Murray Tops Big Guy Ivo At The SAP Open

It was no surprise to see Andy Murray here in the final today, he was my pick to get by James Blake and then Andy Roddick. Blake pretty much shot himself in the foot against Ivo Karlovic in the quarterfinals, and Roddick succumbed to Murray yesterday in straight sets in the semi-finals. Roddick seemed strangely muted by Murray’s excellent anticipation on the return of serve. With his power game on hold, Roddick instead tried to play cat and mouse around the court. This was unwise and did not signal any trumpeting calls that Roddick was going to win this match. He needed to force his game more on Murray, and really go after his serve and attack him at every chance. After game three I realized this was going to be Murray’s match to win.

Ivo Karlovic presented similar problems in that Murray had to figure out a way to mute Karlovic’s serving power the way he did Roddick’s. An interesting contrast was provided by how Beni Becker fared in the previous day’s semi-final match against Karlovic. He couldn’t decipher the direction of Ivo’s big serves at all. Sometimes he would guess, a lot of the time he was the proverbial deer fixed in the headlights. Murray, though, managed to get some part of his racquet on many of Karlovic’s serves, first and second. This was the biggest factor in his win today.

Is it the quality of his hands at work? They’re very soft, the way McEnroe’s were, and McEnroe loved to blunt the power of the big servers. He would often be inside the line to return serve knowing he could anticipate and handle it.

Murray took pace off many of his shots and, at least, Karlovic tried to attack more than Roddick. But his execution was poor. A ton of shots ended up in the net when he was in a dominant net position.

The pair traded sets then concluded the third with another tiebreak. At 2-1 in the tiebreak Ivo stepped around a second serve but knocked the forehand long to go down a mini-break, 3-1. Murray hit to his forehand again and this one sailed long too, 4-1. Karlovic wasn’t dead yet and uncorked a second serve ace up the T to crawl back to 4-2. But then he doublefaulted(!) for 5-2. A chip and charge play was next on Ivo’s To Do list but he netted it. Murray closed the tiebreak and the match out with an ace. The final score was 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-6(2).

Good work Andy, Good work Ivo, you had a great week, and welcome back after your knee problems.

As for Andy Murray, I think he is one of the more perfect opponents for Roger Federer. Sure, Roger lost to Andy last summer when he was plainly spent, but Murray has the sort of game that could give Roger Federer more than a few fits. Maybe not this year, but soon.