Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Murray, we will see you again, but not yet, not yet

Congratulations to Novak Djokovic for a thoroughly convincing and deserved Australian Open victory.

He has been highly impressive throughout, dropping just a single set on the way (a tie-break to Ivan Dodig in the 2nd round) - overcoming some extremely good opponents along the way. Indeed it seems, as previously discussed, that a tougher route through is no disadvantage to an eventual finalist.

So what of Murray? There is no question that he is better than Henman ever was but is getting to 3 GS finals and never winning really preferable to getting to 6 GS semis and never further? Of course it's better but I doubt getting one round further but still falling short is exactly the improvement British tennis is looking for. Henman gets a lot of bad press but I believe he achieved appropriately for the level of ability he had - he maybe should have won a GS (particularly thinking of Wimbledon '01) but in 5 of his 6 semi-finals he lost to the eventual winner, and not a bad list of names (Wim '98 Sampras, Wim '99 Sampras, Wim '01 Ivanisevic, Wim '02 Hewitt, US '04 Federer).

Murray on the other hand, clearly has the ability, fitness and desire to win a major tournament. His record of 6-1 in Masters 1000 series finals says that he knows how to win a final. And the 3 GS finals he's lost have been against awesome opposition in Federer (x2) and Djokovic, not that that's an excuse - you can't hope to win a major tournament without beating the best.

That is what sets Grand Slams apart. The added pressure, expectation, tension - the tennis is only a part of what it takes to win. It'll only get worse for Murray the longer it goes on.

He committed 47 unforced errors (UFE), bringing his total for the tournament to 204. A massive 110 (53.9%) of these were in his last two matches - if this doesn't suggest someone tightening up and making mistakes as a result, I don't know what would.
Compare to Djokovic, 181 UFE for the tournament, 68 of which came against Federer and Murray, only 37.6%. In other words his UFE count was hardly up at all compared to his earlier matches (30% of the sets he played were in the last two matches, so 37.6% is only a marginal increase).

Djokovic of course has already won the big things - a Grand Slam (Aus '08), the Davis Cup ('10), the World Tour Finals ('08) - so that pressure is eased and there is a confidence, a knowledge that he can do it. All he had to focus on was his extremely high standard of tennis.

A lot of the BBC commentary following the match discussed Murray's need for a coach or someone in his team who could help him with this mental side of the game. They may have a point. He's certainly no choker but let's face it, he hasn't even been competitive in any of the 3 finals he's lost and that's not just a question of ability. He beats these guys regularly - perhaps he loses sight of that when it comes to the crunch.
I'm sure there'll be plenty more Slams for us to see what he's done about it...


  1. quality analysis-great reading!

  2. Good blogging Sammy.

    I think on Sunday it came down to Djokovic wanting it more and the tremendous form he has been in (US Open final '10, Davis Cup win '10), he is the man of the moment and is looking more and more like a world number 1, to beat Berdych, Federer and Murray in straight sets shows amazing skill and character. This is his year in my opinion.

    To me Murrays body language never looks great, if im playing someone who keeps getting irrate then you already have an edge. Federer, Djokovic and Nadal are so different to Murray in that respect, sure they get wound up but they seem to recover from set backs a lot better than Murray does. After Murray lost the first set he lost the match in my opinion.

    I strongly believe if you want to beat the best you have to be hitting your first serve. He managed to break Djokovic and return well, but thats no good when you cant make a high first serve %.

    I still think Murray will win one but it might be a good few years before he does it.

    Anyhow back to railing the ATP!