Andy Murray Takes the Next Step – what comes after the gold?

Nadal is recuperating from his recurring sore knee(s).  Djokovic appears somehow listless.

Federer played out of sorts – what’s up with that.  And Andy Murray is breaking through.  Big time.

He was ahead in the Wimbledon finals until the roof closed and Roger found his winning form.  The match was close, the roof closure did make  the difference.

This time around I believe the courts were ever so slightly more dry than during the Wimbledon fortnight.  And where Roger can dominate when the grass court plays fast, something looked strangely different in his semifinal with Juan Martin Del Potro.  Uncharacteristic errors, a hesitancy, and perhaps more retrieving than we have come to expect.  As to Roger’s greatly improved backhand, that improvement has had more to do with topspin on the backhand wing.  For somehow his under spin return of serve from the ad court can be either lethal when skidding low, or just average when sitting up.

2 for 13 in break points against Del Potro, 0 for 9 on break points against Murray (including 0 for 6 in the critical third game of the opening set) and there becomes a story about his backhand return.  (Though that return has still been part and parcel of 17 Grand Slam titles).

Consider Andy Murray’s newfound strength of purpose.  He calmly told John McEnroe in post match remarks after beating Djokovic 75 75, that for the finals he “had a plan.”  And he spoke this with a smiling certainty.  As to Ivan Lendl, who was not present, but had kept in touch throughout the Olympics, there has been an undeniable steadying influence. “I spoke to Ivan Lendl after the Wimbledon final, and he said to me, ‘You’ll never play under more pressure than you did in the Wimbledon final,’ ”   “I’m able to deal with the situations better now, and I did. I felt much more comfortable on the court.”

As to your game and mine, let’s review Andy’s game with particular emphasis on balance.  Whereas Roger can beat you with his serve or his forehand, where Del Potro comes at you with a massive forehand, and where Rafa can dominate with a massive topspin forehand, to my mind Murray plays with much more balance, where he can hurt you with a balanced set of skills.  Certainly the match stats do in fact tell that tale.

In years past, Murray’s Achilles Heel was his second serve.  Somehow a delivery without penetration or even purpose, more or less spinning it in, and at this level of tennis that had not stood up to the competition.  But no more.  In the finals he won as astounding 63% of the points on his seconds serve, compared to 37% of points Roger won on his second serve.  More than anything else that was the whole story.   Murray had 8 winners on his forehand and 9 winners on his backhand.  Finally he outhit Roger, with 27 winners to the losers 24, and made almost half as many unforced errors, 17 to 31 for Roger.

When you or I have an off day, it can be us, or truly it can be something the opponent did to cause this.  Federer had a really off day – but to my mind we celebrate Andy as the cause of this, as the Gold Medal titlist, and as the next guy to wrest the stranglehold at the top of the men’s game from Roger, from Rafa, and now it appears from Novak.

If you compare points won on second serve, that statistic will always (repeat ALWAYS) indicate the winner of any match (professional or amateur).  Murray has significantly improved his game in that important area.

Next time you are on court, pay attention to your points won and lost on second serve deliveries – and keep your eyes open for a new release of BTS3 – Building the Serve from the Ground Up – our first and now greatly improved instructional course.

 

41 Comments

  • Florinda

    Reply Reply April 22, 2013

    Greetings! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I really enjoy reading through your blog posts.

    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the
    same subjects? Many thanks!

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply April 22, 2013

      Florinda
      thanks for the note – there are many many sites doing tennis instruction – that said my old friend / doubles partner / and a guy who had the same coach as I is Brent Abel of Webtennis.net
      Jim

  • bachduong

    Reply Reply September 7, 2012

    hi Sir Trainner! have a nice day,
    could you tell me exactly how to contact point with forehand and two handlbackhand.
    1- with face flat of the string?
    2- with slicelyclose of string?
    I use eastern forehand grip and continaltal backhand.
    thank a lot for your reply soon!
    yours sincerely
    bachduong & group tennis club in Praha.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 7, 2012

      Bach – very hard to answer precisely – the secret is that the angle of the racquet face also relates to the swing path – open face swing down, closed face swing up – and then grips become another story
      see if the podcasts will help
      Jim

  • jeanius

    Reply Reply August 31, 2012

    I, too, think Fed threw the match. And did Murray know that he did, or would? In other words, was the match fixed or tanked? Think about that one.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply August 31, 2012

      Jeanius – I would never believe these guys would “throw” a match – they are sportsmen of the highest caliber
      Jim

  • DESMOND MUNROE

    Reply Reply August 15, 2012

    I’AM NOT TOO SURE THIS IS REALLY A LOST ,ITS NOT LIKE ROGER.

