5 Responses

  1. Andrew Burton
    Andrew Burton November 11, 2012 at 7:46 pm |

    Odd match. Federer looked like he didn’t want to be out there for the first seven games, Murray for the last seven.

    I thought the match turned at the 30-30 point, 4-3 Murray. Federer had just buried another regulation I-I FH in the net. Federer attacked the net on a pure bluff: Murray’s first passing shot was left up, but Federer couldn’t get anything on his volley. Murray had a sitter BH pass, and butchered it. Still, if you were cheering for Fed (like me), you probably groaned when he chose the safe BH slice return on BP. Then Murray left his own response hanging over the fat part of the plate, and this time Federer ‘s attacking FH fired.

    I thought Cliff Drysdale, Patrick McEnroe and Brad Gilbert analyzed the match poorly. Murray’s had a big first serve for five years: he’s been able to hit in the high 130s since his teens – just not consistently. As you point out, his first serve didn’t help him much today (in some matches between the two, like Shanghai F 2010, it’s been the difference maker). The idea, as BG suggested early in set 1, that Murray is ATP leader on 2nd serve points is laughable – he’s 12th (Federer is first). Murray does lead on 2nd serve return points won – a different animal, no?

    But I thought McEnroe and Gilbert were right to suggest that Federer would have to lift his level substantially from the round robin stages to beat Murray. Turned out I was wrong. Federer’s level did improve, but he was by no means in peak form. Instead, after going up in the TB (on a Federer shank), Murray just – went away. He was a pale imitation of the fellow who’d scrapped for three sets with Djokovic earlier in the week, or the lad who took a gold medal in London this year. Maybe the crowd had sensed who was prepared to scrap through a run of bad form, and who wasn’t. Maybe that’s why there was so much red and white in the stands.

    1. Jewell
      Jewell November 12, 2012 at 2:20 am |

      “Maybe the crowd had sensed who was prepared to scrap through a run of bad form, and who wasn’t. Maybe that’s why there was so much red and white in the stands.”

      Sort of agree. I just don’t think crowds, even crowds in Britain (the WTF crowd is also more international than Wimby, Queens or Olympics crowd IMO, which may have an effect) warm to Murray easily, not compared to the other members of the top 4. He has to show them something, not just previous wins, not even just good play, but real grit and great play, to inspire them on to his side. I remember the same thing happening when he played Rafa in the SF here in 2010 – the crowd cheered more loudly for Rafa as the players came out, but in the second set, when Murray lifted his game so much, support swung round more to his side. I don’t remember Henman ever having to earn support in that way. And, I think a large part of that is Murray’s on-court demeanour, which can be off-putting even to his fans and to people who really want him to win. (distinction as a lot of people who wanted Murray to win a slam aren’t necessarily people who’d identify themselves as Murray fans.)

      “He was a pale imitation of the fellow who’d scrapped for three sets with Djokovic earlier in the week”

      I thought Murray went away for a large part of that match. Scrapped back into the third set, yes, but for about a set in the middle he was negativing himself out of contention and making me roll my eyes. So, I’m not completely surprised that he did something similar at the first sign of resistance in this one.

  2. Matt (secondservehack)
    Matt (secondservehack) November 12, 2012 at 12:32 am |

    I thought the same as Andrew: that if Federer played the way he did in the round robin he’d lose to Murray and it wouldn’t be very close. I was really surprised at Murray’s disintegration as the match wore on because he can do things–defend big pace with his backhand, serve really big at crucial moments, pass from seemingly impossible positions–that can hurt Federer. And he obviously knows how to beat Federer as he has a winning record against him. So why the sudden collapse? It might just be as simple as percentages.

    When Murray beat Federer in Shanghai he was seemingly breaking the Federer serve at will, blasting winners off second serves and freaking RF out so much that he hit three double-faults in a row at one point. The strange thing about this, again as Andrew pointed out today, is that Federer has won more points off his second serve, percentage-wise, than anyone else on tour this year. So how was Murray making it look like Federer’s second serve was, well, as poor as his own? The answer is probably a combination of things, Federer having an off serving day, Murray being unusually aggressive on his return, but the mistake some of us made (at least a mistake I know that I made) was in thinking that this would be the new normal.

    One of the things that people that use advanced stats in sports analytics talk about is regression to the mean. Most of the time when a player goes on a hot streak (be it high shooting percentage in hockey or basketball, high batting percentage in baseball) people make up all sorts of narratives for why this might be the case when the more probable answer is that the player is having more luck than normal. After a long enough period of time, this luck usually runs out and the player’s average regresses to the mean. So may be the case with Murray and returning Federer’s second serve. At least some of Murray’s stellar returning in the Shanghai match was probably due to luck: hitting inside the line with a shot that another time would go out; timing a return perfectly instead of mis-hitting just a bit, etc, but he, like most of us, probably chalked it up to something that he was directly controlling. The same sort of thing seemed to be working at the start of the match today, but then Murray started missing. Given Murray’s always questionable mental stability, he appeared not to treat his sudden misses as percentages catching up to him–in a sense, nothing much to worry about–but something that he must have been doing wrong, something under his control that he could fix. It was about then that he seemed to panic and the match was lost.

  3. Jewell
    Jewell November 12, 2012 at 2:51 am |

    Federer might be able to win against other top players serving at 50%-ish or even less, but Murray can’t, on the whole – his first serve percentage needs to be above 60% at least to have a good shot, and preferably 65-70%. If it’s not, he makes it enormously difficult for himself – more so than for other members of the top 4, IMO. I also think it’s far more difficult for him to get the balance of aggression/defence right if his serve isn’t clicking.

    I’d be interested to know what the percentage was for the first seven games – was this a consistent problem from the beginning? Because for all the talk on Twitter during the first few games, first serve percentage being low, if it was, should’ve been flashing a bit of a danger sign to people thinking Murray was going to run away with the match from there.

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