Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Murray does just enough to win
By Ravi Ubha
WIMBLEDON, England -- After crushing Mikhail Youzhny in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, Roger Federer said his back was holding up. He'll need to be in optimum shape in the semifinals, since defending champion Novak Djokovic is his opponent.
Djokovic, who comfortably disposed of German Florian Mayer, cruised past Federer in the French Open semifinals -- and unlike Federer's past three opponents, Djokovic isn't a member of the 30-something club.
Andy Murray loves torturing his British public. He did not alter the script in his quarterfinal match with a tight four-set match over David Ferrer. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the ebullient Frenchman, now awaits.
Here are five takeaways from Wednesday:
Just enough for Murray
This was far from a vintage performance from Murray. Rather, he labored in a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory in four hours against Ferrer, who was making his first appearance in the quarterfinals.
Nothing new, then.
For much of the past week and a half, Murray has done just enough to win -- nothing more. He hasn't, as they say, put the hammer down.
Murray has started slowly in his matches, and you couldn't help but notice the anxiety in his face in the early going against an aggressive Ferrer.
Murray somehow reached a first-set tiebreaker and proceeded to play even more passively, waiting (no, praying) that Ferrer would miss. It didn't happen. For the first 2½ sets, that pattern persisted.
Murray has a curious relationship with his serve. A low percentage, understandably, leads to trouble, but on break points, he unleashes his best stuff. In 10 of the 12 break points he saved, his serve played a significant role. If not for his serve and Ferrer's nerves late in the second set, Murray likely would have lost. Ferrer was the better player off the ground.
Judging by this display, if Murray faces Djokovic or Federer in the final, he'll slide to 0-4 in Grand Slam finals.
For now, though, the British public can still dream.
Time is now for Tsonga
When Rafael Nadal fell victim to Lukas Rosol's genius of reckless abandon in the second round, the British press understandably went mad. Here was a golden opportunity for Murray to waltz to a maiden Wimbledon final. It's Nadal, after all, who routinely sends Murray packing at the All England Club.
But what about Tsonga? He, too, must have been buoyed.
The signs are encouraging if you're a Tsonga fan, and there are many: His body is holding up. The finger injury he sustained at a grass-court warm-up and the back problem that hampered him in the fourth round here don't appear to be bothering him. Without a day of rest, Tsonga dispatched Kohlschreiber.
Tsonga was distraught at his home Slam, the French Open, when he held four match points on Djokovic in the quarterfinals but couldn't convert. However, as a whole, the tournament marked progress. Never before had Tsonga reached the quarters at Roland Garros. He overcame a significant burden.
If not for letting a floating ball go past him -- instead of volleying it -- in a second-set tiebreaker, he probably would have beaten Murray at Wimbledon two years ago. In 2010, he lost to Murray in the quarterfinals, and last year he made it to the semifinals at SW19. Going one better in 2012, with Nadal's omission, wouldn't come as a surprise.
Great fun, but
Youzhny has given us many a memorable tennis moment.
He pummeled himself in the head with his racket in Miami in 2008. He rallied from two sets down in the fifth match of the Davis Cup final in 2002, and he slammed his foot with his racket at Wimbledon on Monday.
He's a showman.
On Wednesday against Federer, Youzhny let out perhaps the longest yell in tennis history, evoking a good laugh from the crowd. He also cheekily asked Andre Agassi, who was in the royal box, for some advice.
But like Gael Monfils, Youzhny is too much of an entertainer to threaten the big three, even if he has the game. It's no surprise his top achievement came in the Davis Cup, where he can't afford to clown around.
With Youzhny riding a 13-match losing streak against Federer, you'd have thought he'd try something different straight away. However, after winning the toss, Youzhny allowed the Swiss to serve.
The outcome was never really in doubt, and Youzhny's fate was sealed in his opening service game, when he was broken after being up 40-0 in the game.
Every chance Mayer had against Djokovic, he had to take. But he didn't.
After breaking Djokovic for 3-2 in the first, Mayer was broken right back. Then at 4-4 in the first, Mayer -- an unorthodox right-hander who downed Nadal last fall -- held three consecutive break points.
On the first, he fluffed a makeable high volley, with Djokovic taking advantage to plant a lovely backhand down the line. Djokovic held, and Mayer dropped serve in the next game.
No coming back from that.
"The first set I have to win," Mayer said. "I let him come back. After the first set, he played unbelievable, especially in the second set. He showed why he's the best player right now in the world."
Still, it was a solid tournament for the German men, who have been under the radar compared to their countrywomen.
Sympathy for Ferrer
Who possibly can't like Ferrer? He's not only maximized his potential but probably exceeded it. He's easy to root for.
Even though Ferrer had a set point in the second-set tiebreaker against Murray, he could do little. Murray delivered a thumping first serve that Ferrer did well simply to put back in play. And Murray, down 5-2, raised his level in the same tiebreaker.
The game that cost Ferrer was when he failed to serve out the second at 5-4. He cracked. From 15-all, Murray did little to merit the break, instead relying on Ferrer's forehand to break down.