The Isles collectively winced today, when their great hope, Andy Murray (above), rolled his right ankle in his 3rd round matchup at Roland Garros versus German Michael Berrer. Murray, with a seemingly plum draw into the semis where he’d possibly meet the anointed, Novak Djokovic, played very well after the injury, though gingerly. Does a bad ankle necessarily spell doom for Murray? We’ll say that physically at least, Murray is a lot tougher than he looks. There isn’t anyone alive right now who’d want to face Djokovic at less than full speed, but Murray did not play compromised tennis today. As he said to the press, he’s never had much problem with his right ankle before, but he’d wear a brace and go out and hit tennis balls tomorrow, in preparation for tricky Victor Troicki on Monday.
He also said he might not be able to go on, but you shouldn’t worry about that. Murray likes drama. We remember back to 2007 when Murray had a bad wrist injury. He suffered it in Hamburg, right before the French Open, and then struggled to get back on track for the US Open. He won his match back at the Rogers Cup against Robby Ginepri, then got dusted by Fabio Fognini, 6-2, 6-2. He was then on to Cincinnati where Marcos Baghdatis gave the lame Murray one of the worst beatings in his life, 6-1, 6-2.
A guy like Nadal, let’s face it, they may talk about what a lion he is and all that, but he wouldn’t even try to play in Murray’s position with the wrist. As it was, it seemed like ESPN wanted to give Nadal an on the spot ESPY for not retiring against David Ferrer down under, as he did the year before when facing Murray in the semis. So that summer of 2007, Murray makes his way to Flushing and he won easy in round 1, and then truly gutted out a win over Jonas Bjorkman, 6-1 in the 5th. You could see it on his face right there. He was done. But he came out the next round, against H.T. Lee, and I remember it well as a spectator, because it was a unique moment. Before the warmup, he and Lee exchanged words, and Muurray told Lee that his wrist was shot and that he was very limited, but that he was going to try to gut it out. Then he goes down 2 sets, and I’m thinking, “throw in the towel, kid.” Instead, he takes the next set, before Lee finally beat him in 4.
You all know I don’t like Andy Murray. No secrets there. Like and dislike is really all relative though to what is best for the continuation of risk and reward tennis, shot making, variety, and sheer brilliance with racquet and not the feet, on the court. Andy Murray is good for the game right now. He has a chance to beat Djokovic, and to win a major, which we all know is historic. I mean, a Brit hasn’t won any type of clay court tournament since the 70’s. It’s a shame that Murray caught this break, but we think that Murray is here to play, no matter what. We also think he’s got the clay court thing figured out better than he ever has in the past.
A turned ankle is not the worst thing ever. John McEnroe talked about playing with one, and he used to actually move forward into the court, and he still thought Murray was in good shape, and that it could even prompt him to do what he must to win, addressing the age old knock on Murray, which is to be more aggressive. Kobe Bryant routinely plays on full blown sprained ankles. When he injured his ankle badly recently in the playoffs, and was asked if he would still play, he commented that playing hurt was “basically old hat” for him.
So we aren’t going to shed any tears for the UK just yet. As for the odds for tomorrow, not a lot of respect being shown to past champs on the women’s side:
Kuznetsova: – 130
Jankovic: – 145
Schiavone: + 115
We’d be the first to tell you if we thought Kuznetsova was grossly out of shape, as she appeared at Indian Wells. She’s actually in fine form. We like that matchup for her, and think she is in the mix for the title. Sure, we were trashing her as recently as 2 weeks ago, but apparently, she went to Spain and got into great shape, for her, and found her clay court game. She did look a little tired in the 2nd set of her 3rd round match, but she’s had 2 days to rest. We’ll take her. And we love betting against Jankovic, and rooting against her, as her awful mechanics and fundamentals are very bad for the game and for brilliant tennis. Don’t you hate that accent too? So annoying. We’re hoping that Schiavone, the little one hander that could, defends her title ably tomorrow.
Bartoli: – 190
Dulko: + 150
Zvonareva: – 220
Pavlyuchenkova: + 170
We love Zvonareva in general, and hate Bartoli, in general, but who knows how these matches will go? If we had to speculate, we’d say Vera and Dulko, who can hopefully retain the magic for one more match.
As for the men, there are some huge favorites:
Federer: – 1100
Wawrinka: + 650
Djokovic: – 2000
Gasquet: + 1000
Ferrer: – 400
Monfils: + 300
Fabio Fognini: + 160
Albert Montanes: – 200
Federer and Djokovic are heavies for a reason, but who wants to lay out a thousand or a couple thousand to get back a hundred? Roger did put on a clinic against Stan in Melbourne, and has appeared in fine form, but is Federer now the kind of guy who can come out flat in a major against a guy he should beat, like he did against Falla at Wimbledon? We think he’s better here in this spot with Annacone. But keep in mind, Stan’s only win versus Roger came on clay, that it’s a repeat of last year’s round of 16, and that Stan is coming off a tough 5 setter.
At these rates, we love Monfils as well. And we’ll take the one hander, Montanes, over Fognini, who is just happy to have made the round of 16, in all likelihood. Though we like Gasquet’s game, would we dare go against the mighty Djokovic? Probably not, but keep in mind he is playing a match on a third consecutive day, and a win would give him one more than McEnroe’s perfect 42-0 start to 1984.