Rafa Outplays Brave Murray

2010 Wimbledon Championships
By Hiland Doolittle, July 3rd, 2010
Rafa Outplays Brave Murray

Rafa Outplays Brave Murray

Andy Murray showed up for this one. Unlike his final round appearance in Melbourne, Murray came to play in Friday’s semifinal against Rafa Nadal.

Murray played well; very well. He would have defeated anyone else in the field today. The problem is he came up against the best player on the planet, who took everything the fleet, hard-serving, deft Scotsman could muster and answered everything. As good as Nadal was, Murray had his chances.

The problem with playing against Murray is that you know he is going to come at you. Even when the left-hander is behind, out of sorts, upset with the crowd or officials, you know that he has a plan. And, it is usually a plan that only he could conceive and execute.

On this day, on the All England Club’s Centre Court, the better player defeated a brilliant challenger. Everyone on Henman Hill and throughout the UK can celebrate Andy Murray’s brilliance. The redhead was great.

Tour players know that Rafael Nadal gives nothing away. To beat this guy, everything has to go right and you cannot blink; not once in 3 hours, 4 hours, whatever it takes.

  • You cannot get tentative.
  • You cannot protect the lead.
  • You cannot reduce your racquet head speed.
  • You must move your feet at all times.
  • You cannot miss volleys.
  • You must be ready to move laterally, vertically over and over again.
  • You must always expect the unexpected.
  • On keys points, when the ball clips the top of the net, you cannot blink. He sees it.
  • You cannot ever look tired, dejected or out of sorts.

The Spaniard sees it, smells it and knows that you are on the edge. He knows that you know he will not beat himself. He knows that you know, you must play every point as if it was the last. That is the way Rafa plays whether he is ahead or behind, whether in form or out of form.

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That is what Andy Murray knew before and after Friday’s match. That is what everyone on Henman Hill and everyone watching on television on Court Two and everyone surrounding Centre Court came to understand. Plainly put. This Nadal guy is really, really good.

Understand that Murray played well. He served brilliantly. In the second set at 4-4, the Scotsman had only lost one point on serve. Wow! It just does not get any better than that. Yet, the score was tied at 4-4.

The match had the feel of a heavyweight fight. With his exquisite footwork, Nadal resembled Ali, firing stinging shots. Murray was the classic counter-puncher, with the best return of serve in the game. Murray generated heroic retrieves, but Nadal was always on his toes, in the right pace and ready to blast away.

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This match had high drama. Someone who looked at the 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-4 scorecard might just think that Nadal had won in straight sets and that is all there was to it. Those who witnessed the match know how tight and how brilliantly played this battle really was.

Undoubtedly, the two best players in the draw played in this semifinal match.

Murray had 19 aces to Nadal’s 13. Both players had two double faults. Murray had 37 winners. Nadal had 31. The key to Nadal’s success is that he won 3 of his 4 break point opportunities. Murray only converted one of three. Murray consistently served 130 mph but at the end of each set, he blinked.

In the second set tiebreaker, he double faulted at 5-5. Against Nadal, mistakes like that cost you. That one cost Murray the match. Even though the Scotsman broke in the first game of the third set, there was no way any player was winning three straight sets against the best closer in the sport.

With that one double fault, the All England Club knew whose name to engrave on the game’s oldest trophy. What a heavyweight match! What a heavyweight win! Congratulations to both competitors!


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