There are many ways to play this game, many ways to hit the ball, but at the end of the day tennis may be played entirely between the ears – winning and losing (when opponents are evenly matched) may simply a result of mindset.
Marion Bartoli cruised through the Wimbledon fortnight without the loss of a set. She dispatched Sloane Stephens in the quarters 64 75, Kirsten Flipkens 61 62 in the semis, and Sabine Lisicki in the finals 61 64.
Perhaps Lisicki had less than a full tank of mental and physical reserves after her 62 26 97 victory over Radwanska, but to my eye Marion’s game was way too much for Sabine.
Recall the court positioning, ferocious hitting, and utter dominance of the other two fisted on both wings champion Monica Seles. Marion refashioned her game to model Monica, and when returning from the baseline, when playing without much defense, and denying the opponent any type of recovery time – Marion was as ruthless as Monica in days of old.
Not much to glean from the match stats – fairly straight forward.
- Double faults, 2 to 6.
- First serve points won 79% to 52%
- Receiving points won 52% to 34%
- Winners – this was unusual – 15 for Bartoli to 21 for Lisicki
- Unforced errors – this one told the tale – 14 to 25
From strictly a geometric or court space point of view – our game is only about time and angle. When playing deep and mixing up pace, as does Radwanska, the opponent has more time to get to the ball and Aggie playes to a smaller hitting angle. But when playing on or inside the baseline (Monica or Marion) the opponent has less time to react and retries balls hit to wider angles.
Now to Andy Murray. Quite a few things stood out in his masterful three set victory.
First, his knifing under spin backhand from the corners bedeviled the Serb. In crosscourt under spin backhand rallies, Novak looks somehow awkward, hitting the ball with unusual (meaning poor) posture, and with little bite or offensive intent. Andy can float these shots, but equally he can rip this ball with under spin which exposed Djokovic’s indifferent volleying skills. Way too often Novak tried backhand finesse volleys, which spoke volumes about his mindset.
Second, movement. Murray is the CAT, much like Miroslav Mecir in days of old (known as the Big Cat). He moved with grace, he never lost balance when changing direction as compared to Novak, he hung with Novak in the long rallies, but looked much more comfortable if not dangerous when stretched wide in the corners. Ours is a game of moving and hitting, and on this score he moved better than his opponent.
Take time to study footwork materials, and really investigate the all important first step. On this score, in my opinion, Murray relies on a gravity turn – as did Edberg, as did McEnroe, and as do all players who appear quick without being effortful, who get to the ball easily without truly appearing explosive. Interestingly, Juan Martin del Potro uses the same gravity turn. I go into this in a lot of detail in my Secrets of World Class Footwork product.
Match stats often tell the story, though they do not divulge precisely when the winners or errors occurred. For even with Murray serving at triple match point 54 40 love in the third set, Novak was still dangerous and both men knew the match was not really over until the last winner or error. That said most of the stats were similar on serve percentage and points won on first and second serve. But in a match that featured so many 15, 20, and even 30 shot rallies the following two stats stand in stark contrast
- Murray hit 36 winners compared to Djokovic at 31
- Andy made 21 errors compared to Novak at 40 (!)
Finally, a few thoughts (as usual with me) on the serve. Coaches are in disagreement about how to use the body and where to toss the ball on serve. Murray throws himself up and into the court, way into the court. Oftimes the serve can be struck way long, and second serves below 80mph are common. His fastest serve was 131, but his slowest may have been 73mph. All good enough for a Wimbledon title, but really quite different from Sampras, or even the serve speed differentials for Roger. Novak, on the other hand appears to toss the ball less in front, still up and into the court but his balance appears somewhat better. His fastest serve was 127, but his average second serve speed was 98 mph compared to Andy at 80mph. The photo of Roger, I believe, shows him going up and not forward.
I go into plenty of detail in Building The Serve From The Ground Up which will be back on the market soon
So at the end of the day, Novak really did not punish enough of the Murray second serves, but perhaps the wide variety of serve speeds from Andy may have disrupted Novak’s rhythm. At this point it would only be conjecture.
And I will put conjecture to rest.