Sunday, July 7, 2013

How Andy Murray won the Wimbledon final

After 77 long years, Britain finally has a homegrown Wimbledon champion in Andy Murray. Murray beat Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 in straight sets in a match that lasted over three hours. The Scotsman's traditional strengths were on display, and I would like to outline 4 key factors in Murray's monumental triumph.

a) Djokovic's performance

Let's get this straight. Djokovic's wasn't affected by the historic semifinal against Del Potro. Yes he was on court for four hours and 46 minutes, but Djokovic has recovered from playing long physical encounters to win grand slams before. In fact, Djokovic was up a break in both the second and third sets of the final, and failed to capitalize.

While Djokovic hit only five less winners than Murray, it was his lack of efficiency on serve and the number of errors committed that played a big part in his downfall. Djokovic hit only 4 aces, and won a very poor 59% of points on his first serve. He had 40 unforced errors compared to Murray's 21, with many of those errors on key points, resulting in his poor break point conversion of 31%. Overall, not a performance that the usually metronomic Serb can be happy with.

b) Murray's passing shots
Andy Murray
Andy Murray (Photo credit: Carine06)

Over the course of the tournament, Djokovic used the element of surprise when coming to the net exceptionally well. I highlighted in the preview for the final that Djokovic will need to continue to do the same in the final. Djokovic did, but won only 58% of his points at net, and it was down to Murray's repertoire of supreme passing shots.

Murray pulled out the full monty of passes from his arsenal. There were the glorious running forehands past Djokovic in the third set. There were also the beautiful backhand slices from the back of the court that simply didn't allow Djokovic to generate either pace or angle off his volleys, allowing Murray to set up easy winners on the second attempt. Finally, there were some outrageous scrambled lobs asking Djokovic to hit one or two more shots to win a point, and on many occasions he simply relented at net in the face of Murray's brilliant defence from the baseline.

c) Murray's first serve

Long considered the one reason he would struggle to break the stranglehold of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic, Murray now finally possesses a first serve worthy of his stature in the upper echelons of the mens game.

The second serve might still need some work, but Murray can now rely on his first serve to win him crucial free points. Coming into the final, Djokovic's serve had more consistency, but on the big day Murray comfortable out-served his opponent. He hit 9 aces, only 2 double faults, and won a whopping 72% of points on his first serve. It was also crucial that besides the nervous drama of the final game, Murray served out the first two sets without any wobbles and complete authority.

d) Murray's variety

On hard courts, these two are very evenly matched, and Djokovic might even have a slender advantage. However, on grass Djokovic has yet to win a set against Murray. A huge reason for this is Murray's greater variety. While not as fast as it was in the serve and volley era, grass still requires a fair amount of finesse and variety to succeed due it's low bounce and the faster speed at which the ball reaches the racquet.

I have already commented on Murray's superb defensive display. In addition, his approach shots set up some lovely volleys, Murray winning 70% of points at net. He also smartly hit many winners behind Djokovic, often wrong-footing the number one with brilliantly directed inside-out backhands and crosscourt forehands. Finally, the potency of his slice cannot be praised enough. A natural shot that Murray has possessed since he broke through, his backhand slice is a crafty weapon. Time and again during the final Murray's slice confounded Djokovic, who simply wasn't able to hit his strong forehand over the low spinning ball, which led to many of the aforementioned unforced errors.

Djokovic is a worthy world no.1, and after the result settles down he can reflect on another superb fortnight of grand slam tennis. Nonetheless, the triumph of Murray's greater variety and finesse means we can cherish a champion who maintains the legacy of style and subtlety at Wimbledon.
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