Murray v Nadal Quarter Final Preview- Wimbledon 02.07.08
Andy Murray’s courageous comeback against the 8thseeded Richard Gasquet was the making of a new icon for the Wimbledon faithful. With the departure of Tim Henman, a veritable hole had opened up in the schedule for local broadcasters and fans alike looking for interest in the competition. Two sets up and serving for the match, Gasquet must have felt relaxed, comfortably on top through a combination of a vastly improved first serve and a relentlessly accurate backhand overwhelming the feisty but erratic Scot. But through a combination of deep desire to prove himself and a enraptured crowd willing him on, Murray pounced when the Frenchman faltered to gradually gain the upper hand and signify his arrival as the new SW19 poster- boy.
Things are looking significantly rosier for Murray´s future, now that his dour persona has been given the midas touch of success and although crowds will be cheering him on to greater success it is about to come to a grinding halt against Nadal. His quarter final opponent is a player on a mission. They say, to stay number one, you have to train like you’re number 2, a position that Nadal has frustratingly found himself in for the past 3 years, despite claiming 4 French titles in the process. His nemesis, Roger Federer has ruled the rankings, stylishly romping through the tennis world collecting 12 Grand Slam titles as if they were ripe apples in his backyard. Nadal has been forced to play second fiddle to his mastery but can now see several signs the tide is turning his way, the No.1´s aura of invincibility slipping in a year of mixed performances.
Nadal has all the passion of someone still yet to reach his very best, the fearlessness of youth still on his side, and the talent and determination to not let anyone get in his way while he achieves it. His added advantage is the obvious slowing of the courts in London, allowing players to play more from the baseline, something Nadal has been peerlessly doing on the clay of Roland Garros.
Murraywas fortunate against Gasquet, a player not known for his mental strength or commitment, once declining to play Davis Cup for his country only to return for the dead rubber. He brilliantly stirred the courtside crowd to bring himself back into the match, exploiting Gasquet´s doubts. This wont happen against Nadal. Nadal rarely switches off. He will crush Murrayif he displays the sporadic concentration against Gasquet. Inexplicable drop shots will be punished, serves held at crucial moments and breaks ruthlessly seared and sealed. He wont be flustered by the crowd and such is his muscular appeal, there may even be a healthy splattering of supporters there to watch the Spaniard. The angles and spin he is reaching throughout this tournament are frightening and he will not lose focus or hope if he is pushed. His only realistic hope is that Nadal suffered a more serious knee injury than first thought in the opening set against Youhzny, when he called for the trainer, but this is slim considering he stormed on to win in 3 sets.
Murray has reached all he could hope for this year. Go out now and he would have achieved the mantle left behind by Henman for subsequent years. Nadal hasn’t. He is possessed with loftier ambitions at this time and will not be something like letting home favouritism get anywhere near him. The Fed Express is the train blocking the light at the end of his tunnel but he’s running full steam ahead to meet the challenge head on.