1. If this is the dawn of a new era, I’m going to take up badminton
First up, it clearly isn’t so this is completely moot. Nadal and Federer will be the two favourites for at least the next two slams and depending on how those go, probably the US Open as well.
It’s not like last year when it was valid to question Nadal’s future given he’d been forced to quit with another flare-up of his chronic knee problem. And as for Federer, the Australian Open has always been his third best slam. It would take a special kind of stupid to write either of them off.
But let’s speak hypothetically. If this is a serious rivalry in the making then excuse my mouth for remaining completely waterless. The match was dull. Murray’s alleged variety was non-existent but his famous pushing was there for all to see.
Djokovic was a ball machine from the baseline, playing in a controlled aggressive manner that occasionally produced spectacular winners but generally just ground a subdued opponent into an error. It was an impressive and deserved victory but not one to set pulses racing.
It appears that Djokovic and Murray just don’t bring out the best in each other. Eight of their nine matches have been won in straight sets, none particularly memorable.
If it is to be a new era, we can only hope for the sake of tennis that it is one with Murray and Djokovic as equals to Federer and Nadal rather than their superiors. But like I said, moot for now.
2. Can you really win a slam with a shitty forehand?
For all the talk of his passive play, Murray still lacks the main weapon all his other rivals possess: A reliable forehand that he can consistently produce winners with. That will most likely never change.
It’s entirely possible that some of his defensive play stems from his complete lack of faith in that particular shot. Bar he completely remodels, it’s always going to be a relative weakness.
The second serve is still a massive issue as well. For a guy of 6’ 4 it’s just piss-weak. He’s undoubtedly improved it but nowhere near to the extent he needs to. Far too often it lands in the middle of the service box waiting to be put away. Thirty-seven per cent won behind it against Ferrer, 32 in the final.
For a player whose go-to first serve is still a low-percentage flatty, that’s a recipe for disaster. It’s even plausible that Murray and his team became so obsessed with the physical side of his development that they took their eye off his tennis.
Those weaknesses alone, however, aren’t enough to explain his defensive mindset. Murray has arguably the best backhand in the game but throughout the final he looked shit scared to go for outright winners with it.
When he did force Djokovic out wide, he looked afraid to come to the net and the Serb was able to get back into several points with high floaty defensive slices that should have been easy put-aways.
I suspect Murray still has the game to take a slam despite the obvious weaknesses. However the only way to do that is to impose his strengths on the game. That means, dictating with his backhand, hitting a high percentage of first serves and mixing things up with angled slices and net-approaches.
All absent against Djokovic. Pushing will only get him so far.
3. What could Djokovic have achieved if he hadn’t spent two years pushing his forehand?
Djokovic is now pretty much where he was three years ago. That he went backwards after taking the same title in 2008 must be a worry for his fans.
Last time Djokovic made the common sporting mistake of reaching the top playing one style then assuming that to stay there he needed to change it.
Last time the reason for change was probably Rafael Nadal. After his Australian Open success, Djokovic fancied his chances of overhauling the Spaniard and at least picking up the occasional victory on clay.
Four defeats on three different surfaces, culminating in their marathon Olympic semi-final, destroyed Djokovic’s confidence against the very best and he seemed to try to emulate Nadal from then on by replacing explosiveness with consistency on the forehand side.
That’s a fancy way of saying that he became a pusher. His serve action also went to pieces though he denies trying to remodel it.
If Djokovic had maintained the level of aggression he showed in late 2007/early 2008 for the next two years it’s likely that he would have at least reached another slam final in that period.
In the next few months he will almost certainly suffer another couple of beatings at the hands of Rafa. If he has learned from his mistakes in the past, this time he will simply shrug them off and keep doing what he does best.
4. British sports fans are generally fucking clueless…
…but especially when it comes to tennis.
Tim Henman was trending on twitter in the UK almost exclusively on the back of comments to the effect of “Murray is another loser, just like Henman”.
No amount of Masters titles, slam finals or weeks ranked in the top five matter to these casually-observing cretins. The only stat that matters in Murray’s career is the big fat zero beside number of slams won.
Until it changes he will be forever defined by it. Just as Henman was.
Never mind that Henman, playing an old fashioned style and completely lacking the powerful ground strokes of his rivals, overachieved by even getting close to a major title.
The sense of entitlement among British sports fans means that only explanation for Henman failing to win a major is that he was a bottler.
It’s enough to turn the most rabid of Murray haters into a fan because no one deserves to listen to that shit. Least of all me.
Of course the sense of entitlement is nothing unique to the British and if Andy Roddick is anything to go by, the choking one slam wonder tag could be just as cruel.
5. Swearing is still cool
It took all of four games before the BBC had to issue their first apology for Murray’s swearing. As usual it was only the apology that informed viewers that the shout they heard in the distance did in fact consist of swearing.
It was pretty clear at the next changeover though when umpire Jake Garner was on the receiving end of an exasperated “FUCK!” from Murray. It made me laugh.
Fuck etiquette, fuck the supposedly corruptible kids watching. It’s entertaining and that’s what matters most.
Murray needs to change a few things but his swearing isn’t one of them.