I really did tell him there is no point in writing on this one. That the match will be close, and there is really no way to tell what these guys are gonna do tomorrow.
But Rajat is bent upon proving that the Fed will win. So here goes my attempt to bring a balance to things. To read him, click here - [*yawn *]
Of course, we knew that this was the best field that went into a Slam in a long time, since the giants of the previous era hung their racquets. Not only the expected challengers, but also the so called on-lookers stepped up, looking in moments, like the elites themselves.
The Australian Open has really given the men's tennis field the looks of the Spanish soccer team where Cesc Fabregas' place is on the bench. Rafael Nadal is soon to be ranked No. 4!
While it is indeed great news that the circle of elites of tennis has become more encompassing, it is time now to decide, who for now, sits at the centre of it.
Andy Murray has a lot riding on him from where most people sit. As far as a casual Briton is concerned, his form is the least of all reasons. But for the more rigorous follower of the game, his recent performance is the main reason.
Murray has for a long time grappled with the immensity of the variety in his game. But this tournament looks different. Not only his conducts, but his game itself seems to say that he is now his own master.
Murray looked still like the machine through which if you pass players, the screen would display all the features of their games, and more importantly, the weaknesses. His methodical analysis of John Isner, Rafael Nadal, and Marin Cilic stand testimony to this.
But while Murray asked Isner to exercise in ways that made him look clumsy, his game took on a different dimension against Nadal and Cilic, where there were signs of a sound transition to offence, though a sneaky kind of offence.
It seems that finally Murray has made some space in his armoury for aggression. It seems that the Scot has struck a Slam-winning balance.
Andy Murray Will Win If...
Murray has always bothered Roger Federer, never allowing Federer to settle into the rhythm on his killer forehand.
Murray can run faster than many players can run for their lives. Reaching there, he can slow the pace down of the ball, with his deft hands, employing the slice, or the angle. Such abrupt change of tempo in the rally and change of pace can put Federer out of his rhythm; and then put him in irritation at the presser.
But then this singular tactic would have been surely studied by the Swiss maestro, as he proved to be at his aggressive best the last time they played.
Though Federer does have one of the best defenses in the game, he wouldn't want to compete on that front against Murray. He will have to call the shots and get it right for three hours against one of the best defenders of the game.
Another factor is Murray's first serve, clocking consistently over 200 kph. He would want to keep his percentages high, and come in behind some of those in important games like he did against Rafa Nadal.
His improved deployment of the net-game and his own admission of an access to a more mature mental zone in tough situations will stand him through.
Look for him to stand deep inside the baseline to take Federer's second serve. Murray could bother Federer into doing a bit more on his first serve leading him to misfire a bit, then go after that second serve.
In rallies, he might want to end up engaging Federer more on the backhand side, since he surely has the better one there. That odd forehand down the line might prove useful. But that is a risk he must take.
He knows how to beat Federer. A massive change of style may not be needed. At the same time, the odd offensive back-hand drive, cross court or a show of delicate touch at the nets would only help him.
Andy Murray Will Lose If...
Well, lot of things, not all to do with himself and his game.
One is the "Great Man" himself. If Federer is going bananas on a day, you can surely board the next flight back home. That holds for anyone except Rafael Nadal. On such occasions, the opponent doesn't really matter.
Federer was surely sending a message by his ruthless deconstruction of Tsonga the other night. Hitting any part of the court at will, the game of Federer in all its majesty was there for all to see.
The other thing is Great Britain. It is as important as not letting Federer into his head, for Murray, to not let the Queen and her people into his head.
It is only his second Slam final appearance, and if the first is anything to go by, his hands would be numb and tired, from shouldering the unreal expectations of all those people and Slamless years. The knighthood can wait for later.
The third is having a relatively bad day with the serve. Where Nadal failed in the two sets he was healthy was perhaps in attacking the Murray second serve (this in spite of the fact that Murray WAS serving great). But do not have illusions about the Fed in that department.
And finally the execution. Tactics are but a necessity for Murray to play against the Swiss. Federer has the bigger game, and the longer experience. So, if the execution is not pin-point, the best man in the five-set format will walk away with his 16th.
How much each of them wants it, surely. After a decade of dominance and 15 Slams, will the veteran go that extra mile to stop his hungrier, younger opponent, when push comes to shove?
The conditions surely are best suited for Murray. But in case the match runs out into a fourth or a fifth, will he time and again find that extra gear against Federer, or will his inexperience take hold of him?
Those are what we have to see for ourselves when the match actually takes place.
Here is where the writer feels the iron grip of causality.
I would go out on a limb and say that Murray will win three tie-breakers, which means the match will be over in less than five.
Just because it sounds different...
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