  • Amir

    Reply Reply August 15, 2012

    To many conclusion from one mach.

  • Mary Kistnen

    Reply Reply August 15, 2012

    There are small margains between winning and losing and a lot of that is to do with confidence. Federer came out extremely confidently and with all guns blazing, especially with the serve. Murray didn’t flinch (as he has done in the past) and Federer paniced because he knew that he could not beat a Murray playing with this much resolve and self-belief. All this enabled Murray to play even better as the match went along, freeing him up to move to the side of the ball and thus to launch winning shots into open spaces or to gain the upper hand in rallies.
    Federer had a day’s rest in between the semi and the final and Murray had to play two doubles matches the day before so there’s no excuse for Federer, that he was more tired than Murray.
    Del Potro won his match against Djokovic after that long match too. If Federer was tired, it’s about time too – what about the many times he has won Majors when the other player was dead on his feet from long matches or how about the preferential treatement Federer gets in terms of schedueling especially in the US Open.

  • Dom

    Reply Reply August 14, 2012

    If you are a tennis player ,you know why Federer lost ..
    5 set Del Porto match the day before . Humans only have so much energy despite their conditioning .come on boys , give the greatest player to ever play the game a break .

  • walter

    Reply Reply August 14, 2012

    Hello Jim;
    Your observations of tennis in general is very interesting, especially your insight of what is coming next: Andy on top of the game. We have seen a more agressive, accurate player with a tremendous appetite for winning, I believe, greatly due to the excellence of coaching of Ivan Lendl; but for every action, there is an equal an opposite reaction…..let’s wait and see what surprise Roger has planned for this year’s US. OPEN.

  • David

    Reply Reply August 14, 2012

    I would like to see the evidence-speed I guess primarily-that Murray’s second serve was ‘better’. Time and time again Fed simply miscued his return, either with straightforward returns or when trying to run around his backhand.

    My hunch would be we would see a slight improvement in speed, but but I’m afraid it was more off-day than improved second serve. Your point about second serves indicating the winner is essentially a truism, not a function of cause and effect. In fact, it is possible for this not to be an indicator, although you qualify this with ‘professional or amateur’. But take a one-sided match in the park where my opponent has a very accurate, slow, spun first serve that I clock for winners…….

  • Philip

    Reply Reply August 13, 2012

    Hi Jim,

    I’m intrigued by your hint of the new BTS3. Looking forward to it! The 2nd serve is so, so important. And I’m fascinated at how there are so many different styles of serving at the club 3.0-3.5 level. I’m still very much an amateur and I like to think of serving as “two chances to do a good, spinning, penetrating second serve”. — Phil

  • george

    Reply Reply August 13, 2012

    Grass courts today are as slow as clay. It is a joke the ATP and the ITF will do anything to make tennis spectator friendly. Thats why the serve and volley game has gone away, all you have to do is play on any ATP or ITF venue and you will see that the ball doesn’t go through the court it sits up.
    This is why David F is top 5 and Nadal is top 3 on a real fast court without all the silica sand in the surface, they would get knocked off the court.

  • Kwok

    Reply Reply August 13, 2012

    If there are people out there who think that the only way Federer would lose a game is to throw one away, I am not one of them. Federer has lost matches before and will lose again; and Andy has beat Federer before and there is a good chance he will do it again.

    I think the people who think it is insulting to suggest Federer threw a match away are bigger fans than the people who think that Federer might have done it.

    My sentiment is this: under the circumstances I mentioned in my last blog, if I were Federer, I would help Andy to win, not that he is not able to win it. As much as I love the game, to me there are things more important than winning a match, getting a gold medal and maintain my integrity as a tennis player…….things like friendship and humility.

    For the fans of Federer and Andy alike, I knew it was a heresy to suggest that Federer threw a match. That is why, in the beginning, I declared what I was going to say was “controversial theory”.

    Now my friends, let’s go out to hit some balls to celebrate the fact that we are so lucky to be able to witness the best tennis playing in the history of tennis. And the best way to honor players like Andy, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic is to improve our games !!

