Wrong Murray shows up vs. Federer
It was the wrong Andy Murray that turned up at the 02 Arena to play his second round robin match against Roger Federer on Tuesday in the ATP World Finals.
The wrong Murray in the wrong place at the wrong time. All year the talented young Scot has blown as hot as a desert wind or as cold as a north easterly on his native highlands. As temperatures plummeted outside this vast arena, we got the second Murray, and Federer was able to stroll through a hugely disappointing contest, 6-4, 6-2.
The crowd of 17,500, amongst which there were many Federer supporters, was given little option but to applaud another Swiss master class.
It was a throwback to their contest at the start of the year, when Murray lost to the former Wimbledon champion in the final of the Australian Open. Except that he played better on that occasion. But not, of course, as well as he had played while trouncing Federer in straight sets in the finals of Masters 1000 events this summer at Toronto and last month at Shanghai.
So you never know which Murray you are going to get, and, troublingly for his fans, I am not sure he does, either. On Sunday the aggressive Murray produced a near-perfect performance to beat Robin Soderling. On Tuesday a tentative Murray served and returned so poorly that his first-serve percentage hovered in the 30s and he won, incredibly, just eight points against Federer’s serve in the entire match.
Murray wasn’t dodging the issue. “I did the two most important things in tennis very poorly today,” he said. “That’s serve and return. And against someone as good as Roger you can’t do them badly. That’s why the score line was like it was.”
Murray was asked why he looked so flat and subdued on court when, in the past, he has railed at his corner when things start going badly.
“I didn’t feel flat on court,” he insisted. “Maybe it’s just very different to what you are used to seeing from me. But, you know, that’s something I’m trying to work on, to not let my emotions sort of control how I’m playing. I just tried to stay calm; tried to find a way, and it didn’t happen.”
Alex Corretja, Murray’s part-time coach, probably would have preferred to have been yelled at rather than watch a capitulation like this. We shall have to wait and see what kind of Murray we get when he plays Spain’s David Ferrer on Thursday in a must-win contest.
For Federer, it had all been too easy.
“I’m surprised, I really am,” he said. “I heard I only dropped eight points on my serve. That’s not the norm against Andy, who is one of the best return players, if not the best, in the game right now. Sometimes it’s hard to play a perfect match against each other when there’s such huge excitement around it, I think. I’ve struggled with it in the past. Maybe that’s what happened to Andy today.”
Given that this is a round robin event that leads into two knockout semifinals on Saturday, it still is possible that these two will find themselves facing each other again before the week is out. Last year Murray missed out on the semifinals because Federer won just one extra game in his match against Juan Martin del Potro.
“Last year was the most extreme situation I’ve ever had to go through,” said Federer, who has won this event four times and is appearing in his ninth year-end finals. “I was feeling I needed a set, or maybe plus a few games. It was really working on my mind a lot. There’s no doubt you can go a bit crazy about it.”
The math will probably prove to be a little easier this time, but, for the moment, the figures are just the way Federer wants them. Two matches won, none lost; four sets won, none lost. He won’t need a calculator to get to the semifinals now.