As the first round of news stories rolls in in anticipation of next week’s ATP World Tour Finals, I’m realizing that there’s a hidden bonus to staging the event in London: the British press! And as with any tournament that pits Great British Hope Andy Murray vs. the Great-White-Chocolate-Loving Roger Federer, the U.K. papers have started stirring the pot.
Here’s Federer quoted in Tuesday’s Independent (I believe these remarks were taken in Paris or Basel, not sure):
“I had a lot of trouble against those baseliners (like Nalbandian and Hewitt) early on just because they were too consistent. They could always get one more ball back. Maybe they didn’t have the best serve, but I wasn’t the best return player, so I couldn’t take advantage. My serve wasn’t solid enough yet, so I would always get tangled up in those horrible baseline rallies.
“Murray can still do that to some degree, but when I play too well or too offensively I can take time away from him now. And I’m too physical, whereas in the beginning I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t get around backhands like I can now. Now I can mix up my game too well for him to get under my skin.
“I know what I can do and I know what he can do. When we both play well it’s a close match, but I always feel it’s the attacker who holds the key to success, so it’s up to me whether I win or lose, not up to him. That’s why I don’t mind the match-up, to be honest.
“It’s like when [Pete] Sampras and [Andre] Agassi played. Agassi was more aggressive [than most counter-attackers], but still Sampras held the key because he was serving, pushing the limits, taking the risks. Which Murray doesn’t do so much – though that doesn’t take anything away from Murray. That’s just his game style.
“Everybody has his own game and you can’t change the way you play. It’s just something you’re born with. He comes to the net more, for instance, than other players. I think if you look closely, every player needs to have something aggressive in his game to play well. If you want to be a top player you need to have offensive skills.“
I know, I know. Sometimes Roger just can’t help himself. Since ascending to the throne as King of Tennis, there’s always at least one Impertinent Prince that gets Roger’s goat (GOAT?), whether it’s the “unimpressive” Novak Djokovic or the “one-dimensional” Rafael Nadal. Murray should take Roger’s trash talk for what it is: a compliment. (Backhanded, of course.)
Murray leads Federer 6-3 in their head-to-head. Roger trounced Murray the last time they played, in straight sets this summer in Cincy. Before that match, Murray had beaten Roger four consecutive times, including in last year’s round robin portion of the year-ending finals. That loss knocked Roger out of the tournament, though Murray had already qualified for the semis and was psychologically playing a dead rubber. (Roger’s other loss at last year’s WTF was to another counter-puncher, Gilles Simon. )
Thanks to Judy for the tip!