    Kwok.

  • Joe DeRosa

    Reply Reply August 13, 2012

    Jim,

    Quite right to focus on the second serve stats, it was equally the key to the Wimbledon final as well but to Roger’s advantage. I watched the match but not as closely as I would have liked, I thought
    it was more that Roger could not return as well and tht he could not take advantage of Andy’s second serves particularly in the key 2-0 game 0-40 in the second set.

    Frankly I was not aware of a better Murray second serve as much as a very tired Roger.
    Winning as much as he has and getting to #1, Roger has played more tennis than anyone one else at an advanced age.

    Maybe I missed it but did Andy get more kick or speed or depth, if so I stand corrected.

    Joe

  • George Mehnert

    Reply Reply August 13, 2012

    It seems to me that over the past couple of years Murray has been the greater head-case of the two but, of course, Lendl is his corner man now and Murray has been playing better. Perhaps this event was just incredibly timely. This was the type of match where I would like to see both of them win but that cannot happen. I know one thing; I would not like to have to play Federer anytime soon in a serious tennis match.

  • Brian Hotchkiss

    Reply Reply August 13, 2012

    No athlete wins every time. There are too many variables: fatigue, injury, environmental conditions, psychology, an opponent having the game of his/her life, etc. On top of that are those inexplicable days that we have all experienced when the racquet just does not connect well with the ball. Professional golfers can win a major tournament one week then fail to qualify for a tournament the next week. So, it is really quite simple. Fed did not have his best day in tennis (not the first time) and Andy played the game of his life.

  • Eric Neil

    Reply Reply August 13, 2012

    Whoever says that Federer ‘tanked’ an Olympic final cannot be thinking straight. Much as he cares about his British fan base, he would have crawled over used razor blades to win the gold medal. I believe that after the Del Potro match Federer simply ran out of gas, and a half empty Federer is no match for a fully stocked Murray. The Swiss maestro is the consumate professional who wants to win everything in sight so shame on you naive people to insult his integrity in this way. And give Murray his due for goodness sake. He did remove Djokovic from the tournament as well.

  • Noushin Kananian

    Reply Reply August 13, 2012

    Hi Jim

    Many thanks for your professional blog. I really appreciate your invaluable knowledge.

    Wish to see you soon.

    Noushin

  • Grahame

    Reply Reply August 13, 2012

    Hi Jim

    First of all, thank you for all the thought-provoking material you send us tennis nuts. I particularly like the way you analyse the subject and your explanations make great sense and also make the material very accessible.

    On the subject of Andy Murray, I have watched him for years and I was at the Wimbledon semis this year and of the four players he was (once again) the only one who was playing not to lose. The others were trying hard to win. They expressed this attitude in aggressive court positioning, aggressive and early ball-striking, moving up the court just as soon as opportunity afforded (and often when it did not) and yet (with the possible exception of Tsonga) defended so well when required to do so without ever making this facet of the game their first thought. Murray did not do this.

    At the Olympics, however, Murray appeared to be prepared to latch on to any ball he could hit and he hit it. He has done this in the past with success but usually only when pressed to do so by a disadvantageous scoreline or at the expense of poor execution. He never ever allowed Djokovic or Federer any time or respite or hope. He gave me the sense that he was truly going to take it to them and put them to the sword before they would have the chance to do that to him. He has of course sent the field a message but I hope most of all he has sent himself a message. Try to win or try not to lose. I believe the tennis scoring system promotes the latter but at the very top that is (for the most part) not good enough and yet it is so difficult to change your mindset if you naturally embrace this logic. I salute Murray for successfully doing this at the O’s and I hope he will continue this approach wherever possible.

  • SRC

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    Don’t know what Fed was thinking. Already playing a heavy schedule this year to try to get to number one. Then add in Olympics, then add in doubles in the Olympics, even though he already had a gold medal there. That he had enough left in the tank for Potro was probably due to the fact Olympics are best 2 out of 3. Unfortunately for Fed he had to play the equivalent of a five setter with Del.

    The only chance he had against Murray would have been if the roof was closed, thus no wind, and he could win easy points off his laser accurate serves and forehand.

