So Andy Murray has finally won Wimbledon ending a 77-year drought for his home nation. While that’s all well and nice for folks in the UK, in the broader landscape Murray has now won two of the last four Slams plus the gold and with the heart of the hardcourt swing just around the corner, might the Scot be the at the head of the men’s tennis table in the near future? Perhaps.
Though some of the other players might have something to say about that. So let’s breakdown where we are at in the game.
He’s the man of the hour, there’s no question. And with deference to Novak Djokovic, who’s the World No. 1, and Rafael Nadal, who still leads in 2013 points, Murray’s the best right now.
As I’ve said he’s the only man right now on the planet who’s holding not one but two Grand Slam titles, and that’s in addition to a coveted Olympic gold.
Sure, Murray benefited from a kind Wimbledon draw which included having the good fortune of playing Fernando Verdasco – we know he can’t finish off a big name on a big stage – and then an overwhelmed and tired Jerzy Janowicz. But he did hand Djokovic a rare straight sets defeat in the final. Even had Novak taken the fourth I still think Murray would have won, he was just the better, more focused player.
And it’s hard to cry Murray’s been plain lucky. Andy also took the Olympic gold from Roger Federer and he beat Novak at the US Open. True, the whipping wind played a role in New York but you still have to win those matches, and Murray did just that.
At 26 he’s at the end of his peak window, but there’s no reason with his versatile game and coach Lendl at his side that he can’t add 3-4 more Majors.
The French will always be tough with Nadal but Wimbledon, with the pressure and expectations finally in the rearview (for now), and with little true grass threats around, could be we’re he’ll collect the most in the next few years.
That said, he still doesn’t have that big, dynamic shot that instills fear in his foes. So if Nadal and Djokovic are that their very best, I still rate those guys ahead of Andy. As for them…
He’s the World No. 1 but really hasn’t been playing up to par. And I’ve been saying that since March when Novak failed to win either Indian Wells or Miami, two events a player with his skillset and experience should dominate. He did beat Rafa in Monte Carlo, but otherwise he’s just been “off” in my eyes.
To his credit, he played really well at Wimbledon, much better than I thought he would. But against Juan Martin Del Potro in their epic semi the errors returned and the confidence in his shots just wasn’t there. He was hitting the ball okay, he just wasn’t fully committed.
And against Murray, maybe it was Andy, maybe it was carryover fatigue from the semi or just something else completely , but I just didn’t see that fire, the heart from him. He almost seemed resigned to just finish runner-up. (Is he satisfied?)
Now we move to his favorite hardcourt surface and if that doesn’t ignite the fuse, then what’s left. If Novak doesn’t come away with either Cincinnati or Canada then it might be time to panic. Because as we saw in Paris and at Wimbledon, if you haven’t been winning at the smaller events it catches up with you in the big ones. Those expectations snowball.
Once again it’s all about Nadal’s knees. If their healthy then great, but my feeling is after another suspect loss at Wimbledon this issue is never, ever going away, and the hardcourts only makes it worse.
We’ll get a better read a month from now in Canada how he really is, provided he plays of course. If he shows up strong then maybe it was just a random flare in London, but if withdraws or loses early again then it could signal another difficult end to the season.
Remember Rafa doesn’t play his best during the second half of the calendar with a good knee, now adding the psychological toll of having it flare up again, how’s he going to handle the hardcourts this time?
For his sake and for tennis’s I hope he can make it back 100%. Reality is at age 27 it’s a longshot he’ll ever win the US Open again.
Speaking of longshots, that’s what Federer is now at the bigger event where he use to be the man to beat. That’s no longer after the Swiss Mister finally got bit by the upset bug ending that 36-Slam quarterfinal streak. It was inevitable, I just didn’t think it would happen the way it did to Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Short on points and events that he can win, now ranked No. 5 Roger has added a couple of clay court tournaments at the end of this month to his 2013 playing schedule. And it’s probably a smart move.
Approaching 32, Roger needs match play and he needs match wins. And I think he now acknowledges that when he goes to Canada and Cincinnati he might only get a few matches before a JW Tsonga or Jerzy Janowicz or someone else “shocks” him early on. That’s the unfortunate reality.
But all said, I still think he can win another Major. I think the Stakhovsky loss should serve as a wake-up call and I expect Roger to perform much better the remainder of the year. And if he can get a good draw, create some luck, Federer’s still a guy that can make magic especially in a Grand Slam, one match winner-take-all final.
Juan Martin Del Potro
For me, Delpo was only behind Murray as the story of Wimbledon. Despite two injuries to the same left knee, the Argentine played some of the best tennis of his career.
Not only does Delpo hit harder off the ground than anyone on the the planet, he’s got a serve to match, he moves well for a big guy and mentally he’s very sound. Really, when he’s in full flight, it’s just him against his body. Unfortunately, his body wins a lot!
However, who among us didn’t think he was done after taking that scary tumble against David Ferrer? In previous years he just might. But the fragile 6-foot-6 beast rose up, shook off the injury, and out fought Ferrer. To me, that showed a heck of a lot. And it’s a great sign for the future.
So if Delpo – still just 24 – can maintain some semblance of health and calm, it’s very reasonable to think he’ll be holding up the US Open trophy two months from now. Right now he’s my No. 2 pick behind Murray for the Open.
How can a guy Federer’s age play better than Roger at Wimbledon? I don’t really know! But David just keeps chugging along. Ferrer has reached the semifinals (and beyond) at the last four Grand Slams and that effort has deservedly lifted him to a career-high No. 3 in the rankings this week. Contrast that with Federer who at a career-low No. 5 and you get the numerical sense of two guys going in opposition directions. Strange, right?
However, I wonder if David’s this good or is everyone else this mentally challenged? May be both!
As for the rest, I think Janowicz has proven to be the leader of the new pack of stars. I just hope this newfound fame and fortune doesn’t curtail his progress because he’s a player with Top 5, multiple Slam-winner type of potential. Jerzy’s not as good overall as Del Potro, but he adds extra variety with his dropshot and he’s got a better huge serve.
I also like how Bernard Tomic played. With the swirling controversy of his dad never far away, the 20-year-old Bernard grew up in hurry enjoying one of his best tournaments. If he can keep it together the Top 10, Top 5 could be calling soon.
Meanwhile, Milos Raonic was a disappointment (again) as were Grigor Dimitrov, the quickly fading Ryan Harrison, Ernests Gulbis and Kei Nishikori. All five, though, should do well this summer on the hardcourts, especially Nishikori who I think could be around the final weekend of a US Open in the next few years.
It’s an older person’s game these days but Wimbledon showed time waits for no man, not even Federer and Nadal. So after years of status quo, I think we are sitting on the edge of the Big Shift. It should be fun ahead. Just remember to buckle up!
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