That’s right, and my reasoning is simple. I think Andy Murray is playing better tennis right now than Roger Federer is, so I like the Scot to surprise the Swiss and capture the US Open title in the final which begins in a little less than an hour from now.
The occasion, the stage of playing in a Grand Slam final may very well catch up to Andy, that’s true, but after Murray beat Rafa – a player he had never beaten before – over two days, and after earlier this summer he came through and won Cincinnati, I actually think he’s ready to take his game to the highest level.
And I think he’s peaking at the right time. Murray’s moving great, hitting the ball crisply and serving as well as he ever has. He’s playing at the highest level he ever has. And he comes in with the confidence of having two very convincing wins over the two best players this summer, Juan Martin Del Potro and then Nadal in the last week.
Is Federer playing the best tennis we’ve ever seen from him? I don’t think so. Even though Fed’s enjoying his best week on hardcourts this year, I still don’t think he’s at the heights he was at just a year ago, and certainly not where he was a few years ago when he was dominating. Yes, the competition has improved, but he still looks a smidge slower and the errors are creeping in more than ever.
And while Murray has really played some sparkling tennis since recovering from a 2-0 set hole to Jurgen Melzer, in my mind Federer hasn’t put together anything special in his last three matches.
Igor Andreev was an impressive win, no doubt, but the Russian wasn’t mentally ready to close the deal and beat the Swiss at a Slam. Gilles Muller played well, but he’s Gilles Muller, and the man I picked to beat Roger, Novak Djokovic, may indeed have been tired like he said, he did look flat to me.
But credit to Fed for getting through, he still had to win the matches to arrive at the final today and he did just that.
Murray, though, won’t be afraid to deliver the knockout punch against Fed, after all he’s beaten him twice before. Both Murray wins one could argue were suspect – once in the summer a few years back when Federer looked disinterested and another coming this year in Dubai during the alleged mono period – but that debate aside those victories can only help his confidence.
Murray also has the baseline game that we’ve seen give Fed a lot trouble on hardcourts this summer. The recipe is well known, get enough balls back and either wait for the error or attack the short ball. At the Open, Andreev had Fed on the ropes with his heavy groundies, and even the little-known qualifier Thiago Alves was giving Fed a hard time from the backcourt.
Earlier this summer we saw Gilles Simon and Robby Ginepri get the better of Fed when trading groundstrokes. Murray, one could argue, is a better version of Simon, with even more variety and cunning plus a much bigger serve and more power off both wings.
And much will be made of Fededer’s day off while Murray had to work overtime Sunday. But Murray’s a young kid and he talks repeatedly of all the training he’s done. And now his chance to show that he is indeed among the fittest players around.
If Murray does get into a winning position, it will get dicey as we saw yesterday, so that’s another trouble area for the Scot. He’ll need to improve his break points conversion ratio to have a chance today given the stakes. And I think he will.
Fed of course could rise to the occasion, as great champs do, and play a scintillating tennis to win Slam No. 13. But as I said at the start of the tournament, the trend for Fed at least on hardcourts has been down, and even though he’s enjoyed an upswing these two weeks I don’t think its enough to trump the surging Murray who if he can stay the course, keep his head, should win this one in four or maybe even in straight sets.
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