Men’s Final

Jan 31, 2010

To think ‘three set match’, you may think ‘walk-over’, ‘battering’, ‘easy’. But the Andy Murray vs. Roger Federer three set Australian Open final was no picnic for either player. With die-hard fans behind him and an almost violent craving for a title, Murray tested the champion at every opportunity. As we all know though, Federer tends to have the answers up his sleeve. The final started well for both players, the scoreline crawling up according to serve. Andy Murray seemed confident, testing out a few of his angle-defying moves to hold his serve well.

Then…oops. The scoreline changes to 5-3. Break points were earned with some dreamy shots, both backhand and forehand, testing the meaning of ‘down the line’. Murray wasn’t helping himself with some awful serving, his serving percentage lingering around 40. It wasn’t just his own game letting the game run away from him though, at the other end of the court Roger Federer had the game by the scruff of the neck and was dragging it where he wanted it to go. First set to Roger Federer. There was no change in excitement of the crowd; they were perfectly happy to be there for five sets.

The second set, however, started to dampen the confidence of ‘Muzza’ fans and fire the excitement of the Federer ones. It wasn’t too long at all before Federer broke Murray again. “Hadn’t Federer seen his opponent change into his lucky white shirt?”, the crowd seemed to cry, “Is nothing sacred anymore?” Breaking Murray in his lucky white shirt is like knocking over Nadal’s perfectly placed bottles, but there’s not a stretch of highly expensive clothing material out there that would keep Federer from breaking his opponent. The second set scoreline was 4-2, soon to be 4-3 as Murray held with some plucky moves. The games rattled away, 5-3, 5-4. Federer turned to his blistering serve to get him the set, and he claimed it on his second of three set points. Murray was two sets to love down, exactly where Juan Martin del Potro had been lying in the US Open final. No-one could argue that this was definitely over; not Murray fans, not Federer fans, not the commentators.

The beginning of the third set was where things began to get interesting, and as anyone who saw the match will know this was only a taste of what the end of the set was going to bring. Both players held, but there were some nervy moments on both sides. And then, with the roar of most of Britain and the Rod Laver crowd behind him, Andy Murray broke Fed’s serve. 2-4, with Murray gaining the momentum with his slices and passing shots, all of which caused some devastating blows for the world no. 1.

It would have been stupid to think that Andy Murray was out of the game anymore. Unfortunately for his fans, it would also be stupid to think that this was Federer broken permanently. He held his next game to love, and then gave the Scot a taste of his own bitter medicine. Murray nets a forehand at break point, and Federer gets his foot in the door. The scoreline swings in Federer’s favour, now sitting at 5-5. Soon, it’s 6-6.

And then comes the mother of all tie-breaks. The actual number of points was only just beaten by Roger Federer’s last epic win in a final, when he beat Andy Roddick at Wimbledon 2009. When a tiebreak sits 6-6, you can only settle in for the ride and hope that your heart doesn’t give our somewhere along the line. This is where I have to make sure that my voice is on mute so as not to alarm the neighbours, and that there is a pillow nearby to squeeze from the sheer nerves of it all. How do these players do it? I feel ten years older just from watching.

Out of nowhere Federer has pulled away and has a championship point. He misses the line by a fraction. A quick glug of water and some deep breaths and we are back to the battle. It swings to Murray now, with his fourth set point. His lob careers wide. Are these men trying to send us to our graves? Federer gets his next championship point at 10-9. He has converted so many of these, he’s no novice. Surely this is his.

No. It turns back to a set point for Murray. Federer serves, and Andy nets the return. A third championship point dawns. Andy Murray just can’t get his strength together and his arms high enough to get that ball over; it strikes the net and Roger Federer’s own aching arms go up into the air. Twelve months ago today he failed, and he wasn’t going to let himself or the papers relive that horror.

Roger Federer has won his first Grand Slam title as a father, his fourth Australian Open, his sixteenth Grand Slam , with a scoreline of 6-3 6-4 7-6 (13-11).

It must be pure agony to stand and watch a man who already has 15 Grand Slams under his belt take one from right under your feet. To have to go to a microphone and feel the need to give some sort of insight into your loss, some sort of explanation. To have such a mania behind you that you have to apologise to your own country for not winning. Unfortunately, that is what you have to do in tennis, particularly with such a glory-hungry nation behind you. It can break tennis champions, but it can also make them. Commiserations Andy Murray. It’s not beyond your skills, and this is coming from a self-proclaimed non-fan. You were great. But (as many have discovered) if you ever enter a final with that man on the other side of the court again, you’re going to need to be a hell of a lot better than great.

“See you next year” Federer says, smiling. It’s an ominous and exciting promise.

See you next year, Roger.

 

Written by: SophieG

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