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Shock slips at Wimbledon

Shock slips at Wimbledon

TOM TENNIS

Yesterday was probably one of the most dramatic days at Wimbledon ever, with Federer losing to an 80-1 outsider, Sharapova ‘falling’ to a straight sets defeat to 131 ranked Michelle Larcher De Brito, and then Azarenka, Tsonga and Cilic all withdrawing because of injury. 

The main topics of conversation now are Andy Murray and the expectation that he will breeze through to the final, together with the women’s competition, which sees the number 8 seed Petra Kvitova as the highest ranked player left in the bottom half of the women’s draw. Oh, and of course, the slippery courts!  What are we going to see next?!

One thing we can definitely expect is any player who slips up on the court today to criticise the chairman of the AELTC, Richard Lewis, who put out this somewhat embarrassing statement yesterday:

There has been a high number of withdrawals at The Championships today and we sympathise with all the players affected. The withdrawals have occurred for a variety of reasons, but there has been some suggestion that the court surface is to blame. We have no reason to think this is the case. Indeed, many players have complimented us on the very good condition of the courts”

Yes grass is always going to be a slippery surface compared to others but it seems unlikely that a simple coincidence can account for Victoria Azarenka slipping and injuring her knee, Sharapova falling three times and damaging her hip, Wozniacki falling and having to tape her ankle and Ferrer slipping in his first round and hurting his ankle too.

And was the slippery court perhaps a reason for Nadal not putting in a full effort because he was worried about what he could potentially do to this knee??  The only defence case that the officials of Wimbledon can put forward is that there has been a change in the way players move and the players are subconsciously thinking that they have the same foot support that they have on a clay or hard court.  We all know that players can slide on clay courts but the development of the game has seen players being able to slide now on hard courts, which Novak Djokovic does on countless occasions and usually you hear a gasp from the crowd when he does.

But what do all these shock losses mean for the draws?  I am afraid the women’s draw is looking like a complete walkover (Serena Williams could probably be restricted to just having a second serve for the rest of the tournament and she would still win!) But let’s hope that Brit Laura Robson can make an impact in her section of the draw too.

With the men’s tournament, the media appear to have already written their July 7th newspaper with a Djokovic and Murray preview but one should not be so sure. I would put half my monthly salary now on Murray reaching the final – (the highest ranked player he has left on his side of the draw is the 15th seed and clay court specialist Nicholas Almagro!)

But after being told by countless reporters at the beginning of the tournament that he had the easy draw, perhaps the pressure will get to Djokovic. I also think there could be a gatecrasher to the party in the name of former finalist Thomas Berdych.  Thomas is set to play Djokovic in the quarterfinals and, on the ‘slippery grass,’ Thomas has the game to take out the Serb and then break his way into his second Wimbledon final. If that’s the case, Thomas would actually have a 5-4 head to head lead over Murray.

I predict we will see a Berdych and Murray final but, before you get your hopes up, I think the pressure of potentially being named the first British Wimbledon champion since Fred Perry might just be too much, and we’ll instead see a new Wimbledon champion in the name of Tomas Berdych.

Let’s see if I have to eat my words on Monday July 8th back in the office….

The Lendl effect?

Image Courtesy of Tennis Buzz, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Tennis Buzz, flickr.com

It has been a long time coming……that pesky Grand Slam title. Monday 10th September will go down as a day to remember for Andy Murray, a day when he was finally able to do what fans and the British media had spent six years hoping for.

But the US Open title is not simply a result of those fifteen days at Flushing Meadows; it is the product of long, hard-fought battle by the Scotsman.

We remember the moments before that moment, like they were yesterday….

Learning by losing…

….is probably not the worst way to have handled the four Grand Slam final defeats. The first came back in 2008 when Murray was beaten by Roger Federer in the final of the US Open, unaware that this would also be the spot where he would secure his first Grand Slam title, four years later. Already then there was a sense that Murray’s time would come – probably one of the most frequently used clichés in the history of tennis and, for Murray, one of the most painful.

In January 2010 Murray faced Roger Federer again, this time in Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. This time Murray struggled to keep the tears away and apologised to Britain for not winning what every one of us so desperately wanted. One year later and Murray reached yet another Australian Open final, stopped this time by Novak Djokovic who, in what was a record-breaking 2011 for him, proved just too much for the Scotsman to contend with.  

 With the back against the wall

Image Courtesy of mrenzaero, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of mrenzaero, flickr.com

In late 2011 Andy Murray announces that he has hired Ivan Lendl as his new coach, a decision which is met with a great deal of scepticism amongst the British press, fans and tennis experts alike. There are serious doubts over Lendl’s ability to raise Murray’s game and to create the success that we have long yearned for. At this point in time, the Scotsman is working harder than ever in the relentless Miami heat, a fitness programme that would later become a crucial part of his pre-season training regime.

Murray and Lendl openly discuss their belief in the partnership and Lendl appears to have found some miracle cure to end the bad habits of Murray on the court. The critics are, for a while at least, silenced when Murray, in the first week of 2012, wins the Brisbane International – the perfect preparation for the Australian Open.

In Melbourne, Murray looks strong. Despite losing a set to the up-and-coming American Ryan Harrison in the first round, Murray hammers through the next four matches, losing just 25 games without dropping a set.

In the semi-final, he faces Novak Djokovic, the man that one year prior, denied him a Grand Slam win on the exact same court. 2 sets to 1 up and things are looking good. But after dropping the fourth set 6-1, Murray eventually looses 7-5 in the decider, probably the hardest defeat in his career to date.

And then the question resurfaces….Will Andy Murray ever win a Grand Slam title?

 

The magic of SW19

Murray reaches two more major finals in early 2012. He loses to Federer in Dubai and is once again defeated by Djokovic, this time in Miami. The clay-court season soon becomes the biggest catalyst for doubt in Murray’s mind. He crashes out in the quarters in both Monte Carlo and Barcelona to Tomas Berdych and Milos Raonic respectively. In Paris, he loses to David Ferrer in four sets. Before we know it, all eyes are back on the grass season.  

But it doesn’t start well. Murray loses his opener in the classic AEGON Championships at the Queens Club. Nicolas Mahut, always a tricky opponent on the grass, hands Murray the worst possible preparation to Wimbledon and suddenly the faith placed widely in the young Brit seems somewhat misplaced.

Despite the ongoing critique of the Murray-Lendl partnership, the stone-faced Czech appears to have done something right. At SW19 Murray overcomes some bouncy performances against Karlovic and Baghdatis before he convincingly disposes of Croat Marin Cilic in straight sets. Suddenly the resounding sense of positivity returns and Murray finds himself breezing past two more of the world’s greatest players, David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, to find himself in yet another Grand Slam final.

It is difficult to describe the atmosphere when Murray takes the opening set. There is a sense that maybe, just maybe, this is Murray’s time. And surely we have waited long enough for it to arrive?

But before long that ghostly centre court silence returns. Federer has bounced back and the Wimbledon crown is snatched cruelly once again from Murray’s grasp.

A month later and Murray, at last, enjoys the taste of victory, laced with amicable revenge, when he takes the Olympic title, depriving Federer of the Gold which he himself had held openly in such high regard. A straight set win, a heroic victory and the restoration of national pride; days don’t come much sweeter than this.

Soon after and Murray is back on the hard courts of America. And the rest? History.

What a journey. What an important victory.

 Grand Slam holder. US Open Champion. Number one in the world? We’ll see.

 

Words by Asger Hess-Olesen