What is it about the Australian Open that makes grown men cry? Even though Roger Federer’s 6-3,6-4, 7-6(11) win over Andy Murray may have forced the normally stoic Scot to tears in the trophy presentation, it will be Murray’s passive start to the match that will haunt him, and Great Britain, for awhile.
Both players looked tight in the opening set. But Murray was visibly nervous as he dropped his opening service game. He did get things on track by breaking back for 2-1, but by then Federer calmed down while Murray’s dismal first serve percentage allowed Federer looks at the second serve throughout. Federer broke again to win the first set 6-3.
Federer jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the second set and it looked like the match would be over quick as Murray continued to struggle to hold his serve. But Murray managed to hang around, climbing out of 0-40 down 3-4 in the set. But Federer cruised in his service games, easily winning the second set.
Murray dug in for the third set hitting his groundstrokes with more authority. He managed to break Federer at 2-4 when Federer didn’t do enough with a backhand volley that allowed a Murray an easy pass. But serving 5-3, Murray let Federer back in the match after hitting a passive half volley that found the net and then missed a forehand next point. Federer got things to 5-5 and then soon enough the tiebreak began.
Murray’s serving improved and he soon found himself up 6-4. Federer hit a return winner to save one set point, but Murray served big and had an easy chance to hit a forehand winner which he netted. Both men went back forth with Federer finally getting to 10-9. Federer tried a delicate backhand drop shop which Murray chased down for a winner to get things to 10-10. Federer then served big again forcing a forehand return error. Finally, on Federer’s third match point, Murray netted an easy backhand to end it.
Despite the humid conditions, Federer always looked fresh and never concerned even when Murray got his game going in the third set. Murray, who kept grabbing his thigh, looked mentally and physically drained and I doubt if he had won the third how much he would have had left for five sets. Give credit to Murray for digging in, but he should have started the fight early. If he was waiting for Federer to fall apart, he picked the wrong day.
Murray did choke up on the podium saying “I can cry like Roger. It’s just a shame I can’t play like him.” But I think Murray will earn a few more fans by allowing us to see how much he wants to win. As for Federer, despite some tense moments, especially against Davydenko, he proved again he is the man to beat if you want a place in tennis history. With his 16th Grand Slam title, Federer now sets his sights on eclipsing Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert who hold 18 Slam singles titles. At this rate, Federer should aim higher and try for Margaret Court Smith who holds the record at 24. If Fed wins two Slams a year for the next four years, well you do the math.