOOOOOO unbecoming when making six or seven figure winnings... that duo keeps frowning.

At least ANDY allows himself a smile or two!

True champions SMILE - just watch champion Yoyo-Ma playing his cello - with an angelic smile!

Posted by Kristy 08/16/2010 at 06:40 PM

Andy smiles a lot in this clip.

Posted by skip1515 08/16/2010 at 06:58 PM

Slice-n-Dice: Yes, regarding Federer's less than stellar volleying positioning and 3/4 commitment to being up there.

" More than just reaching it, though, he slid his racquet under the ball, lifted it over Federer’s head, and brought it down inside the baseline, at a virtually impossible angle... It was a unique, brilliant, artistic, unnecessary shot.... And there’s not a coach on earth who could have told him to make it."

No, but there are a sh*tload who would tell him not to. And none of them will make Murray's short list.

Great wrap up.

Posted by Johanna 08/16/2010 at 07:09 PM

Fed is mesmerizing to watch winning or losing. That his rank is climbing not falling says something for his talent and tenacity. Murray looked relaxed and strong. Fed and Nadal are the passionate ones. One shows it, the other burns from within...audiences can't help but wish fed could stay at the top for years to come.

Posted by Ellie Bean 08/16/2010 at 07:12 PM

Fedfan - Murray dislikes being called English because he isn't English. He is either Scottish or British.
Frankly don't care much about him as I dislike him intensely. BUT he did play well last week, not as great in the final - disaster with the rain delays - but he got the job done so good for him. Fed was clearly out of sorts for whatever reason and was not moving as well as he had been against Llodra - that was a fab match. Feds was happy, relaxed and playing some inspired tennis with lots of fun! Good to watch.

Posted by claudia celestial girl 08/16/2010 at 07:16 PM

A quote here from spectrum about Canadian broadcasters: "Not only are their comments very enlightening and full of expertise, but they DO NOT TALK during points - something that John McEnroe and other U S blabbermouths might learn from but won't."

That's not something that will ever change, and not really JMac's fault. It has to do with the US broadcasters impatience with 'empty' space. The blathering is unbelievable - not even stopping to allow us to enjoy the point. But the majority of the audience, which is not comprised of die-hard tennis fans like in Canada or Britain, aren't engaged enough by the tennis itself to demand that the tennis take center stage.

For my part, I'm just happy to have as much tennis on air as possible. If we didn't have ESPN, we'd be stuck with CBS/NBC, or worse, Fox, where the advertised match time never comes to pass, and they pre-empt tennis for Little League, wrestling, fishing, deer hunting, anything besides tennis.

Posted by pogiako 08/16/2010 at 07:19 PM

Pancho, The shirt has nothing to do with Roger's loss. He was tired and Murray was well rested and the better player last Sunday. Just like what Roger said, Murray deserved to win.

Posted by Tennis Fan 08/16/2010 at 07:22 PM

When I attended the Rogers Cup last week the difference between day and night matches was about 4 hours.Murray's day matches were over by 5-30 and Fed's night matches were done by 9-30pm.Am a big Fed fan but could not make this an excuse for match outcome.

Posted by TennisRone 1000 08/16/2010 at 07:46 PM

For those doubting the Federer ability at net.....go back and watch some of his matches from 03 and 04 and check out how often he found his way to the net. Was it Rafter/McEnroe like net he spent a lot of time up there. As his career moved on he's gone away from it, for some inexplicable reason. He has skills at the net. His quickness helps him get positioned. Granted....even tennis in 03-04 wasn't played as fast as it is now....but it can't be that much faster.

I think it's a successful combination pairing his FH, serve, and some net play to help reduce the exposure of his BH.....he was not that far off in that Murray match....he had some chances to finish quite a few points where he squandered some FH's and volleys that he normally has made.....

Posted by FED FRED 08/16/2010 at 09:04 PM

Time to face facts....

FED has fallen way off from where he once was.

