For the second time this year Andy Murray beat Roger Federer in straight sets in a match that saw the Swiss struggle as much against Murray as he did against himself. Federer was far from his best and one of his greatest weapons, his serve, completely deserted him. Such was the misery caused by his erratic serving that at 0-15, he served 3 straight double faults to gift Murray the break in the first set from which he never recovered; the Brit took the set 6-4.
In the first game of the second set Federer offered Murray 7 break points to go up a break immediately. He saved the 7th break point with some scintillating tennis. Federer ran through the tennis book of shots, mixing them up with lobs, slices and dropshots; and Murray kept returning each and every time. Finally the Maestro found that acute angle that never seemed possible and flicked it gently cross court over the net. However those flashes of brilliance were too few and far between. Though he held serve in that first game, Murray was soon up a break. There were some rain delays which bothered Roger more than Andy who wanted to keep his momentum going. And at 5-4 and serving for the match, Murray had to ultimately stop for the rain and wait for the magnolia roof to close. Perhaps there was a feeling of deja vu amongst FedEx’s fans thinking back to Wimbledon earlier this year. But this was a different Murray who was now a Grand Slam Champion. He kept his cool and was able to serve out the game and the match winning it in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
There may be some who might suggest Murray is now in his head just like Nadal. I for one would disagree. Fed himself was a lot to blame for his two recent losses to Andy. This is not to take anything away from Murray who seems to keep getting better each time. I felt Federer was absolutely spent when he met Murray for the Olympics gold medal match in London. And not just spent psychically but mentally too. It was such an emotional tournament for him, never having won a medal in his 3 previous Olympic attempts. When he finally won that epic SF against del Potro I think he was done, he had guaranteed himself a medal at last. When the gold medal match finally arrived, Andy just came out firing on all cylinders to rightfully take the gold.
Regarding his performances in Shanghai, as I said before, throughout the tournament he was good, not great. His R2 match was ok and R3 match was brutal till he turned it around late in the second set tie-break. Even against Cilic in the QFs he didn’t look like the Fed we know he can be. His overall body language seemed off and his serves were completely all over the place. And once his serve stops working, the rest of his game soon follows.
I am still not sure if it was a mistake for him coming to Shanghai. Being away from his family, being tired from the long season, the bizarre death threat, he didn’t look fresh. I understand though that he had to come to Shanghai get to that amazing total of 300 weeks at #1. And perhaps after attaining it he mentally checked out of the tournament. He also said he didn’t do any big build up as preparation and took the route of playing matches to maintain his level as opposed to practicing for a solid chunk of time. Maybe this was the wrong strategy. Trouble is, the indoor season starts in one week which doesn’t leave him much time to practice or prepare. And he HAS to do well in this last leg. Not just because of ranking points (which may not be enough to guarantee his hold over the #1 ranking though the end of the year, even if he wins all tournaments going forward); he needs it for a boost of his game. This is his favorite surface besides grass and he has traditionally done very well at the tail end of the year. And we all know how last years great indoor performance gave him such momentum coming into 2012.
But if there is one thing we do know, FedEx knows how to figure these things out. If he didn’t he wouldn’t be here at 31 years of age with a record 33 consecutive Grand Slam QFs and counting. He knows how to pace himself and take care of his body. And ultimately if it means he needs to sacrifice the end of this year for the greater good of increasing his tennis longevity I am all for it. I guess my conclusion as a Roger Federer fan is that despite what I think or theorize, I have the ultimate faith in Roger himself. He has proved detractors wrong time and time again and I look forward to what he has in store for us in the coming months and years to come.