Well, what do you know. A match which was meant to witness the second coming of Andy Murray at Wimbledon became the stage where tennis’ most gifted man reasserted his dominance.
Roger Federer, 33, dispatched the temperamental Scott with astonishing firmness, a meticulously thought-through strategy and an alarmingly (for Novak Djokovic) consistent performance.
For Murray, it wasn’t a horribly bad day in the office. His game didn’t suffer as much as the scoreline may indicate. His brilliant passing shots inflicted harm by breezing past the Swiss beautifully, his backhand was well-timed and the forehand angled at the very few empty spaces left by Federer.
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There were dents – crucially the first serve not working when it mattered most – but it was Roger’s genius tennis that shifted this semi-final in his favour.
Federer came out confident and prepared – in fact, according to Andy Roddick on BBC’s Wimbledon2day, the Swiss assured him that he felt better than ever (nevermind his glorious past performances!). Since dropping in ranking two years ago, it almost ceased to occur that Roger was still capable of his olden-day magic.
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Gulf in class
But there he was, moving phenomenally well on court, never a step too many, to the perfect width and length to cover the court and leave no space for Murray to unleash his raw power. The Brit’s inconsistent serving reminded the crowd how good a returner Federer was - he took advantage of those below-par (or bellow 100mph) serves that Murray had the misfortune of hitting, winning 35% of the points on return.
That was a considerable boost to his excellent serving and net-point record – the Swiss nailed 20 aces for the match duration, 11 in the first set, and managed to win 84% of the points on his first serve compared to Murray’s 71%. The Swiss covered more ground than Murray (2098.4 against 1972.2), possibly down to those clever adjustments and the Scott’s aggressive, dictating strategy.
And then came that lengthy match-changer game in the second set that really should’ve inspired Murray to greater things. All elements were activated – the underdog statute Murray had after losing the opening set and which had so often before pumped him into a roaring comeback; the deafening noise from the supportive crowd; the stunning rallies and swift change of momentum. Murray fended off Federer’s advances and made it 5-5, but with the end of the game the spark had seemingly gone.
Federer on fire
Never mind that; to Murray’s fairness, he probably wasn’t equipped for Federer’s unyielding form.
The Swiss great was in full bloom on Friday proving wrong those who thought his decline had become irreversible with age. Above the fluid movement, graceful backhand and punishing forehand was the reliable serve.
With the way Roger deployed his serves, it would’ve taken an extraordinary effort from Murray to break. On average, Federer’s second serve was 12.3mph faster, a feat possibly achieved through him changing to a bigger racket as well as reaching his top performance. Crucially, Federer left Murray the fewest opportunities to break – just one against 10 the Swiss was handed during the course of the match, and Roger did the bare minimum to proceed to a record 10th final by winning one in each set.
Who would’ve thought Britain’s Wimbledon trophy hopes would lie on Andy’s brother and doubles’ player Jamie Murray instead of the former champion himself? But that’s tennis. And despite a bitter defeat – a defeat not so hugely unexpected given that Federer prevailed over the Scott in their past four encounters – it’s clear that Murray’s work with Amelie Mauresmo had got him back among the crème de la crème of men’s tennis.