  • Ed

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    Very clear, for all those who watch the Del Potro vs Fed game, it was an epic, and it clearly zapped the energy reserves of Fed, even with a day’s rest, remeber Fed is not young anymore and biologically and Physiologically speaking, at that age you recup slowly than usual.

  • Ed

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    I agree 100% with Kwok, I remember the commentator ask roger which he would want to win, an Olympic gold or another wimbledon, and I believed his answer was Wimbledon. On the “making the Brits Happy”, well yes, majority of Roger’s accomplishments were on wimbledon, with the support of the Brits, from time immemorial he had been the sentimental favorite of the Brits, so that is just some sort of “repayment”, gratitude of sorts.

  • Richard

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    Jimbo wants to discuss if Fed threw the final – that’s absurd. Do Fed fans think he is so great, the only way he can lose is to throw a match? That’s more insulting to a terrific champion than recognizing that he does get beat. Shows how tough it really is to win as much as he has.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply August 12, 2012

      Richard – just to be clear, I am hoping the “Jimbo” you are referring to is not me – I would never suggest Fed would throw a match
      Jim

  • Kwok

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    Jim,
    Yes, I am convinced that Andy’s has improved quit a bit since Lendl has become his coach. After all, he got to the two finals back to back, didn’t he ? That is no fluke. But I have a controversial theory on why Roger lost this match
    I think very likely Roger gave it to Andy, he missed quite a bit of pretty routine shots that he usually would have made. I have never seen him play so bad except that period of time after he got very sick ( mononucleosis ). The Wimbledon tournament is more tiring than the Olympic games ( best of 5 instead of best of 3 sets ), so I don’t think he was tired.

    Why did he let Andy win it ?

    1) He didn’t want to be a big enemy of the whole UK. he had already disappointed them once a month ago, he did not want to do it again.
    2) Remember Andy cried so bad after he lost to Roger at the Wimbledon tournament ? poor guy, he had his whole country on his shoulders. Can you imagine what he would feel if he lost again ? It takes a very mean person to do it again to him.
    3) Roger dose not need another gold medal, he has already got one, remember ? With Wawrinka. And it is very unlikely he will have a chance to break Michael Phelps record of 22 medals, so one less gold medal would not make much of a difference.
    4) Roger did not come out of it with nothing, he got a silver medal. A lot of Olympians cried over a bronze medal, let alone a silver one, it is not bad at all. Actually, during an interview Roger said,” I did not lose a gold medal, I won a silver medal !”
    5) By losing, he made million of Brits very happy. And he did have not much to lose.

    I am not saying Andy would not win if Roger put on a big fight. But He just made too many mistakes on not too difficult shots, that was just not likely; the scores just don’t make much sense to me.

    The next match between them in a grand slam tournament will paint a better picture. Let’s keep our eyes open.

    Kwok.

  • Fred Sadler

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    Jim,
    Excellent analysis. Murray did have a plan indeed and I agree that Lendl has helped him. Who knows, maybe this will be a beginning of a run for Murray to the top, much the way the big win at the French against J Mac finally got Lendl over the top.
    Fred

  • Mike Kure

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    Yes I too, watched the “Gold ” performance !!! Gold it was !! Andy played the way Andy should have
    played in all his previously lost finals. He was a victim of unfair criticism when he did not win.He has
    now proved himself beyond doubt and this has, in my opionion, largely due to Lendl’s influence,
    experience and knowledge of how to channel Murray’s undisputed skills in tennis.Andy won because he never allowed Roger to get into the game which is the only way you can win against him.He seemed to be aware of the time element and he seized every moment devastating effects.
    He must now build on his success and show the world he is fit to be the number one in the World.
    Mike

  • Orlando

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    Far from deep technical analyses, the truth is simpler and can be summarized by the old adage “It also happens in the best families”. No matter how skilled you are, you are still a common mortal. Everything had to do with the very first game. Federer had three game-points and Murray, as usually with the “Queen of drama”, was ready to start chocking and looking for all kind of excuses during the rest of the whole match as a reason for him losing one more time. Somehow, out of nowhere, Federer helped with his unusual unforced errors to level and lose the game. Then, despise the preparation, strategy and his high professional level, the grand master’s brain switched off a couple of neurons. It was now his turn to choke, as he became badly impressed by his own errors and the misfortune of losing this first break which would have allowed him begin the first set 2-0. The rest is a tale of the very same pattern, Federer tight, insecure of himself, scare of putting more whoop in his strokes because the ball might fall out and, that was it, bye, bye painfully dreamed gold medal.

