First of all, congratulations to Andy Murray. Getting that third major does back-up his two odd-ball majors in 2012 (USO) and 2013 (WB) when Djokovic’s form took a long-term dive, Nadal was typically erratic and Federer was in the midst of his steady decline.
I watched as much of the match (taped) as I could, but, frankly, since I had seen the result (I checked my phone while away hoping to see Raonic grab an early set and make this interesting, having a pretty good feeling like everyone else that Murray was going to take care of business here), I watched the first set and a half or so and saw the diagnosis. Plain and simple: Murray was playing on a much higher level than Raonic. Raonic looked terrible, to be honest, but Murray’s return of serve and his general baseline strength were just too sharp, too imposing for Raonic.
Tough to say if Raonic was simply worn-out from playing Federer (emotionally, five-setter, etc.) or if Murray is just that much better than either one of these guys. Perhaps a bit of both.
Murray’s serve was unthreatened and he was all over the Canadian’s serve which statistically was just not as good as it was in the semi-final. The SF had what amounts to one of the greatest big serve displays of all time, where he had something like 14+ serves of over 140mph.
So, his level appeared to have dropped coming off his big SF win, but no question Murray is playing very well. My biggest take-away, other than Raonic seemed a bit out of sorts, was Murray seemed very determined, and the win was never in doubt. McEnroe et al, seemed to find this surprising at first since they had mentioned in the intro that there had to be so much pressure on Murray for this match. As the match began, Raonic looked to be the one overcome by the weight of the moment. The match lacked drama, but nice to see Murray play so confidently and capture that third major and his second Wimbledon.
In terms of some of the actual tennis and strategy, the call (probably Pat McEnore) pointed-out how Lendl and co. wanted Murray to actually go to Raonic’s FH, but push him out wide and open the court. It was brilliant strategy, leaving the Canadian to scramble for his weaker BH. Murray passed well and, again, served well. Just outplayed the younger player thoroughly.
Where most players might want to play to Raonic’s weaker BH, Murray perhaps surprised him and, in addition, pushed him out wide, which enabled the Scot to come to net and finish points easily. This was a huge part of that win. Murray dictated points, pushed Raonic around the BL and kept his serve very professional and unthreatened.
So this take-away of Murray’s form, a player peaking, in his prime, was a vivid contrast to Federer who, despite not being very match-fit because of his weak 2016, looked erratic and ineffective. How many times would Raonic come to net on Roger, and the “Maestro” would hit a soft elevated ball back, only to be put-away easily. Roger, on several occasions, made futile attempts at driving a winner past the big S&V machine. Murray and that great THBH had to have Raonic a little nervous coming to net. This contrast between Roger and Andy was a huge tell-tale that Federer is in over his head at this point. We’ll get a match or two perhaps where he plays very well, but the consistency of Federer is long-gone.
So, Andy’s determination and continued solid 2016 form is my first impression of Wimbledon (the match more about the Scot than the Canadian or anyone else – I thought Novak would drop in this tournament).
My second impression is that Andy’s play made quite obvious how impotent Federer’s tennis is at this point. Those were my first two impressions of the Championships.
But there were other impressions.
Firstly, how about that coaching trend.
Lendl’s presence in Andy’s camp is unquestionably beneficial. One could practically make the argument that this is almost as much Ivan’s title as it is Murray’s. Murray’s form was dominant throughout, and included his best behavior during and between points. Totally different Murray from the petulance and insane immaturity that’s plagued the player in the absence of the tennis great. Lendl never stands in the box, practically never smiles. Murray would look to his box through out the final gesturing for them to stand and fire-up. Darth Lendl would just sit there, emotionless. If you never saw Lendl play, you probably think the Big 4 are the greatest thing to ever put foot on a tennis court. First of all, it’s the Big 3 with out Lendl, if you know what I mean. Lendl’s influence in that camp is so massive it’s quite astonishing. Murray is a completely different level of talent with the Czech in the box. Like they do in other circumstances, Lendl should be given an honorary Wimbledon championship. There, you have another career GSlammer.
This Fedalovicay golden era argument makes me laugh when you look back at some of the greats who played a much tougher brand of tennis, who must laugh at some of the softness of this era. These current champions at the very least have a much cushier tennis existence. The money, the celebrity, the equipment, the nutrition and camp resources. . . it’s a different game today.
There’s evidence of my claim in some of the very success of the Big 4. We just discussed the mind-boggling affect that Lendl’s tennis genius has on Murray. Murray has zero majors without Lendl. You think that’s a coincidence? Murray should be giving the eight major coach of the century a blank check and follow his master’s commands like a dog. How is this latest Wimbledon (and Murray’s legacy in general) not more of a nod to how great tennis used to be. Does Lendl stay with Murray for the rest of the year? I would love to see Murray with Lendl in NYC. Lendl went to eight straight USO finals. Wrap your brain around that statistic. This would be a tremendous development for the final major. It’s all about Lendl.
What about Becker’s influence with Djokovic? Yes, Becker is a great from that forgotten age of tennis, long before the so-called golden era that’s erased the past. Lol.
Look at Djokovic’s career arch and you can see the affect of Becker (unless this is just strange coincidence ;). Djokovic became pretty relevant in the greatness discussion in 2011 when he was actually only being coached by his long-term ally Marian Vajda. The following two years, coming-off that 3 major explosion of 2011, he won two AO, which he wins every year. He basically went away for two years. Pretty remarkable, actually. Boris was brought on in December of 2013, so he’s really been at the helm since the beginning of 2014. Since then, Novak has 6 majors. Yeah, he went from six to twelve, under the leadership of Boris Becker. That’s more impressive than Lendl’s magic. The game is so mental, it doesn’t take much to see how these old school greats might have helped. The game was brutal back in the day with the depth, the lack of resources, match formats, etc. Bringing that kind of tennis toughness and leadership to these players’ games clearly has had a huge impact.
We’ll have to wait and see with John McEnroe, whether or not he can take Raonic’s game to that next level. He already has, but let’s see if the Canadian can grab a major in the next year or so. I think the Canadian will struggle against the likes of Murray and Djokovic at the very top. Their games are built specifically to trouble a guy like Raonic. Time will tell.
Indeed, the tennis genius of the past helping elevate this era’s game is classic irony for all those people popping their proverbial bottles of bubbly, celebrating the greatest level of tennis of all time blah blah blah.
On the other hand, Federer’s coaching experiment is quite inconsequential at this point. His game plan vs. Raonic was awful, but I suspect Roger’s form had a little to do with that dumpster fire.
One final impression of Wimbledon is the look of the game heading into the next few years. We might not think much has changed since Roger made the final four. Djokovic was upset, but that will certainly happen from time to time. Aside from those kinds of unusual developments (I would argue Roger’s success has as much to do with the draw/the field), this is a glance at the tour of 2016-17 and on. Djokovic will continue to dominate, and Murray (depending on his coaching situation) should be able to contend; that kind of focus (from the box) will certainly challenge Djokovic, I suspect. Should. That’s the men’s game in a nutshell. We’ve already talked about the tour without Fedal; that’s already a reality at the very top. Will Raonic progress? Presumably. The USO should be interesting if everyone is healthy and not too burned-out from Rio.
Looking ahead to the hard courts and NYC (I can’t get that excited about Rio), I think Djokovic absolutely needs to win this last major to have a good chance at reaching 17. Not that I put much stock in that conversation, but the reality is that Djokovic is aiming for that specific number, which, admittedly, has a lot of historical significance.
We will continue this discussion heading into the NA HC season. Plus, stay-tuned for my final installment(s) of How Roger Federer Ruined Tennis.