Guillermo Garcia Lopez (above), slicing and dicing Andy Murray with the one hander, all the live long day.
It was our viewing pleasure to watch the pride of the isles, “the best world #4 of all time”, Andy Murray Saturday in his latest travail. On successive Saturdays, Murray excited us with his losses, and we say to that, kudos! About the best #4 nonsense, know that is no title we attached, but rather, something that we think Doug Adler’s partner of late, Sam Wilder (?) has been trying to make stick to sell soap probably while feeding into the great Andy Murray hype machine. We don’t like Murray. Never did. Never will. But sometimes we have to root for him, like when he plays Nadal. Since we have to root for him at times, we’d like to see him play the kind of tennis he needs to in order to win. We’d like to see him lean forward when he strikes his forehand, so that the shot has the full weight of his momentum. One thing these guys should learn is that cute does not win big. Must we recall Federer getting cute with Nadal on that drop shot toward the end of the second set last year at Roland Garros? Or Federer blowing a threw the legs volley against Safin down under in 2005?
Cute doesn’t win. So when Andy Murray draws a guy in and that guy is to be a lame duck at net on a conventional pass, and Murray tries to throw up a fancy lob when he has an entire alley both cross court and up the line, well, then there’s a moment where you say to yourself that Ivan Lendl in the kid’s box has to take that out of the playbook. The opponent, GG Lopez, is not exactly a little man at 6’2, and going with an offensive lob in a night match subject to desert winds, is simply not very bright. This play, one of the very few in the entire match dictated by Murray, which he lost when Lopez slam dunked the lob into the crowd, was everything wrong with the old Andy Murray, which he has supposedly shed like bad skin.
We know better. It’s very hard to squeeze a yellow streak out of player. Make no mistake about it. Djokovic was a pussy, and that was a mental issue, and not a tennis issue. Djokovic plays brave tennis. His body and mind had to leave the pussy behind, and they did. Murray is a different story. He has never played brave tennis. He’s a puke. And since he is so good against the average guy, he rarely has to play brave tennis, and so he really only tries to play brave against Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer and aside from some small successes and moral victories, he hasn’t been getting it done against those guys. The Lendl I know was like Djokovic. Didn’t play soft tennis, but he was soft, and so he found a way to become hard. Murray is physically hard. He’s a great athlete, and at any given event, may be the best conditioned guy present. Lendl is trying to adjust the kid’s style of play, because as our good buddies Justin Gimelstob and Doug Adler always say, backboard tennis is simply not good enough at the top level.
So TTC cameras kept showing Murray’s mum and Lopez’s team, but I don’t see Lendl anywhere. This Wilder (?) guy talked and talked like Lendl was in the coaching box though, or, as if Lendl is God’s gift to coaching and that now Murray is a veritable terminator. Then the cameras focus on Darren Cahill, decked out like a clown in crazy colored Adidas attire, and the announcers casually mention that Lendl isn’t there, again, and so Murray wanted Cahill there, because he can call on any coaches in the Adidas stable. Now, we joked last week that Cahill was perhaps the only coach around worse than Murray’s mum and so that’s the guy he chooses, the worst pusher hack coach available, who we could imagine telling Murray it was a good idea to pussy foot around with Lopez and hit lots of balls to his backhand and keep the rallies going because a guy like Lopez will break down.
Clearly it was what Wilder (?) thought, who kept implying, broken record, that Lopez was not going to be able to sustain the level, and then almost creaming when Lopez went down love forty in about the 6th game of the 1st set. But Adler gritted his teeth, clearly not a good match chemistry wise with this annoying fuck, and when Lopez had dug out of that hole and when about an hour later, had a 6-4, 6-2 victory, we were as gratified as Adler at the fact that a classic one hander, a shot maker, had stepped up and that backboard tennis wasn’t good enough, not even against the world #98.
While we don’t like Murray, we are past the point of hating him. His tears in Melbourne 2010 sort of humanized him for us in a way, and we get all the pressure that comes with being perhaps the first Brit since Fred Perry to do something in the game. We’d have been thrilled regardless of who the pusher was and who the glider was on Saturday night. But Lendl is off globe trotting to exos while his boy, in a week’s time, went from hot back to hangdog. And Cahill, who comes from a different school of thought than Lendl, if you can call it that, is presiding over this horrible loss.
Lopez played brilliant tennis. He had reasoned out that Murray’s game plan was not to try to win, but to make less errors than his opponent. So Lopez did not make any errors. Lopez went backhand to backhand with Murray and did not break down. When he could take the ball early, he ripped the one hander and had Murray scrambling. When he couldn’t, he sliced the backhand, totally neutralizing Murray. He even hit a clean winner off a slice backhand, which was possible because Murray guessed the wrong way, and Lopez was all over it.
A lot of times, really big name guys don’t get totally into the commitment aspect of coaching on the tour. It seems like Lendl is that type of guy. You can’t even describe Indian Wells as a minor event if you tried. 5th major? Nonsense. There are four majors, and that 5th major talk is frankly disrespectful to the history of the game. But how is Lendl not here for Murray? Murray needs a full time coach. We never sound any alarms when guys lose in the Masters Series, because for all of that nonsense ‘kinda major’ type talk, it was just one match. But we see some things breaking badly for Andy Murray, and he needs to pay attention because he is not a major champion and he is very unlikely to change that at Roland Garros or Wimbledon. His youth is vanishing, and we feel, given his propensity for the yellow streak, he is far from a lock to win any major ever, and may go out with a fat zero by his name. If we had to bet on a number of majors for him in fact, we’d happily take zero.
Less of a problem for our lefty love, Petra Kvitova, who somehow lost to American Christina McHale last night. Kvitova has the hardware, for one. For her, a slump is more permissible. Sure, she hasn’t played great tennis, and has little business losing to McHale, but McHale is making her name as the American Radwanska after all, is she not? We don’t think it’s more than a little slump. It’s not like an Ivanovic slump where she wins the major and then goes underground. Kvitova won Wimbledon, then didn’t have the ideal summer, but ended the year as the veritable number one, winning the YEC and the Fed Cup, virtually unbeatable the final 9 weeks of the year.
We think Kvitova might have figured on winning down under, and that loss to Sharapova was a bad shock to her system. In our minds, she was a big favorite in Melbourne, and she had been virtually untouchable coming in, and could not have been quivering at the thought of taking on that field. We can’t argue against Azarenka right now, who has definitely proved she earned the ranking. But we will remain resolute that Kvitova is the better player of the two, and we’d expect that to begin to bear out again on clay the way that it had on indoor hards at the end of 2011.
Kvitova is a better clay courter than Azarenka, and probably, like a lot of people, she can’t wait to get off these tacky American slow hardcourts. BTW, just saw Mardy Fish get finished off by Matthew Ebden. Good of Mardy to put a youngster on the map like that.