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.