His concentration is shaky at best.
Players can now drop a set....or play poorly over several games
and still have a chance to win...
If you use to be if you let down for a game or a couple of points FED
would close the door. The match was over.
FED can't close people out anymore. He also is not as dominate on his serve.

Posted by Ely 08/16/2010 at 09:25 PM

It is good to see good players like Murray win the Maters besides Fed or Rafa.
Fed does not need to win always. No need to make excuses why he lost. Murray played better. I hope we can see this more often.

Posted by Ramana 08/16/2010 at 09:44 PM

Can he do it over 5 sets?

Posted by SexyCommenter 08/16/2010 at 09:46 PM


It is not the biggest win of the year, so far, for Andy Murray. It appears to me that it is the only win for Andy Murray, so far, of the year! Let's wait and see how he will fare in the US Open. It is when all the high-ranking players play with 110%. Can Andy Murray beat Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at a grand slam? This task has been done only once before: by Juan Martin del Potro. But he was a little bit lucky because Rafael Nadal was injured then. The task is a very tall order! Let's be nice and wish him luck even though I am a Rafafan.

Posted by Dinesh 08/17/2010 at 01:32 AM

Fed is huffing and puffing his way toward wins and losses alike which is not a very pleasant sight relative to the effortless way in which he used to win and lose in prior years. Except for the AO, Federer has appeared to be really straining in every single match this year no matter what the situation is and no matter whether he is up or down.

He still has a long way to go before any objective observer can actually make him a favorite to win even a Masters event let alone a GS event. Unless he finds a way to reinvent himself, he will become more and more irrelevant as time goes on. Staying back on the baseline and slugging it out against faster and younger players like Murray is a recipe for failure. He has got to shorten the points by coming to net more often. In my opinion, he actually did not come to net often enough against Murray. On multiple instances, he would have Murray against the ropes after having moved him from side to side and he would then let him off the hook by continuing to hit shots from the baseline instead of finishing the point off. Also, he has got to rediscover his FH without which he just cannot dictate points like he used to. I do think that he has lost some of his self confidence to really go for his shots like he used to particularly on the FH side. I really hope he can recreate the magic all over again. I am a great fan of his but do feel the need to dole out tough love as well just to see if it will make any difference :)

Posted by Prashant Sharma 08/17/2010 at 02:19 AM

It was a struggle against Berdych. It was a very close one against Djokovich. And then he couldnt do it any longer against Murray. The sad truth is that the best of the Master is behind him now. He does look 29 now (he is 29 :) ), and he is struggling like a 29 year old. I dont care for the masters titles anymore. As a huge Fed fan i wish that he would win at least 2 more majors. Can he? It wont be easy.....I just hope he gets a draw that makes it possible at this years US open....

Posted by felizjulianidad 08/17/2010 at 02:46 AM

Murray had a great week.

I think Nadal is being a bit more tactical about these tournaments and knows that their main value to him is as prep for the US Open. He only needs to win 2 or 3 matches in Cincinatti to keep his ranking points; the rest is just about getting his groove underway and just hitting the right tone before swinging free in New York.

Posted by petewho 08/17/2010 at 03:54 AM

Yes, its the forehand that is his main liability when it comes to technique , but his backhand isnt that aggressive either , steady - yes , but its he does step in and drive ala Agassi or even Nadal when on form , its more of rallying shot.

Posted by petewho 08/17/2010 at 04:13 AM

I think the other point with Murray is that this is the lack of pressure at that tournament for him i.e. its not a slam so no expectation , and he had no coach so he always had a" get-outta- jail free " card in the reserve.

Whenever Murrays been faced with problems in slams hes usually become more passive and stubborn in his intent to outhink , rally his opponents rather than outpower them.

I dont think this is just technique , but more mindset in the samy way Hingis felt akward trying to dictate shots with pace when it came to the " big babes ".

Its funny because his game is essentially very Scottish in many ways to watch , its conservative , mean when it comes to taking risks and built around consistency / good use of slice and wearing the opponent down rather than outting them .

I believe this is partly an extension of his character/ psyche ( see the I felt stupid in my ferrari comment ) , but also his maternal makeup as a youth in his homeland .

