When the most complete player in the history of tennis foretells something, there is no point disputing it. Roger Federer’s place in history as the greatest player ever to have played the game of tennis is unquestionable. But it looks like he could also go down as one of the best fortune tellers as far as the future of tennis is concerned.
Immediately after winning his 17th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon this year, the Swiss maestro announced to the world that British No.1 Andy Murray would be soon become a Grand Slam champion. So it happened when Andy brought back the glorious days of Fred Perry by capturing his maiden Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows, New York after an epic encounter with Novak Djokovic.
Only a few days before – the World No.1 Swiss, speaking once again about Andy, said he would rise to the top of the world rankings. If Federer predicts something, it is bound to happen. The track record of the Swiss makes us believe so. Even if you are one of those intellectuals who does not necessarily believe in irrational things like prognostication, you would have to eventually agree with Federer after seeing yesterday’s second semi-final in Shanghai.
There are many things about Murray’s game nowadays which make me think about his domination of the tennis world, even if it is going to be for a brief period. The semi-final match between Federer and Murray is easily the much anticipated clash of the tournament. Shrugging off the purported death threats, it was nice to see the Swiss maestro contesting the tournament after two years and making it to the semi finals.
Yesterday’s match was no different from Wimbledon and the Olympics final as Federer dropped his serve to begin with. However, unlike Olympics, the Swiss broke back the Scot in the very next game and soon went on to hold his next service game, leading the set 2-1. The capacity crowd was predominantly one-sided with only a handful of individuals in the British player’s corner rooting for him, a scene which was entirely different from the Olympics.
In a hostile environment, Andy showed real mental strength and courage to bag the first set quite easily with the scoreline reading 6-4. It was one of those days Federer’s serve chose to let him down as the Swiss Master ended up making five double faults in the opening set, three of which were made in succession, helping the gritty Brit break the serve for the second time. The commentators at the conclusion of the match imputed Federer’s loss to this particular service game, where he gifted three points to his adversary. Agreed, Federer did serve three double faults in a row.
But Murray did not let his concentration slip, and won the first set with ease, without providing the Swiss a single break point opportunity.
The first game of the second set brought back memories of the third set of the Wimbledon this year where Andy, on his service game against Federer, kept fighting to not yield a break to the latter, which ended in vain. It was nearly the same here, but Federer managed to hold on to his service game after surviving seven break point opportunities. Andy would have broken the Swiss’ serve had he gone for an inside-out forehand but a slight error in judgment where he hit the ball straight at the master cost him the game. However, on the whole, that was the only mistake Andy made throughout the match.
Murray returned the serves so well they left the maestro clueless for the most part of the match. I was arguing with one of my friends, saying it was all because Federer could not land his first serve, allowing Andy to make those unplayable returns. However, the Briton soon made me eat humble pie as he came up with some extraordinary returns, even off the first serves of Federer which proved to be too much for the Swiss. The Briton’s returns of serves, though are predictable; he folds his wrists forwards to hit them and every one of those returns landed on the open court, much to the dismay of his opponent. Andy was simply at his best. It would only be an understatement if we say the Brit won most of his points with his service returns alone.
Even Murray’s service games were exceptional, as he came up with some nicely carved out serves and aces. I feel his serves are often underrated and he proved why he should not be taken lightly in this discipline yesterday. He hit more aces than Roger and some of them were un-returnable, leaving the Maestro with little opportunity to earn break points. Federer never looked like winning the match and that was evident right from the start. The way Andy broke Roger’s serve in the second set, where the latter was leading a game 40-0, says it all. He won five straight points to win that game and it speaks volumes of how good his game was.
Every aspect of the game of Murray has improved largely and he is now looking a very strong contender to win every Grand Slam next year, barring the French open. His forehands have improved as much as his backhands have. Although Novak Djokovic looks to be in his prime, I believe he is going to have a tough time facing Murray today. Andy, I presume, will win in straight sets to lift the Shanghai Masters Cup.
Now coming back to yesterday’s match, Federer did make it easy for Murray by virtue of some ordinary service games and foot work, but there were shots which showcased exactly why Federer was the game’s best. The single handed back-hand down the line which he hit from a position where people don’t even normally think of going for winners, showed some shades of the great Swiss master, and so was that running forehand down the line in the second set. Those were a few shots which keep Federer’s fans believing in their idol, that he was good enough for winning a few more Grand Slams before deciding to sign off from the game permanently.
But, on the whole, yesterday belonged to Andy Murray who I think will finish this year on an emphatic note. If he succeeds , Murray’s chances of making it to No.1 in the rankings look all the more bright.