If anyone doubts how badly Andy Murray wants to win a Grand Slam final, all they had to do was listen to his tear-jerking, emotionally-charged interview following his loss today to Roger Federer at Wimbledon. Murray knew he had played the best Grand Slam final of his career and yet he had still come up short in a four-set loss. Some of that was due to playing against (perhaps) the greatest grass court/Wimbledon champion of all-time. The rest of it was due to the fact that, for as many strides as Murray has made personally and professionally, he's still not playing well enough when it counts to win a Grand Slam.
It's clear that Ivan Lendl's influence as a coach is helping. Murray was more confident and settled to start the match which had always been an issue for him. His previous three Grand Slam finals had been straight-set losses. Instead of coming out cautious and defensive as in the past, Murray came out aggressive and firing away at Federer.
A perfect example of that was during the first set when it was tied at 4-4. Federer had just served and the players were trading shots when Federer charged the net after attempting a drop shot. Murray charged in as well and, instead of trying the usual lob or passing shot, fired a hard shot that just missed taking off Federer's head. If ever there was a moment where Murray can say that he arrived and was ready to play, that was it. The aggressive shot seemed to rattle Federer who was broken that game. Murray went on to win his first set ever in a Grand Slam final and energize the crowd.
The second set could have also gone either way and Federer managed to break Murray in the last game to even the match with one set each. At the start of the third set, the rain set in and the officials decided to close the roof to make sure that there were no further delays due to weather. When play finally started again, Federer began to build momentum as he increased the level of his play with every game. Murray had no answer for this and seemed to begin to waver emotionally. Fans finally got to see angry Murray as he began to visibly get mad at himself and seemed to shirk from taking the aggressive shot that he had made so frequently in the first set.
As he began to tighten up mentally, his serve left him and never really came back. In the third and fourth sets Murray had first serve percentages of 49% and 45% respectively. He became more tentative with his second serve, which allowed Federer better return opportunities to dictate the pace. When Federer started to make incredible shots one after the other, Murray wasn't equal to the task. It's not as if Murray totally wilted away like he used to, but he didn't increase his aggressiveness when he had opportunities.
Murray's play today clearly showed that he's making progress. I believe he has it in him physically and technically right now to win a Grand Slam. He could have done it today if he had played with the kind of authority and confidence that Federer showed. I was pleased to see that he didn't emotionally and mentally melt down like the Murray of old when the match started to turn against him. Clearly he's still a work in progress with Lendl, but I'm encouraged by the strides they've made as a team. I think that Murray can be expected to win a Grand Slam soon after what he showed today.
Julie is a featured tennis contributor for the Yahoo Contributor Network. A tennis fan who has watched every Wimbledon final for the past 20 years, she's now looking forward to the Olympic competition here later this month.
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- Andy Murray
- Roger Federer