Friday, 28 January 2011

Murray Into Aussie Final

Andy Murray is into the final of the Australian Open, after beating Spaniard David Ferrer 4-6, 7-6, 6-1, 7-6. As expected, the match was a tough one, but there was enough to suggest the British number one can go into Sunday morning's final with Novak Djokovic full of confidence. Equally, there was enough to suggest that Murray has plenty to work on, whether or not he finally wins that first Grand Slam.

In the first two sets, Murray was a shadow of the player who powered his way to the semi-final stage. His mindset was still to attack, but the unforced error count was higher than he could afford - hence being a point from going two sets down. However, despite the error-strewn second set, he somehow managed to wrestle back the momentum at the crucial points in the tie-break. The main criticism from last year's big semi-finals and finals was that while Murray often played very impressive matches, he lost the big points. He would make more winners than his opponents, and have better stats, but at key moments he would falter.

This year, perhaps that might be different? Admittedly, Ferrer may be no Nadal, but he is still a fantastic athlete - one who's fighting skills pushed Murray to the very limit at times. An equally accomplished returner, Ferrer would break serve at the same regularity as his own was broken. Momentum would swing back and forth. Only in the 3rd set did Murray really show his true class. When he turned it on, he was devastating, showing the class that got him this far in the first place. In the two crucial tie-breaks, the Scot stepped up to the plate.

However, Djokovic will be an entirely different proposition. A match-up between what many see as the future best 2 players in the world will have people setting their alarm clocks on Sunday night for sure! Murray will need to rid himself of the massive dips in concentration that marred his victory over Ferrer. He got away with it then, but that was against the 7th seed who has never won a Grand Slam. Against Djokovic, a player who won this tournament 3 years ago, we will see a true test of Murray's mettle. Having not played each other in 2 years, this will be a mystery to many, to see how it will turn out. Two great players, battling it out on their favourite surfaces - this will be a warning shot to Federer and Nadal. Whoever comes out on top will fancy themselves as the best bet to finally break their stranglehold on the number one slot.

If Murray plays near his aggressive best, he has an excellent chance. But if he allows himself to slip into a set and a half of casual passive tennis, Djokovic will punish him. He punished Federer in straight sets, and many will consider the Serb favourite, myself included.

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