Saturday, July 11, 2015

Wimbledon 2015: Federer vs. Murray

I have to write about Roger Federer before his magnificent career is over (which doesn't looking imminent). Brian Phillips already wrote about the match and Louisa Thomas covered it for Andy Murray. But I'm obliged to make my own record  because Friday's match between these two was sensational.

First, a shoutout to Richard Gasquet who did his thing - flitting around the court until he could unload on that gorgeous backhand. He hung around valliantly until the difference between his serve and Novak's finally became too much.

But back to Roger - Andy. I don't think I'll ever get sick of seeing Federer serve. The power of the first serve and the audicious verve of his second, the way he mixes spins and locations, the lines that he paints. The deception, grace, and beauty. It reminds me of Greg Maddux on the mound. For those that aren't familiar with the Maddux, this is a good start. Just like Federer's service game, Maddux was known for efficiency, accuracy, and beauty. Both confounded their opponents with debilitating deception. Both men's form and mechanics are textbook. Both are ruthlessly efficient, yet a joy to watch. Maddux breezed through his innings making everything look easy, never looking like he's throwing that hard or trying too much, the ball seemingly on a string. Federer does the same, though he does have that power.

Andy Murray's game is more like Hunter Pence (one of my favorite Giants ever). They look like walking contradictions, all arms and legs. Andy is quite a bit taller/heavier than Roger, but he doesn't look that imposing because, well, look at him! He's one of the strongest men on tour and yet Serena serves harder than he does. Regularly. Hunter reaches for balls way outside the strike zone; Andy reaches for balls hit way outside the doubles alley. Both turn these balls into rockets, one towards Triples Alley, one for passing winners. Both are uniquely unique. We say "we'll never see another Roger Federer again" because we don't think anyone could be as good, as elegant, as graceful. We say "well never see another Andy Murray again" because we don't imagine how such a man could even play tennis.

The match was just ridiculous. That Murray service game near the end of the secod set, the one where he saved 5 break points and went to deuce a handful more times, was insane. Roger doesn't get up for every return game, not at 33. But he gets up for the important ones, and seeing him chase those Murray rockets and flick them back like bullets, was a sight. Murray? He's up for every game, every point. His instincts are preternatural.

On the other side, Federer held with so much ease. Murray is one of the best returners we've every seen. Agassi was great at getting the ball on the upsing and flicking it back with precision. Murray corrals serves way past the baseline and sends them back like missiles. But Federer is just serving at another level. Andy Roddick mentioned on air how this could be the best Roger has ever served, even better than in the matches they used to play at the All England Club. I'm inclined to agree.

Murray's serve was not as good. That second serve, always a problem, was a catastrophic weakness for the Scot. That's why the match was never really in doubt, but that's where tennis is different than most sports. It's more like boxing than basketball. Instead of figuring out what the outcome will be, we're there just to appreciate what's happening.

I can't wait for Federer - Djokovic.

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