Andrew – prince of tennis
TERRANCE GAVAN – Shrike.ca Sports
The last time I saw Andrew Murray play, he was deadly. He was direct. He was forthright.
And he displayed all of those attributes which make Andy… Andy. Grace and devilish dexterity.
And lo… that wonderful quickness. And gazelle-like speed.
I was at the Canadian Open in Toronto when all four of the men’s seeds, Murray, Novak Djokivich, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, made it to the semis.
Murray beat Nadal 6-3 and 6-4 in the semis and then went on to best Federer 7-5, 7-5 in the finals. The hard courts are Murray’s forte. They are consistent, they are true and they reward speed and quickness.
Murray is a very very good player. But he is also very very volatile. Lines, chalk, bad bounces and just plain ol’ dumb luck can put him a dystopic fugue quicker than Harry Potter can say “abudakar-inbroglio.”
Thus we were quite happy to see Murray bounce off a few bad lines and bad bounces to beat Spain’s David Ferrer, a wily, polite and likable Spaniard. T’was a wonderful match.
Just a tad more wonderful than John O’Sullivan’s prose, which follows below.
TENNIS: DAVID FERRER’S coach Javier Piles locked him in a cupboard one day as a 17-year-old because of a poor attitude. He quit the sport but returned a week later. There was nothing brittle about the Spaniard’s temperament in yesterday’s quarter-final at the All England club but his defeat to Andy Murray in four sets, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6, will dominate his dreams for a while.
The margin between victor and vanquished was minuscule but that won’t offer much consolation. Professionals crave the opportunity to take a controlling interest in the outcome of a contest and Ferrer was afforded great latitude in that respect on Centre Court.
Break points are the most valuable currency in tennis; Ferrer could not cash in sufficiently to underwrite victory. It wasn’t particularly destabilising in the first set because he ended up winning it – he just elongated the process before claiming the tie-break – but in the second his failure, which included a set point in the tie-break, albeit on the Murray serve, was to prove a seminal moment. The Scot pilfered the set and the momentum.
Murray had been cranky in the opening throes of the match, distracted by crowd noise, line-calls and a misfiring game. He was tentative, treating the net like a pariah when his ground-strokes created chances to move forward and cut off the court. Ferrer scrambled brilliantly to stay in rallies and was rewarded.
Gradually, though, Murray’s game grew more authoritative. He worked patiently to manoeuvre his opponent in the exchanges from the back of the court and this was combined with several examples of wonderful athleticism in squeezing winners from situations that looked forlorn. His serve became more accurate.
For the third set in succession, the Scot broke in the ninth game and he served out to take a 2-1 lead in sets. The 30-year-old Ferrer’s attitude, dedication and application couldn’t be faulted. He took every setback on the chin; his body language never betrayed any anxiety and his commitment to every single point was exemplary.
The Spaniard showed a mental and physical toughness that explains why he is known as the “little beast”. Murray had an opportunity to break again in the ninth game of the fourth set but Ferrer denied him. Murray raced through the next game before it began to drizzle and the players were ushered from the court with the set delicately poised, at 5-5.
Ferrer demonstrated his mettle after the rain hiatus to hold and Murray did likewise to take it to the third tie-breaker of the match. The Scot led 2-0; the Spaniard won the next three points. Murray caught the baseline to go 5-3 ahead only for Ferrer to produce an absolutely gorgeous chalk-eating forehand to make it 5-4.
The next point encapsulated the essence of Murray’s game. He eased his opponent out of court with an angled forehand and then stepped in to thump the ball down the line. The Scot confirmed victory with an ace, an appropriate medium. The improvement in his serve was the slingshot that gave him an edge at decisive moments.
While Ferrer may look back at what might have been he left nothing on the court. He admitted: “I think the key was in the second set when I led 5-4 or had that set point in the tie-break. But Andy played very well in important moments. He played more aggressively and he was better, no?”
Murray will face Jo Wilfried Tsonga, the Frenchman eventually subduing Philipp Kohlschreiber after four hard-fought sets.
The Scot, though, understandably reflected first on the match he had just played. “I just tried to make him play some more balls and dictate more of the points. It’s the hardest match I have played; very different. The goal is to win the next match and try and get through to the final for the first time.”
When asked whether the expectation of the British public weighed heavily, he admitted: “I don’t really know exactly; there is pressure there. If you think too much about it, read the newspapers and watch the stuff on television, it would be far too much. If you shield yourself, get in the bubble and listen to those people around you, you can deal with it.”
The other semi-final is an absolute humdinger that will have those that make their way to the All England club tomorrow, salivating. It pits the world number one and reigning Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic against the six-time winner Roger Federer. It will be the 27th occasion they have played but their first time to meet on grass. The Swiss player leads 14-12, but has lost six of the last seven. Djokovic will start as favourite but he’s playing on Federer’s turf.
Men’s Singles Quarter-finals
(4) Andy Murray (Brit) beat (7) David Ferrer (Spa) 6-7(5) 7-6(6) 6-4 7-6(4); (5) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) beat (27) Philipp Kohlschreiber (Ger) 7-6(5) 4-6 7-6(3) 6-2;
(1) Novak Djokovic (Ser) beat (31) Florian Mayer (Ger) 6-4 6-1 6-4;
(3) Roger Federer (Swi) beat (26) Mikhail Youzhny (Rus) 6-1 6-2 6-2.
Today’s Order of Play
Centre Court (from 1pm)
(8) Angelique Kerber (Ger) v (3) Agnieszka Radwanska (Pol);
(6) Serena Williams (USA) v (2) Victoria Azarenka (Blr).
On TV: BBC 2 (from 12.30pm),[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]