The Indian Wells final of 2009 was a windy one, if anything. And contrary to my expectations it was Rafa who flourished in the conditions. I just thought Murray would handle the conditions slightly better since he has shorter strokes then Rafa and he is a thinking player. I definitely didn’t expect him to lose 6-1, 6-2. But it turned out that the conditions really played into Rafa’s hands. We know by now that Rafa is a great defensive player, probably the greatest in history. When it comes to drawn out base line rallies no one can come even close. In windy conditions patience is a virtue, and so is not getting frustrated. Rafa is a master at both of these. When was the last time you saw Rafa lose his cool?
The answer is he never does. This is what makes him such a tough opponent. He has a great mental attitude and gives 100% no matter what the conditions. It’s also the reason Roger has so much trouble with him. Rafa believes immensely in his own abilities and his opponents fear him because they know he will give nothing out there on the court, every point you win is a point you deserved to win. He commands great respect in the locker room and when he steps on court he already holds an advantage over his opponent. So it’s hardly a surprise that he fared so well in the wind, it’s a question of hanging in there and not getting impatient or frustrated when you miss a few shots.
In stark contrast you could see Murray was trying to end the points and he kept missing, and the more he missed the more frustrated he got. So all credit to Rafa for winning this one, he totally deserved it. The one other match that I saw between Murray and Rafa was the final in Rotterdam. There Rafa got injured in the third set but I had the feeling Murray had the better of him. It was of course played indoors so no wind factor. In the Rotterdam match Murray was good at hanging in the rallies and changing up the play with some slices and cranking up the pace at other times. He could use his serve to get free points as well as approach the net effectively.
In the wind that is just not possible. The pace of the rallies stay pretty much the same and serving and volleying is very tough. Having said all this I don’t think Murray played a very good match, he should have done better then the scoreline suggests. I mean 6-1, 6-2 is a large winning margin under any conditions. The other two matches that Murray beat Rafa in it has to be said was faster conditions then Indian Wells, so maybe that had an affect on the match as well. The faster the conditions the better for Murray obviously and the worse for Rafa. The courts at Indian Wells are slow hard court, once again favoring Rafa’s style of play like most courts these days.
I’m not taking anything away from Rafa though, as always he thoroughly deserves his win and is now well and truly on top of the tennis world. He will take some stopping that’s for sure. Next week in Miami will be very interesting now, knowing that it will be fast hard courts that is similar to the US Open. This is where we will find out just how well Rafa can cope with faster surfaces. There is very few fast courts left these days. So it will be interesting to see how things pan out for Rafa. It will also suit Roger’s game better then Indian Wells. So I’m really hoping he can win Miami, that would would be great for his morale. But with Rafa and Murray around it will be difficult again.
Of the two back-to-back Masters Series events in Indian Wells and Miami this will be the one where Roger has his best chance, and having some matches under his belt after the break will also help. He will still need to change some things when he plays Rafa and Murray though, the fact that it’s a faster surface doesn’t guarantee him a victory. It should be clear to Roger by now that these players are a big threat no matter what the surface. Therefor I wouldn’t recommend going into the match with the same mindset as he did in his latest loss against Murray. He must use the favorable conditions to play to his strength which is attacking tennis and go to the net when the opportunity presents itself. That’s my advice anyway.