Sorry anti-Fed fans, Roger Federer is not going away anytime soon. Not after the Swiss reminded the tennis nation of who he is by thumping Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(11) in the finals of the Australian Open earlier this morning.
The win was Federer’s 16th Grand Slam title of his career and 62nd overall since turning pro some 10 years ago. Not bad for a kid from a small town in Switzerland who grew up playing a lot of soccer. And what a performance from a guy who really played some excellent tennis tonight. Some of the best we’ve seen from him in a very long time.
“I think I was hitting the ball well,” said Federer in his postmatch. “I felt that from the start. So I always knew it was going to be a very intense match. I’m happy I was able to play so aggressive and patient at the same time because that’s what you got to be against Murray.”
Federer was in the lead right from the start breaking a visibly nervous Murray in his first service game. As he often does Murray broke right back and away we went. The two seemed to alternate on missing break chances before Federer finally earned the go-ahead break in the first via the forehand for 5-3. Moments later it was first set to Federer.
Federer now had what he wanted, control of the match, while Murray looked again to be “crumbling” – to use Fed’s pre-match words – under the burden of ending 76 years of British futility in men’s pro tennis and having to beat a tennis God to do it.
“Well, I don’t feel great,” Murray said who still leds Fed 6-5 but 0-2 in best-of-five. “You know, obviously worked really hard, you know, to get to this stage. I wanted to win the tournament. You know, I think it was more the way the end of the match finished. You know, obviously it was pretty emotional end to the match. If it was a complete blow‑out, if I lost 3, 4, and 2, you know, it probably wouldn’t have happened. But I had my chance to get back into the match. That was probably why I was upset.”
Federer again grabbed an early break in the second set as Murray continued to push balls and play passively allowing Federer to be the aggressor. Unfortunately for Murray, Federer was hitting his spots. Second set to Federer 6-4.
With the match all but in the bag for Federer, Murray began playing more freely and more relaxed. He began striking the ball with more authority and purpose, and it paid off. The Scot jumped out to a 4-2 lead and a fourth set seemed imminent. But just when the momentum was going Murray’s way things began to fall apart for the 22-year-old.
Fed rose back up to the challenge breaking Murray as he tried to serve out the third set. Federer forced the tiebreak where Murray grabbed the lead but again was unable to keep it.
The level of tension continued to climb as both players held multiple chances to ice away the set/match. Murray had four/five sets point opportunities. Federer has his own matchpoint chances including a sitter forehand had had but instead flashed an ill-fated dropshot that Murray dug out and slid down the line. Federer had a play on the passing shot but chose to let it go. It landed in. Things were getting real interesting.
But credit to Federer, he somehow shook off that gimee miss, and moments later a Murray backhand error into the net gave Federer his fourth Australian Open title and his first tournament title since last summer.
After the 2-hour, 41-minute showdown, Federer told the crowd, “Andy, well done for your incredible tournament. You’re too good a player not to win a Grand Slam so don’t worry about it. I’m over the moon winning this again. I played some of the best tennis again of my life these last two weeks.”
We are use to seeing Roger breakdown in finals but this time it was Murray.
“I can cry like Roger,” a choking-up Murray said on stage. “It’s a shame I can’t play like him.”
Some raw words from Murray. I actually think he made some new fans with that honesty.
As I said, a great match from Federer. His backhand really held up well from Murray’s persistent peppering. Federer also served well and really went on the attack when he had his chances.
I thought Murray came out very nervous and unsettled. And I really think that extra day off hurt him mentally because it only allowed for that much more weight and more pressure to be placed up him. He also was again too passive and he wasn’t hitting his serve like earlier in the tournament. Obviously Federer had something to do with that but so too did the occasion.
In my mind, it was really a case of Federer embracing the big stage of a Grand Slam final while Murray folded under the weight of it.
“I didn’t feel it on the court,” Murray said of the pressures. “You know, you get a lot of good luck messages. You know, everyone wishing you well from back home. You know, that’s obviously nice. You know, once you get on the court, it’s not what you’re thinking about at all. And then obviously after the match, you know, I would have liked to have done it for everyone back home, you know, won the tournament. Obviously for myself and for the people I work with as well. But it wasn’t to be.”
And this is Fed’s second beatdown over Murray in a Slam final – remember he beat Murray another straight setter at the 2008 US Open. These two losses have to psychologically haunt Murray. Sure Andy might and probably will beat Fed at the smaller ATP events like he’s been doing, but when it counts Fed’s easily been the better man. And in Slams despite the growing number of challengers Fed’s still reaching finals and winning titles. Amazing.
“Now I feel like obviously I’m being pushed a great deal by the new generation coming up,” said Federer. “I always feel sort of tennis changes sort of every five years. Because when I came on tour, matches were played very differently. It was more of a bluff game, guys serving well, but there was always a weakness you could go to. Today that doesn’t exist anymore. I think that’s also thanks to guys like Murray. They’ve made me a better player, because I think this has been one of my finest performances, you know, in a long time, or maybe forever.”
Federer calls the Australian Open the Happy Slam. And for the fourth time he leaves a happy man.
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