Andy Murray won his first round match at Wimbledon today. Can he get to the quarterfinals?

Wimbledon is in full bloom and I see that our favorite player here at Tennis Diary, Benjamin Becker, took Nikolay Davydenko out in straight sets in the first round. With Becker’s huge serve, that’s a match he should win and we’ll all be pretty happy if he gets back to winning matches like that because his ranking should be in the top fifty. I feel bad because I’ve stopped following his career but he’s gotta give me some reason to follow it and I think he eventually will.

Meanwhile, I want to see if Andy Murray has what it takes to get to the quarterfinals this year which is what I’m expecting him to do. At first, I thought about answering the question: Can Murray win Wimbledon, but it’s pretty clear he can. He has a good record on fast surfaces and he has the single-minded competitiveness you need to win a slam. He also has the orneryness you need to deal with the U.K. media – in other words, he’s not too nice.

Okay, so what about the quarterfinals, his probably endpoint as his opponent in that round would be Rafael Nadal? Here are the variables:

Injures: I think Murray will always be dogged by injuries. He fell on his thumb, for heaven’s sake, at Queen’s, but it appears to be alright. If it doesn’t rain too hard, he should be able to get through five matches this year without splitting his pants and possibly straining something else, and next year there’ll be a roof over center court and since he’s Britain’s great hope, he can expect to play on that court much of the time. In fact, Fabrice Santoro played the first match in his 19 year career on center court at Wimbledon by dint of drawing Murray as his first round opponent.

Serve: Good enough. He popped a 136mph (219kph) in his match with Santoro. In didn’t go in but so what?

Aggression: Murray’s former coach, Brad Gilbert, thinks Murray should be more aggressive and that’s good enough for me. Here is the golf metaphor he used while watching Murray play Santoro:

He has the ability to be aggressive and he sometimes, under pressure, keeps that club in his bag.

Instead on aggression, Murray prefers the drop shot. He’d won the first two sets and was even at 4-4 in the second set when he got an open court to hit to. Instead of flattening the ball out and putting the ball away, he floated a short drop shot over the net. Murray won the point but it left a ball in play that should never have been in play. It’s also a stroke that might work against a 35 year old player at the end of his career – Santoro, but isn’t likely to scare someone like Nadal in the least.

In the next game, Murray had Santoro down 0-30, one point away from getting a match point, when he sent a wayward, high-floating drop shot beyond the sideline. You could hear a collective groan from the crowd that fairly cried out, “Andy, would you please just hit the damn ball!” Maybe this is why he doesn’t do it: at deuce, he had an open court down the line but he swung hard with the two-hander and hit nothing but net.

He repeated the pattern in the third set tiebreaker only worse. At 2-2 in the tiebreaker, he dipped down to one knee to hit a low drop shot that skipped off the top of the net and managed to land just a few inches inside the lines. It was an entirely stupid choice on a point that could have put him down a minibreak. On his second match point, he slammed a soft second serve from Santoro right into the net. I would need to see a whole more of those slammed shots make their way over the net and a larger percentage of those shots make up his repertoire before I’m willing to crown him with a Wimbledon title.

He did get aggressive in one area, however. He made 35 appearances at the net and converted 69% of those points which is a good set of numbers.

Temper: Santoro can drive the most sane tennis player crazy with his two-handed forehand slice and net approaches on return of serve, but Murray kept his cool.

The Draw: Richard Gasquet could be his fourth round opponent and he looked very sharp against Mardy Fish today. Murray is 0-2 against Gasquet on hard court and he’ll have a harder time coming to the net against him. At the moment, though, I’d say that Murray’s head is screwed on a lot tighter than Gasquet’s, so yeah, I think he can get to the quarterfinals. What do you think?

Here and There

Olga Savchuck was down 3-6, 0-5, to Jelena Jankovic when she took off to cover a forehand crosscourt and hit a running drop shot, no lie, and she didn’t even stop after she hit it. She never broke stride as she followed it up with a dash to the net to cover Jankovic’s response – which never came. Savchuck lost the set and the match but, wow, I’ve never seen that before.

Andy Roddick had no trouble getting past Eduardo Schwank in straight sets but I’m a bit unsettled about his chances of getting to the semifinals. He spent the Wimbledon run-up rehabbing a shoulder injury and when he talked about his shoulder after the match, he was noncommittal:

Shoulder feels all right. Yeah, I feel good. Yeah, I don’t know if it’s going to be perfect. But, you know, I did all right considering. You know, it pulled up all right. Yeah, I mean, probably as good as can be expected.

Jeez, make up your mind will ya? For my part, if I’m a gambler or – as I am – a fantasy tennis prognosticator, I want an MRI or at least an x-ray before I plunk my money down or pick him for my team. With a cranky shoulder and a less than perfect serve, he’ll have a harder time getting past his next opponent, Janko Tipsarevic. Remember Roger Federer’s muckup at the Australian Open that went to 10-8 in the fifth set? Federer may not have been feeling top level because he was suffering through a bout of mini-mononucleosis, but Tipsarevic refused to go away and a long match like that might be the end of Roddick.

Speaking of Benni Becker’s win over Davydenko: what was Davydenko thinking? He skipped the grass court tournaments to play on clay in Warsaw and he had fourth round Wimbledon points to defend. That means he’ll lose his number four ranking. By the way, in his post-match media session he was asked 17 questions and 11 of them were about match-fixing. It’s not like he’s the only player to have a suspicious betting pattern turn up in his match, you know?

The problem is that Betfair voided the bets on his match in Sopot, Poland, last year even though it had never voided all bets on a match before and it hasn’t done it since. Instead, if Betfair thinks a match is suspicious, it pays off the bettors and alerts the ATP to a possible problem. Meanwhile, the ATP has a list of matches with suspicious betting patterns and the names of players who’ve been involved in repeated suspicious matches thanks to Ben Gunn and Jeff Rees, the authors of the “Environmental Review of Integrity in Professional Tennis” which was released last month.

Davydenko’s match was definitely suspicious, but as long as the list of other suspicious matches is kept private, he’ll be the focus of all gambling questions and that’s rather unfair.

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