Murray Loses a Match, Wins a Nation
July 09, 2012 | 05:29 PM
You could say their awful weather on the final Sunday did in the British hopes.
With a 90% chance of rain, it had been a shock to see the sun out through much of the first 2 sets, but it was unfathomable that in what was becoming a long afternoon the denouement would not come under the roof.
If the rain dampened British cheer during the break after set 2, it may have been because their public is so well-informed as to have been widely aware of Fed's record indoors and under the roof: Fed hadn't lost a set with the roof closed during the fortnight. Given his record under any roof in the previous 12 months (37-2), it's questionable if the roof would have been closed for the misty drizzles that had occasioned closings and comments earlier in the tournament (as it did for Roger and Joker's semis, after which the roof was opened for Murray and Tsonga).
Solace might have been found in Andy's fine career record indoors, a .781 winning percentage competitive with Fed's .807.
Regardless of the roof, given how long and competitive the first two sets were - over an hour and 50 minutes - it may have been a good thing for Fed that it rained when it did. Accustomed to interruptions from some of his previous 7 finals, Fed came out with the confidence to continue his assault on Andy's 2nd serve. In his own words:
"This year I guess I decided in the bigger matches to take it more to my opponent instead of waiting a bit more for the mistakes," he said. "Yeah, this is I guess how you want to win Wimbledon, is by going after your shots, believing you can do it, and that's what I was able to do today."
How did Fed 'take it' to Andy in a new way?
First, he was more aggressive on returns than he's been in a big match at Wimbledon, chipping and charging, running around his backhand:
- the last time more than 1/3 of all the points he won (53 of 151) came at the net may have been in 2001 when he outdid Pete Sampras at serve-and-volley tennis in 2001
Second, the energy and calmness to continue forcing play on return were enhanced by the relative ease with which Fed held serve under the roof, helped by the extra 5 mph on his serve. He needed half as many points to hold serve in the last 2 sets as Andy did.
Total Serve Points: ROGER ANDY
1st & 2nd Sets 76 81
3rd & 4th Sets 45 91
Andy had started out the match attacking Roger's 2nd serves like a Berdych, a Tsonga, a Del Potro or a Soderling, the four big hitters who have beaten Roger in majors. This was no doubt due to coach Lendl's influence in trying to transform Andy into a player that can beat the top 3 with the kind of first strike tennis it seems to take in a major. It unsettled Roger from the first game of the match, when he didn't catch up to two big cross court forehands, throughout much of the 1st set.
But the percentage of 2nd serves that Andy had to work with from Fed shrank over the course of the last two sets, as Roger improved his 1st serve percentage to 76% from 70% while Andy's percentage dipped from 64% to 50% and 2nd serve slowed down, ending up being an unimpressive 88 mph compared to Fed's 98 mph. Hitting that many slow 2nd serves - 27 in the last 2 sets to Roger's 11 - and going to Roger's BH almost every time, allowed Fed to start to run around returns with confidence. This, in turn, led to Fed's controlling points and winning 43% of service return points in the last two sets, as he had done against Joker, to Andy's winning 25%.
Lendl's next project with Andy has to be working on his 2nd serve speed and placement. No one can win a major allowing a champion 40% more looks at 2nd serves over the course of the final, and it won't be enough to simply take horsepower off his 1st serve to get more in play without also improving his ability to vary his 1st serve deliveries in placement and spin. This will take time. Sharapova did it and won another major, and the serve improvements both Nadal and Joker made were essential to their each winning 3 majors in a calendar year (2010, 2011).
Andy will not develop the serving prowess of Federer with his 2nd ball, but small improvements will pay off when he has a good day, as Fed certainly did in the final, serving more consistently well through 4 sets than he has in any final in recent memory, and reducing the number of 2nd serves he needed to 11 in the final two sets (Murray needed 27).
This may all be way too many numbers for anyone, but one long game midway through the 3rd set was a microcosm of how grueling Fed made it for Andy, illustrating both how well Andy stood up to what was almost Nadal-like persistence from Fed (never thought we'd make that comparison):
The GAME OF THE TOURNAMENT took place at 2-3 in the 3rd set, a turning point for Andy.
At 2-2, after returning under the roof at 1-1, Andy had stood at double break point against Fed's serve, but the Swiss had served and played his way out of the hole, with help from a Murray backhand error.
Murray's next service game lasted almost 20 minutes, going to 10 deuces, and producing some of the most exciting tennis of the tournament, including three tumbles to the grass for Andy (Fed's tumble would com later). Everyone could see that if Fed's winning the 2nd set hadn't been the turning point of the match - Fed said that "it was the key" - then a break in this game would provide that.
Murray had 7 points to hold serve at 2-3, including his 40-0 lead to begin the game after hitting an ace and a brilliant crosscourt passing shot, but Fed would not go away: he made amazing gets, sending lobs over Murray to the baseline; he feathered slices, blasted forehands and backhands, executed a chip-and-charge return, a winning drop shot leading to a Murray tumble, and put away volleys. For his part, Andy defended 5 break points, getting in play more than the 50% of his 1st serves that he averaged in the set, making winning serves, volleys and passes before finally succumbing with a tired backhand into the net on the 26th point. Losing serve this way must have felt very different from the way he lost the 2nd set - to a pair of drop volleys that were just two good.
The crowd which had been energized since Murray had taken the 1st set (when the flag waving waving began), was as crushed after this game as Murray looked. Fed ran out the set 6-3, and while Murray twice had double break point in the 4th SET, either Fed's brilliance under pressure or Andy's errors bailed out the Swiss bank and left him full of reserve to close out the match with one more net rush, forcing the fans to applaud for brilliant tennis rather than for country (there'll be plenty of time for that in 3 weeks...). The old Andy, who depended on flashes of brilliance, touch and shot-making, might have made the galloping forehand passing shot on match point, but the version.2 Power Andy was out of gas and out of luck.
Final score: 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4
FINAL WRAP UP
Andy didn't need the tearful breakdown to have won the fans - he did that with his tennis, making a fan of Federer in the process. But the effort to overcome the tears to share his feelings with the hearts and hopes went out to him. If his remarks were truncated by emotion, it was for the best: the speech he gave was brief and to the point, answering the questions he'd face later with the media about the meaning of the crowd's support for him throughout the fortnight (they were what lightened the weight of 74 years...). Roger was not bad for a 40 year old - he would later add that when the roof closed, Roger played unbelievably well. Lendl seconded that:
Roger played very well in important moments.
For Andy, this effort was a huge advance from his three previous finals, and considering that two of them have been playing Federer, and this one was on Fed's best surface where [Daddy] goes to the office - this match was a good barometer of his progress.
For Fed, the value this for history is obvious. For the rest of 2012, he will be a favorite to win titles, large and small, including the Olympics and the Open. Even without an Open victory, Fed will be playing for the year end #1 ranking until Barclay's - his indoor office - is over.
The trivalry is back - big time.
Wimbledon men's final wrap up, 7.9.1