  • Bud Light

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    Great analysis. Andy Murray always has had the ability but Ivan Lendl has clearly helped his self confidence . It was only a matter of time in my view and now that he has won a major type tournament, the sky may be the limit. I think Federer was clearly affected by his semi-final win over Del Potro. I was rooting for Federer to win his Olympic Gold but good for Andy. He deserved it. The monkey is now off his back!! Best, Bud Light

  • Richard

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    Murray didn’t let Federer back into the match. He held the third game 2nd set & thereby his strength of purpose. Federer does have bad days when he sprays balls. I saw a bad one in Miami a couple years back when he lost to Berdych. They will inevitably become more frequent as he ages.

  • Mark

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    Hi Jim,
    I would say that although the roof did help Fed in the Wimby final, he actually had levelled the match and got a handle on things before the roof came on so that was not the full reason why he beat Murray. In the Olympics final, I agree Murray was superb both in his game and his mental fortitude but Fed looked a tad slow and listless to be honest. Look how many unforced errors he made and its not as if he hasn’t dealt with tough opponents and situations before….Not to say that Murray wouldn’t have won anyway but it would have been a closer match if Fed hadn’t been below par. Perhaps winning Wimby and the importance of possibly his last realistic chance at gold coupled with the huge match against Del Potro was too much even for him…

  • jimbo

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    lets be honest here -We all play the game at various levels so know the game.
    IMO federer thew the final.
    he looked disintersted from the start and probably felt sympathy for murray after his emotional break down after the wimby final.
    federer wasnt going to lose any ranking points as the olympic final isnt classed as a 1st tier tourny.
    Murray played well enough …because he was allowed too.

    Does anyone seriously believe that fed would lose a wimby final with such a score ?

    Discuss.

  • gabor fuzessery

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    Jim, I hand it to you, your analysis is absolutely spot on in the technical and tactical departments. Yet, I am convinced, this time it came down to something else. Namely, – and it may sound strange – it was one tournament too many for the Maestro. In the very rigorous annual rythm of the top three ( yes, including Djokovic and Nadal, who didn’t even show) the olympic tourney, however glorious was kind of tipping the balance… One peak too many to climb. I fear, we will see repercussions in the US Open, too.

  • joseph

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    correct. i built my serve from the ground up. i’m 4.0 and solid. i lose some and win some. solid 4.5 can’t wipe me away unless they can stay on the court all day.. over the last years, i started practice of serve with 1 ) my feet correct from toss to ball contact. then, 2) back to the net as closely as i could turn. then, 3) ball toss, 4) eyes on the ball 5) toss 6) pronation 7) getting the ball in the box
    8) placement of ball in the box 9) a power 1st serve 10) different type serves are easy.
    continuously 11) putting all the pieces together and double checking them in matches, how effective are my serves is evaluated during and after a match.

  • Sandy

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    I think Murray has proved he can beat everybody…He has always had the tools and now he has the secert weapon of Ivan Lendl…

  • Roei

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    Murray indeed got a bit better and especially has more mental stability.

    however i wouldn’t judge this specific Olympic final –
    for the fact it wasn’t the real Federer he played against.
    after a few games it was obvious it was pretty much a one sided match.
    Federer looked exhausted and simply didn’t have the energy and the will for a gold medal.
    that made Murray adjust himself enough to dominate.

    that said, Murray did manage to produce good mental stability throughout the match.
    but again, with a 100% home crowd and no serious game from the other side, Murray somehow managed to avoid getting into his usual imploding/mumbling and “crossed that mental line”.

    the real test STILL remains a grand slam as i see it.

  • David Benson

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    It seemed to me Roger was a millisecond too late getting to many of Murray’s groundstrokes. Does Murray have so much pace, or is he harder to read, or is Roger just an eighth of a step slower?

  • charles

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    in spite of the various techinal stats one very determining factors was (del porto )half of that trophy is his.

  • julian cousins

    Reply Reply August 12, 2012

    Yep agree 100% a huge breakthrough. For me the conversion of break points and his own 2nd serve were key. I don’t know if there’s a resource for his average 2nd serve speed but it ‘looked’ faster, albeit a little. But little can make a big difference.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field