Should my headline be taken literally or figuratively? Or both?
Andy Murray beat Roger Federer today in the semis of Indian Wells: 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.
It’s not so much that Federer’s losing, it’s the way that he’s losing that bugs me.
Federer converted only 2 of 10 break point opportunities during today’s match. Murray, on the other hand, made 5 of his 6 chances to break. Roger’s break-deficient against Nadal, too: at this year’s Australian he was 6 for 19 (Nadal was 7 of 16), and at Wimbledon Roger famously converted only 1 or 13 chances (Rafa was 4 of 13). These stats don’t tell the whole story, but they do show that Roger’s lost the mental battle against these opponents. Yes, Murray and Nadal play unbelievable tennis – but they dominate Roger by playing the big points better. I’m not being dismissive of Rafa and Murray’s technical prowess – mental toughness is a weapon, after all, same as a “fearhand” – I just wonder why Roger isn’t finding a way to break through.
Look, this is Indian Wells, not the Wimbledon final. Roger reached the semis this week without playing his best (echos of Dinara Safina, here) and is obviously still nursing a bum back. It’s better to have a mental block than a talent block (who would you rather be – Roger playing Rafa or Roddick playing Roger?) and the season still stretches out before Fed, ripe with possibilities. And he’s going to hire a coach – Mirka’s taking maternity leave sooner or later – which I think will help him immensely. (How ’bout Paul Annacone?)
So Roger’s down but not out.
Andy Murray, however, is going nowhere but up, up up!
Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images