Saturday, January 30, 2010

Federer vs. Murray: Two And A Half Men


Whenever Roger Federer and Andy Murray talk about each other, I can't help but think of that American sitcom starring Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer who portray two brothers with a comic relationship characterized by competition and resentment.

I get the feeling that if they weren't sporting rivals not all that fond of one another, they'd be playing tricks on the other, trying to score the prettiest woman in the room. As it is, they try to psyche each other out in interviews, seeking the upper hand in the mind games before scoring victory on the court.

As Barry Flatman writes:

As Murray prepares for the biggest match of his tennis life in today’s Australian Open final, with the opportunity to become Britain’s first male Grand Slam champion since 1936, he may reflect on the pre-match posturing of opponent Roger Federer. Some would regard the Swiss’ comments that things are much easier for him because Murray is burdened with the expectations of a nation that has had to wait 150,000 years for a Grand Slam winner as relaxed, confident and comical.

Others would regard them as snide and insensitive to a nation yearning, desperately, for another champion after such a long drought.

But while the unforgiving press reminds the fang-flashing, primal-screaming Scot how important the first set will be, given Raja's record of winning 47 of 48 matches Down Under after taking the first set, Murray gets in a sting of his own:

Well, I mean, against Del Potro at the US Open last year, he was up a set and serving for the set, and Del Potro came back. You know, guys have come back against him in the past.

Obviously, it would be nice to start well, but I don't think it's the end of the match if the start doesn't go my way. Five‑set matches, so much can happen. A lot can change in just a few points, like my match the other night against Cilic. It's not the end of the world if the start doesn't go to plan.

And then there's this:

In the past few years he’s also lost a lot of close matches in five sets, including slam finals.

You hear that, Raja? Murray won't be withering like a wind-burnt pea pod just because you get a lead. So don't let up or you'll be trying to improve upon your relatively mediocre five-set record in another Grand Slam final.

But Raja isn't one to let others do his bidding. No way, no how. He's quite capable of tooting his own horn and dismissing his rivals with a serving of cattiness wrapped in Leonine charm with a side of delusion. The recipe of many a great champion.

As Doug Perry, a Federer aficionado, freely admits:

Federer has shown over the years an unfortunate propensity for flippant remarks about his rivals. He shelved the Muhammad Ali-like self-huzzahs when his quest for the all-time major record bogged down amid Rafael Nadal's endless crunching forehands, but now they're back.

That might be a bit of an understatement. Check this out:

He’s in his second grand-slam final now and I think the first one’s always a bit tougher than the second one. Now that he didn’t win the first one, I think it doesn’t help for the second one around. Plus he’s playing, you know, me, who’s won many grand-slams and has been able to win here three times, so I know what it takes and how to do it, which is definitely an advantage.

I don’t feel the pressure’s really on me having to do it again because I did it before. I think he really needs it more than I do, so the pressure’s bigger on him. We’ll see how he’s going to handle it. It’s not going to be easy for him, that’s for sure.

Without taking anything away from him, I think a few times he played me I wasn’t at my very, very best. I played him on a couple of occasions — Dubai comes to mind — when I had just come back from resting, after my mono [mononucleosis, the illness]. I know some don’t like to hear it and some still don’t believe me for some reason.

We had some close matches on many occasions where I thought I was in control and I ended up giving the match away by making errors of my own. That was definitely because of his play and the way he plays. That’s why I don’t really care too much about how the head-to-head stands [6-4 in Murray’s favour]. Every match is played differently.”

Ah, yes. The reintroduction of the mono excuse explanation, giving new meaning to Raja's Mr. Monogram nickname.

The reason some fans raise an eyebrow about your claims of mononucleosis, Mr. Mono-gram, is because, well, you never even missed an event because of it, unlike, say, Mario Ancic who can't seem to overcome his own bout with the energy sapping illness after more than two years.

But I digress.

Murray is having none of it.

But to me that stuff he said is irrelevant. I have always been pretty respectful about his game. He’s probably the greatest player that’s ever played. But if every time he loses to me he thinks it’s because he hasn’t played his best, well, every time I have lost against him I don’t think I have played my best either.

Don't they sound like brothers?

Both men claim to enjoy the match up. Both men claim to have the other's number. Both men insist the outcome of the match is on their racquet.

So who will be this year's Wizard of Oz?

