Looking forward to the finals

Jul 3, 2010

There doesn’t seem a worse way to be knocked from a tournament, than when you play your absolute best and yet your opponent manages to beat you in straight sets. Unfortunately for Andy Murray, this was the case yesterday in the semi-finals. Rafael Nadal beat Murray 6-4 7-6 (8-6) 6-4, bringing out those big guns of his to knock back Britain’s hopes for another year. The crowd were split in their loyalties; many of course had paid good money to see Murray, but Nadal isn’t a stranger to the Wimbledon audience and although his winning points weren’t greeted with quite such raucous enthusiasm, there were nonetheless a great number of Rafa fans to spur him on.

Murray didn’t play badly; he seemed so relaxed and focused he was almost Federer-esque. The occasion of the moment didn’t, at least obviously, be affecting his game. The pair were both into a rhythm from the word go, showing off their respective talents in serving, forehands and backhands. Murray’s serve was particularly good, undoubtedly an asset when you have a man like Nadal prowling at the other end of the court. The first break  was at 4-4, with Murray pushing a forehand out of the tramlines and giving Nadal the chance to seal the first set. The second set remained very similar to the first; Murray’s serve kept himself out of trouble and Rafa continued to play groundstrokes at a speed that seemed humanly impossible.

You had to wonder whether any of those balls had offended Nadal during the tournament, because he seemed intent on burying them in the back ball behind the umpire’s heads. Still, Murray held strong, and the second set came down to a tie break that seemed sure to go Andy’s way. He went up to 2-0, but it was soon 2-2 after Murray netted a forehand. But the tie break still appeared to be working in the Scot’s favour, and when Nadal double faulted at 5-5 it was there for Murray to take. Unfortunately Andy could just not get a first serve going, giving Nadal the ammo to fire those ridiculous shots at him. As if it wasn’t enough that David Beckham was in the Royal Box, Nadal decided he would play a little bit of Bend it Like Beckham himself in amongst the brutal groundstrokes, putting so much spin on one ball that it seemed to curve boomerang style around the tip of Murray’s racket and dip back into the court; the most exquisite and physically impossible shot of the tournament. Nadal closed out the tiebreak, and the crowd began to bristle, eager for a comeback from their home guy.

The crowd seemed so close to getting the comeback they desired when Murray broke Nadal in the first game of the third set. But at the most crucial moment, Nadal fired back and made it 4-4. In the tenth game, Nadal was faced with match point; the first and only one he needed.

Andy Murray will have to wait another year to quell the rumblings about British tennis, but when he goes home to lick his wounds he can console himself with the plain fact that he did not play badly ‘he simply came up against a man that becomes impossible to touch at this point in a tournament, unless you happen to be called Roger Federer. This defeat, on top of his near-miss at the Australian Open and a poor run in between, appears to have drained the Scot of all mental strength, and no one would criticise him for that. He has now said he’s going to take a month off for a holiday, and will return to play in Toronto in August.

Rafael Nadal, creeping ever closer to the Wimbledon title, still has to get past Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic before he gets his trophy in Britain though. Nicknamed Tomas the Tank Engine, Berdych has bulldozed his way through the tournament, squashing Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic as he went. Although this will be his first Grand Slam final, the nerves of being in his first Grand Slam semi-final seemed nonexistent yesterday; one would have assumed looking at the two that it was Novak’s first semi final, not the Czech’s. If he keeps that infallible calmness up tomorrow, then at least Nadal will have difficulty beating him in the mentality battle. Berdych is a tall guy with a powerful groundstroke, but he will have to double the intensity so as not to get burnt by the blistering Rafa. I’m always happy for the underdog, and I imagine the crowd will be equally behind the new boy and the old champion during the match tomorrow. Even if you’ll just be watching it from the comfort of your living room, it’ll be a match not to be missed.

- SophieG
Written by: SophieG

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