Murray Wins Wimbledon

18:52 Sun 07 Jul 2013
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With a 6–4, 7–5, 6–4 victory over world number one Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray became the first Scotsman to win Wimbledon in 117 years (Harold Mahony won it in 1896[1]). It is his second Grand Slam title and his second consecutive win at Wimbledon, as he won his Olympic gold medal there last year.

It was not a particularly good final, primarily because of Djokovic’s substandard play. This was not at all like the Djokovic–Murray Australian Open final, where they were evenly matched for much of the match and looked inseparable over the first two sets. Today, Murray was clearly the more energetic of the two throughout, as well as the more consistent. He also served far better than Djokovic did. Djokovic was off his game from the start, with a winner–unforced error ratio of 6–17 in the first set. His down-the-line backhand seemed particularly poor, and that shot may be the key to his entire game.

Murray’s play was excellent, and his phenomenal defense from the semifinal against Janowicz was present again in the final. He repeatedly stayed in points Djokovic seemed to have won, frequently chose the right moments to go on the offensive, and was able to serve his way out of trouble many times.

The best tennis in the match came in the final game. Murray was serving for the match at 5–4 and quickly built a 40–0 lead, only to see Djokovic win the next three points. There were several deuces, and Djokovic could have broken—and perhaps could then miraculously have found his form—but instead Murray was able to finally close it out.

Djokovic broke Murray and led in the second and third sets, but could not hold either of those leads. I’m rather surprised that he could not take a single set in the match.

Murray had the easier semifinal, managing to solve Jerzy Janowicz’s game—and take advantage of a lucky net cord winner—just in time to prevent the first Polish man ever in a Grand Slam semifinal from taking a 2–1 set lead. Janowicz didn’t have the will to come back from that, and Murray won it in four. Djokovic faced an in-form Juan Martin Del Potro, and had to produce unbelievable defensive tennis to eventually wear down the Argentine in five long sets[2]. The tennis in that semifinal was amazing for the first four sets, with Del Potro’s ridiculous power battling Djokovic’s incredible resilience and defensive ability. At one point Del Potro hit a running cross-court forehand winner past Djokovic at 113 miles per hour, which I think is a record speed for any groundstroke (the previous record was a Gael Monfils forehand at 108mph).

Both of the semifinals were defense and all-around ability versus power (and height); the final was a matter of execution rather than tactics or a clash of styles.

That the men’s final was contested by the number one and two players in the world was at odds with the rest of this year’s Wimbledon, where the seeds were scattered to the winds. It began with Nadal’s straight-sets loss to Steve Darcis (ranked 135), which didn’t seem quite as much of an upset while watching it, perhaps because of last year’s upset by Rosol. It seemed clear from the start that Nadal wasn’t in good form, and Darcis seized his moment. A bigger shocker (and, for a Federer fan like me, heartbreaker) followed in the second round, with Federer going out in four sets to Sergiy Stakhovsky (ranked 116). Stakhovsky played all-out serve-and-volley tennis and made it work against Federer, exploiting Federer’s returning (particularly on the backhand side—he served to the backhand 85% of the time). The match included three tiebreaks, and Stakhovsky won two of those[3]. Federer never seemed to find his rhythm—and preventing him from doing so was in large part why Stakhovsky pursued that plan.

With that loss, Federer’s streak of reaching 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals is over. That streak, along with his streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals (2004 Wimbledon–2010 Australian Open), is vastly underrated as an achievement[4]; that consistency is simply unparalleled in men’s tennis history. Such a loss seems like the end of an era, particularly because it came at Wimbledon, historically Federer’s strongest Grand Slam (and where he was the defending champion). In the past I’ve ignored the cries about Federer being “done”, and his return to the number one spot last year and his victory at Wimbledon made it clear why. This loss, however, gives me pause. His consistency has been unbelievable, but what if that’s gone? If he can’t get that back, can he adjust to being a lower-ranked player, and make occasional runs at Slam titles[5]? The US Open should provide some hints.

It’s also unclear how Nadal’s career will proceed. Will he continue to save his energy (and his knees) for the clay season and the French Open? After so much time off, he still dominated all comers and seized his eighth title, and at this juncture it seems unwise indeed to bet against him making that nine next year. Hard courts are apparently easier for him than grass, so he too might make a comeback at the US Open.

The main contenders, however, are Djokovic and Murray, and I’m sure Djokovic would love to get revenge at Flushing Meadows, where he’ll likely be the favorite.

I didn’t watch much of the women’s tournament, but chaos reigned there also. Serena Williams was widely expected to win, with Maria Sharapova her main rival, but neither made it to the quarterfinals, and Victoria Azarenka withdrew due to injury. Serena Williams losing to Sabine Lisicki (ranked 23) was a huge upset, particularly since Williams had a 34-match winning streak going into the match. The draw was wide open, and Lisicki followed up on her upset by advancing to the final to face Marion Bartoli (ranked 15), but seemed overwhelmed by the occasion and lost in straight sets. Bartoli won the tournament without dropping a set, and set a record by playing in 47 Grand Slam events before winning one.

[1] Although it’s unclear whether Mahony would have claimed it for Scotland or Ireland; he was born in Edinburgh to Irish parents and spent much of his time in Ireland.

[2] I hope Murray appreciates what Del Potro has done for him; Del Potro clearly wore down Djokovic in that semifinal, and also clearly wore down Federer at the 2012 Olympics, in a three-set semifinal that took almost as long as Djokovic’s five-setter against Del Potro.

[3] Despite winning the only set that didn’t go to a tiebreak (the third, 7–5), Stakhovsky only won one more point than Federer overall, 162–161.

[4] The record for total men’s quarterfinals reached in a career is 41, by Jimmy Connors. To reach 36 in a row is simply ridiculous.

[5] Pete Sampras, the only player in the Open era who had a period of dominance approaching Federer’s, won the US Open as the 17th seed in 2002—and this was after being upset at Wimbledon by Georg Bastl. Sampras then retired. Federer, however, has repeatedly stated that he wants to play at least until 2016.

2 Responses to “Murray Wins Wimbledon”

  1. Léan Says:

    “…the seeds were scattered to the winds.”

    D’aw! I heart this. That is all.

  2. Deirdre Says:

    T I found myself in (on?) site and remembered reading this stunning post right after it went up. It was a joy to read for a non -fan of tennis, which is saying something. Xx Deirdre

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