In tonight's rematch of the 2008 US Open final, I've got a sneaking suspicion the world No. 1 is going to hand the world No. 5 his ass on a silver runner-up platter.

I, for one, would be perfectly happy with back-to-back-to-back five-set Slam finals, but I'm not holding my breath.

May the best brother man win.


Cross posted to The Huffington Post


Dapxin said...

hehe. nice preview C.

Andy, if he stays close to fatherFed, has a chance.

He seems to me never to have had that federer complex.

Tennisfan said...

I would like to see Roger comes out with a game plan to disrupt Murray...but it hasn't been the case the last few GS finals. Murray in 3 or 4.

Craig said...

Tennisfan, have you no faith in your guy? Or are you equally enamored of Mr. Fangs?

Michael said...

I'm not sure how to split my pulling for Murray from any part of me that might more rationally predict the match. Pulling for someone (at least for me) means you dread that it's inevitable that they'll fold under the pressure and King Fed will reign again. Simultaneously, I'm very confident Murray CAN win. But will he?

Federer isn't at his best lately, but still damn good. He wasn't in his finest form in any of the last 4 slam finals, but no one else can say they were in more than one of them. Maybe he was in his best form at Roland Garros, but Soederling was happy to give away the match, like Murray did at the US Open the year before.

But Murray has changed his tactics and strategy. He lost badly to Cilic in the 2009 US Open, but revamped his game and was prepared for Cilic and won in 4 last round here.

Last time they met at a slam, Murray lost badly to Federer. I think like Cilic, Murray will be much better prepared, and even if things aren't going as planned, he won't roll over.

But neither will Federer.

Murray in 4.

Oh, and I could tell this post was going to be on Huffington because the style and tone were slightly different from normal. Not a complaint, mind you, just interesting and a sign that I know this blog pretty well.

lynney62 said...

OMG! Murray looks just like a vampire about to bite in that pic! I hope that's a positive sign of what's ahead tonite. Vamos, Andy!

Craig said...

We try to adapt, Michael. ;)

Tennisfan said...

Roger hasn't done much in GS finals in the past 2 years for me to believe he could win a tight match against top players. And I don't think he is playing that well. Hope he will prove me wrong tonight.

LOL.. The only Mr. Fangs for me was former child idol Jordon Knight before he had his teeth fixed. Murrray is a great player. But I simply don't find his games exciting. His moans and grins.. ehhh..... I would prefer to watch Kohli, Davydenko or Michael Russell over Murray if they all were playing a good match. But Murray did play great during his SF match against Cilic.

Beth said...

Sigh. Unfortunately, I say Federer in 4. As much as I want to see Andy take this and think he's deserving, it's just not gonna happen. In fact, I suspect one of the sets which Andy will lose, he'll be taken to the woodshed by Roger. :-(

Thanks for the write up Craig and, yes, I've noticed the more formal tone in the Huffington posts but I would expect that. Still, love seeing you get down and dirty here on the blog Craig. ;-)

Craig said...

Thanks, Beth. Down and dirty. I like that.

Tennisfan said...

the world No. 1 is going to hand the world No. 5 his ass on a silver runner-up platter.


I didn't see much cleanliness. :P

edma1022 said...

Oh, and I thought the Mr Monogram title was due to the "RF" logo splashed on the hats of the Fed camp. Goes to show I'm not updated on a lot of stuff.

That pic was celebrated by TMZ side by side with a "Legion" movie pic. See below.

Nasty, ain't it? ... Sorry, AndyM, go easy on my boy, not another tearful awarding ceremony, ayt!

Craig said...

ed, you're right about what Monogram refers to.

That's why I said "new meaning". It's a play on words.

oddman said...

Go Fangy!

I like Mooray for this one - will be cheering loudly in me best brogue - och, laddie, r-r-run doon thit ball.

Such flattering shots of our finalists, Craig. LOL! I love it.

I also love that Mooray isn't taking the snide comments lying down - don't know how that'll work for him mentally, such a different approach than what Rafa does.

(sorry, had to mention Rafa, gah, I miss the kid... )

Again, GO ANDY!!!

Michael said...

Ha! Oddman, you crack me up. See you all bright and early. I might need a link to a decent live stream of the match, too, if anyone has that and doesn't mind sharing.


Craig said...

Micheal, check when the match begins.

I'll follow up then.