Thursday, January 28, 2010

Has The Real Andy Murray Finally Stood Up?

I am going to come out right now and say it - Marin Cilic will win a major one day.

I don't think it will be this week, as he is now two sets and a double break down to Andy Murray. But had he not played three five set matches this week, and had Murray not managed a shot (which gave him a break) which can only be called miraculous, I think we might have seen a match more in the mode of the US Open, where Cilic blasted Murray off the courts in straights. Because this kid is seriously good.

Serve? Sweet - even though the deep backbend he gets makes him look like he's in The Matrix. Forehand? Pretty damn excellent. Backhand? He can hit some great winners off it. Volleys? More than capable. Wingspan? Huge. Temperament? Calm. Mind? Bob Brett is his coach, so you want to bet that he's a thinking player.

Cilic came out and absolutely dominated Murray for a set and a bit - and had not Murray pulled off that over-the-shoulder pass, he could have easily been up two sets to love, I think. He did this by aggressive play, forcing Murray to play his game and also understanding the Murray game very well (cutting off the cross court pass, for example). But three five setters is going to take it out of anyone, and about halfway through the third set, Cilic hit the wall. Had Tomic and delPo and A-Rod not taken him the distance, this would have been a really different match.

I realise I'm making it sound like this match was on Cilic's racquet - and you know what? I think it largely was. He's got bigger weapons than Murray, when it all comes down to it. And in the long run, I think he's going to get the better of their head to head. And although Murray certainly lifted - he won (or, to be fair, is about to win) this match, Cilic didn't tank it - I think there have been some interesting questions raised.

Especially this one from Jim Courier - what is Andy Murray's A Game? What kind of tennis does he like to play?

Murray is an amorphous player, becoming whatever is necessary to defeat his opponent. He doesn't have one game that he tries to impose on his opponents at all costs, like someone like Rafa does. He doesn't necessarily play tennis in his own terms all that often because no one really knows what Murray's terms are. And I don't know if Murray really knows either.

He just won, by the way - he hit a round the netpost winner in his last service game which was totally stupid. And maybe this is what Andy loves - stupid winners. It is certainly what fired him up tonight. His extreme aggression against Nadal was what won him that match, even though Rafa's knees gave out at the end of the second set. And yet we often see him playing counterpunching tennis that is Hewittesque. The thing is, Hewitt wasn't capable of too much more than counterpunching, excellent as he was (is) at it. Murray is clearly capable of so much more, and he doesn't often go for it.

Perhaps this is the next stage in the evolution of Andy Murray - when instead of being reactive, although he's been excellent at it, he becomes active. What we have seen in this tournament is the beginnings of Murray really dictating the way he likes to play tennis - and it's working for him. And when he stands up on Sunday - he is in with a good chance. Even if he stands up against my beloved Federer.

Oh, and we're getting Serena and Justine in the women's final - I can't believe I nearly forgot! (Though to be fair, if you blinked, it wouldn't have been hard to miss JuJu's match...) Now that should be a barnburner...

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