Having spent some time there myself playing I can attest to this fact and this sort of fear / trust in most of the players shots there I saw when it comes to breaking the mould and dictate play.

Murray obviously excellent at varying his pace when it comes to this , but his inhibition inability to step in and go toe to toe , just screams of what Id typically see there - esp the over reliance of slice to draw errors .

Posted by petewho 08/17/2010 at 04:29 AM

if you want a good example of this pysche , just look at the Scots at sports like footaball, their essentially a lot like the Germans in style when it comes to play , but without the clutch play / beleif and technique to win when their playing bad.

They attribute loses ( esp close ones ) to some notion of destiny i.e. " it was not meant to be " - which in itself implies they never have any control over the outcome themselves.

Murray is light years away from this , but its that sort of mentality in Scotland - and the uk that is a good part of the reason why they've failed , and what still must be lurking there somewhere in nether regions of his mind .

You just cant erase those crucial years of youth that defined you so easily in 5 mins or in a tennis match .

When aced with fear your always going to revert to bad habits or what you know best, it this , thats defined great players like Fed , but also being the bane of others like Agassi who had to learn to curb his power , shot making to do it.

Of course, its far easier to reduce power if you have the good technique to start with , than it is to add it when its not there.

Posted by petewho 08/17/2010 at 04:44 AM

The English / Scottish rivalry is no joke either ...

See below

Now if you could just brainwash Murray into believing Fed & co where Hinglish , youd prob have tearing his shirt off after every blood exchange.

Its no secret every Scotsman worth anything loathes the Hinglish , after reading that Im not suprised.

Posted by cese 08/17/2010 at 08:37 AM

Ah,this fellow Tignor:Predicted that Nadal d.Frederer in finals.Smart fellow.Said he was on a roll for guessing right about the winners at Wimbledon.
Her is his prediction for the open:Winner Nadal;Federer to lose at semi-final.And of course,the Williams' will not win it.

Posted by ilovetennis 08/17/2010 at 10:36 AM

I definitely don't think Murray is going to win a slam. I think he'll end up like Elena Dementieva; called "best never to win a grand slam".

Posted by Geellis 08/18/2010 at 05:09 AM

I think it's just silly to say Murray will not win a GS. Anyone who watched how he handled Fedal in Toronto could never come to this conclusion. He's good enough and fit enough to win a GS and it's most likely at the USO or AO. I am a big Murray fan (if he and Rafa are fans of each other, then certainly their fans should be fans of the other player, no?) and really liked what I saw. We saw in Murray a modern, more explosive version of JMac. He has great hands, he's brilliant around the court and he finally showed a level of aggressive big hitting consistently across two matches that he will need to win slams, especially on the faster surfaces.

That said, I think Nadal was rusty. I'm a huge Nadal fan and I like how aggressive he tried to play. He just misfired much more often than normal. He will have that balance corrected by the time he reaches the USO. If you watched his match against Murray, note where Nadal stood to return Murray's second serve. He jumped inside the baseline. That's a very aggressive court position especially for Nadal. Anyone not impressed with how Nadal played in Toronto should recall his loss at Queens to Lopez. I think Nadal played better getting to the semis in Toronto than he did against Lopez in Queens, so I think he'll be a real contender at the Open (more so given the absence of Delpo and the relative weak play of Davydenko, his two toughest HC competitors).

I think Fed also has some kinks to work out. The problem with Fed is that his problems seem more structural overall. When you look at his losses at RG and Wimby, it's difficult to see the adjustments Fed makes. His losses are much more about his loss of timing and concentration than they are about any loss of motivation. His game was always a precisely timed machine. Well, once that timing goes off the rails, I'm not sure it's possible to get it back on. Also, his losses in final sets have been brutal this season and I'm not sure what he'll do to fix that.

Posted by Matthew 08/18/2010 at 01:45 PM

Great article, really enjoying your writing lately, Steve.

Posted by [email protected] 08/22/2010 at 10:58 AM

Ewwwwwwwww he's ugly

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