Can Andy Murray delight the British Isles by being the first guy to take the home slam in 73 years?
Let me count the ways.
- First point in the first game of the first semifinal at Queens Club today against Juan Carlos Ferrero: a backhand return ripped crosscourt followed with a drop shot then a running backhand winner down the line. Sublime. Andy doesn’t even take time to warm up before messing with his opponent. Arsenal.
- Second point in the first game: two high soft slices just inside the baseline followed by a hard backhand down the line. Change of pace. Diversity if you will.
- Fifth point in the first game: a sharp Ferrero forehand to one corner then the other at which point Ferrero thinks it’s safe to approach the net. It’s not. Ferrero gets to Andy’s first passing shot but not the second. Defense. Movement if you will.
- Break point in the first game: Murray breaks Ferrero. ATP statistics: Points Won Returning First Serve – Andy Murray #1, Break Points Converted – Andy Murray #2, Points Won Returning Second Serve – Andy Murray #2, Return Games Won – Andy Murray #1. Return of serve.
- First point in the fourth game: backhand to one corner followed with a drop shot to the opposite short corner followed by a winning lob. Point construction.
- Third point in the fourth game: a drop shot followed by a backhand slice lob. Ferrero gets to the lob but, expecting a topspin instead of a slice, swings ineffectively and the ball flutters harmlessly into the net. Unpredictability.
- Fifth point in the fourth game: short hop crosscourt backhand slice for a winner off a hard Ferrero shot down the line. Ability to produce “did you see that?” shots.
- Ferrero’s ad in the fifth game: Ferrero serves an ace and appears to win the game but Andy challenges the call and wins. Andy wins the next two points and gets the break. Good eyesight.
- Second point in the first game of the second set: Andy takes a high kicking second serve wide with his two-handed backhand and steers it crosscourt for a return winner. Tall stature.
- Number of break points Andy faces in the game (which he wins 6-2, 6-4): none. Good serve.
But will he win Wimbledon this year? No, I don’t think so.
He looked golden today but Ferrero is now down to number 90 in the rankings so it’s not a conclusive result. If Rafael Nadal’s knees are solid enough, Rafa can beat Andy. If Rafa’s knees are not solid enough, Roger Federer’s relief at winning the French Open and the precarious state of Rafa’s knees could make him a pretty confident player at Wimbledon, his favorite surface.
Besides, Andy still phases out sometimes as he did a few games into the second set and he can also lapse into defensive play when he should be turning the screw. I absolutely believe he will win a Wimbledon but I’d give him a year or two more to get there.
As for the other Andy who’d love to win Wimbledon – the last of his three career goals, Andy Roddick got taken out by the surface at Queens Club today. He twisted his ankle after running down a James Blake lob when his foot landed on the boundary between the grass and the concrete. Roger and Rafa can both beat Andy handily at Wimbledon and if, for some inexplicable reason, neither of those guys survives, Andy Murray can run rings Andy Roddick.
One last point here. In L. Jon Wertheim’s book about last year’s transcendent Wimbledon final, Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played, he talks about facial expressions as it has to do with Rafa’s dominance over Roger. Facial expressions have fascinated me ever since reading Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article about Paul Ekman in 2002.
Ekman studied facial expressions world wide and deduced two very important things: 1. Facial expressions are global – a smile in New Guinea means the same thing as a smile in Peoria. 2. Facial expressions are involuntary. The expression might last only a fraction of a second but if you slow down the videotape enough – or if you’re particularly observant, we can see your facial expression no matter how hard you try to hide it.
The mad scientist in the tennis world is Vic Braden and Wertheim reports that Braden studied Roger’s facial expressions when he plays matches and noticed something very interesting. When Roger plays everyone else, he has wide eyes that look straight ahead and he has an upturned mouth. Against Rafa though, he frowns and looks downward.
All you readers who said that Roger is psyched out by Rafa were more correct than you know. And it’s not like it’s depends on the progress of the match, Roger shows his discomfit right from the warmup. I wish I knew enough about facial expressions to see if Roger will have the same look now should he meet up with Rafa at Wimbledon. Take a close look for me and tell me what you see.