I underestimated Murray, didn’t I? I got up at 2:30 am to watch this match, and had to work at 7 am the next day. And today. So I was too tired to make a post last night. These posts takes energy, believe it or not. I thought this was a great match, worthy of a final. The key to this match for me was the first set, not the third set like against Tsonga. Murray came out in dominant fashion, and after he won the first set Roger could never quite caught up. Murray drew first blood as he broke at 1-1 after a heavy forehand that Roger could not return. He was serving big and dominated from the ground. Roger could not break back and lost the first set. Murray was overpowering him and I felt he needed to use more variation coupled with aggressive play. He needed to break down Murray’s rhythm. He started doing that in the second set, slicing more off the backhand side.
It paid dividends as he broke the Murray rhythm and did some domination of his own. He could not break serve however and the set boiled down to the first tie break. I was nervous because I knew Roger had to win the set to stay in the match. As we know Roger 3.0, he was clutch in the breaker. At 5-5 he made a great defensive lob which Murray could not put away. Roger took the opportunity with both hands as he hit a delicious cross court backhand passing shot. The crowd roared and Roger pumped his fist. He had set point and after a Murray forehand sailed long he let rip with a loud ‘ALLEZ!’. The crowd roared again, because the match was tied up at a set all and it would go to four sets at least. Murray was starting with his negative body language again and I was wondering whether Roger was starting to take control of the match.
It wasn’t to be. Murray broke at 3-2 and took a 5-2 lead. He then served it out at 5-3 with an ace. He was the dominant force again. Of course the third set was a pivotal set in the match as well, but it wasn’t really close. If it went to the breaker I’d be more inclined to say it was the key point in the match. But it had an air of inevitability about it after Murray dropped the second set. He just stepped it up and took control of the match again. In the fourth set Roger staged another comeback, as I was struggling to keep my eyes open. He broke at 2-1 and looked in superb form as he held serve to take a 4-1 lead. But at 4-2 Murray broke back. It was around this time that I drifted off into sleep. Things finally headed for the tie break once more. Would Roger hold off Murray this time? The answer is a resounding yes as he won the breaker by two mini breaks.
It showed great heart after gaining the momentum with a break and then losing it again when Murray broke back. In the fifth set Roger was still bravely fighting on but there was nothing left in the tank. Murray thoroughly dominated this set and broke Roger twice. Of course the result was a disappointment at first, but it didn’t take me long to get over it. In fact I soon started feeling very satisfied with Roger’s whole Australian Open performance. It was like winning another slam without the cup and the official title next to his name. I was really proud of the way he played this whole two weeks. He could not possibly have done better. I’ve heard many people say that he was not as his best against Murray. What these people fail to realize is that you play only as well as your opponent and conditions allows you to. Murray is a heavyweight now.
There can be no doubt about this fact. He is the real deal. Given the court surface that suits his game, you can now start to understand why I say Roger could not have done any better. Roger is 31 years old and played against a very talented player who is in his prime, on slow hard courts. Do you honestly think he could have done better? He was beaten by the better player. Simple as that. That doesn’t mean he can’t beat Murray in a slam. But as I said earlier this year I still think his best chances at a slam is Wimbledon or the US Open. Melbourne and Paris just doesn’t suit his game that well. If Murray beat him in Melbourne then Djokovic would probably have beaten him easier. The surface just doesn’t suit his attacking game as much. He doesn’t get enough free points off the serve against good returners like Murray and Djokovic.
Some people said the reason he lost is because his serve was off. Again I can’t agree. He was still serving at 61% first serves which is high. Murray is simply a very good returner and didn’t allow Roger to dominate with his serve as much. It’s not like this is the first time it’s happened. We have seen what happens against the likes of Nadal and Del Potro who put pressure on his serve. In those instances his serve actually started to fall apart. That was not the case against Murray. You see, people still want to believe that every match Roger plays the match is on his racquet. Well he is not in his prime anymore and the competition has caught up. Yes, the match may be on his racquet on fast hard, grass, or indoors, but that is not the case on slow hard and clay anymore. Not against the very best anyway. But this is really a minor.
I would be a really greedy and unreasonable fan if I still expect Roger to dominate the very best on every surface out there. That wasn’t even the case in his prime! At 31 years of age he is still right up there with Djokovic and Murray. How can I possibly ask for more? I am 100% satisfied with Roger’s performance in Melbourne, and I mean that when I say it. Towards the end of last year Roger was struggling somewhat due to tiredness. He ended the year well however by beating Murray in London and losing to Djokovic in the final, after he was up breaks in both sets. Now there was a match which you could say the match was on his racquet. And why was that? You guessed it – the surface. I think Roger raised his level since then, which is what I was hoping for. He is at his best possible level right now, which I didn’t feel was the case there.
He is playing with more confidence and assurance. So I have very high hopes for 2013. Roger 3.0 is here to stay. And Roger 3.0 is right up there with Djokovic and Murray. Make no mistake about it. They won this round, as they should on a surface that suited them. In the clay season it will be interesting to see if Murray can match Roger. We know Djokovic is a tough customer on clay, although Roger beat him in 2011 in that epic French Open semi. On grass I still very much like Roger’s chances against Djokovic and Murray. Same thing on the faster hard courts of the North-American swing and indoors. I don’t think Roger will win Wimbledon again this year. I think it will be Djokovic or Murray. I think his best chance for a slam title this year will be at the US Open. I just have a good feeling about it.
Yes, I do believe Roger has another slam left in him. He is just too good a player still. I like to see his slam count end on an even number, and he has some unfinished business in New York. Then I guess I have to address the issue of Roger’s swearing at Murray in the fourth set tie break. I won’t spend much time on it because I don’t view it as a big deal. There was a shot from Roger that was close to the line and Murray sort of stopped to see if the lines person is gonna make a call. When the call didn’t come he resumed play. Roger then said ‘Fucking stop!’ or ‘You fucking stopped!’ to Murray after the point, to which Murray made a face that can be translated as ‘Oh, so that’s the way it’s gonna be’. As usual some people are pulling this way out of proportion. If this stops you from being a Fedfan I have news for you: You were never a Fedfan to begin with.
This is sport for crying out loud. Sport is just a modern version of war. In the old days in Rome their sport was watching gladiators kill each other for entertainment. And not long ago Mcenroe and Connors was at each other’s throats. As an ex tennis player myself I enjoyed the moment, even though I didn’t see it live. It worked for Roger anyway, as he won the tie break. If you want to whine about how players conduct themselves on court then go whine about Nadal. I assure you there there are a 100 more things to whine about. And if you want tennis players to be angels then you should find yourself another sport. Or stop following sport altogether. It goes with the territory. Ok I think I have said enough about that. As for the final tomorrow I think Djokovic will win. He is the king of plexicushion and I think he will tie Roger and Agassi at 4 Australian Open titles tomorrow.
Nothing is set in stone but I think he does everything just that little bit better than Murray. It has been a fantastic Australian Open and a fantastic one for Roger as well. I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did and I look forward to a good final. I don’t think it will match the Roger/Murray match in terms of entertainment but it will be interesting nonetheless. I will make another post after the final.