The U.S. Open series is in full swing, and one man, yet to win a title this season, will look to rediscover his form as the bigger events loom on the horizon. First up: the Masters event in Toronto.
Andy Murray has pedigree on the hard courts.
Besides winning four Masters 1000 titles on his favorite surface, he has reached two Slam finals on the cement of the Australian and U.S. Opens.
Murray's game is centered on a solid baseline foundation and the ability to anticipate his opponent's every move. He has been praised by the likes of Wilander, Borg and Nadal for his tremendous tactical skills.
At his best, Murray can detect a drop in form of a particular aspect of his opponent's game, and then continually target that area until it breaks down. This is usually done with medium-paced, solid shots, usually only injecting pace for the final knockout blow. When the latter occurs, the effect of his powerful groundstrokes can be devastating.
Paul Annacone, Federer's soon-to-be coach, described Murray as the ultimate counter-puncher.
Murray's breakthrough came in 2008, when he overcame his rival, Novak Djokovic, for the second time in six attempts to win his maiden Masters title in Cincinnati. He had lost in his first four encounters with the Serb, but on this occasion he asserted himself in brilliant fashion.
He went on to defeat Rafael Nadal in the semifinals of the U.S. Open that year, with an excellent display of attacking tennis that had the Spaniard on the ropes through most of the match, before losing to Federer in the final.
Murray finished the year with five titles, including a second Masters win in Madrid, where he beat Federer along the way.
That win against the Swiss was the third of six total victories against the former world No.1, and the Scot was seen as one of the very few who could crack the Federer code. In fact, his win over the 16-Slam champion in Doha in 2009, was a textbook display on how to put Federer out of his comfort zone.
After losing the first set in a tie-break, Murray proceeded to pepper his opponent's weaker backhand wing with relentless inside-out forehands, eventually forcing the error and winning the next two sets with ease.
During some of these losses, when no headway was being made against Murray from the baseline, Federer would change his strategy and push towards the net, usually getting passed as soon as he got there.
Murray has yet to confidently utilize these tactics against his Swiss rival at the Slam level, but his dedication to his craft and increasing confidence, can only mean success in the near future.
His main strength is his backhand, with which he can effortlessly construct points. His forehand and first serve are huge weapons as well when he is on his game.
Murray's recent final showing in Los Angeles will give him confidence as the major events approach. He held a match point against the dangerous American, Sam Querrey, but was unable to convert. Querrey avenged his loss to Murray at this year's Wimbledon.
Sometimes, the young man's emotions get the better of him and disturb his focus at critical stages of the match. At the L.A. final, he went back to his old habit of punching his racquet strings.
Murray will get his emotions under control, and then the sky is the limit for this highly talented player.
Much talk has been made of the big hitters of the game, namely Federer's recent conquerors, Soderling and Berdych.
But it is the finesse and all-court game of the battling Scot that will usher in a new era in tennis.
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