Well it’s down to the final Sunday of Wimbledon and we’ve got the final which was expected after Fedal departed in the first 2 rounds. Murray and Djokovic certainly didn’t have it all their own way though. Murray was 2 sets to 0 down in his match against Verdasco, while Djokovic had to fend off a vicious onslaught from Del Potro in one of the best matches of the year. I was lucky enough to watch the match and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Djokovic showed why he is the #1 player in the world as his clutchness helped him to prevail 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-7(6), 6-3 in the end. From the start Djokovic was the one that took the initiative as he won the first set, and I guess in the end that is what proved to be the difference. Del Potro was always playing catch up, not unlike the 2008 Wimbledon final where Roger was always playing catch up against Nadal.
Djokovic looked like he would finish it in the 4th set. He was a break up but Del Potro broke back, and they went into a dramatic tie break. On the first point of the breaker Del Potro left a ball from Djokovic which he challenged. The ball turned out to catch a piece of the line. Djokovic then did the exact same thing with a ball from Del Potro as he handed the break back. Djokovic got another mini break and had 2 match points at 6-4. Del Potro got the mini break back and it was 5-6. At this point I thought about Roger’s match against Stakhovsky. Roger saved one match point with some spectacular play just like Del Potro did, but then played a lame point to lose the match. Not Del Potro. He held serve by taking control of the point with aggressive play and then broke Djokovic at 7-6 with a an aggressive backhand return to take the match to a deciding set.
Throughout the match Del Potro was struggling to hold serve easily and efficiently. He was great at saving break points though, saving 12 in total, but in the end it wasn’t enough. This match was basically a battle between the offensive prowess of Del Potro and defensive prowess of Djokovic. In the end Djokovic’s defense prevailed as he made Del Potro play one too many forehands at 3-4 and break point down in the 5th set. Del Potro missed the forehand long and Djokovic had gotten the decisive break. As was he case throughout the match, Del Potro fought back and produced a break point, but this time it would get away from him for good as Djokovic ended it with a classic down the line backhand winner. This was a positive loss for Del Potro. He is #8 in the world and pushed the #1 in the world all the way.
It was great to see. Since Del Potro won the US Open in 2009 I always thought he had huge potential, and at that point I predicted he would become #1 and win many more slams. It was impossible to predict that he would struggle so much with injuries though. Also he hasn’t been as consistent as I hoped for. I always liked him and hoped that he would be Roger’s heir. But injuries really got in his way and of course the rise of Djokovic 2.0 changed things as well. It doesn’t look like Del Potro will ever be consistent enough to be #1. He hasn’t even won a Masters Series event yet. He came very close in Indian Wells this year, but beating Murray, Djokovic, and Nadal in succession proved to be too much. He came damn close though and showed how dangerous he can be again. I’m glad he followed that run up with another strong performance at Wimbledon.
The match was played in great spirits
At his best he is right up there with Djokovic and Murray. But if he wants to play himself a spot open in the top 4 he needs to become more consistent. Maybe he will. He is still just 24 so he has age on his side. The injuries will probably always be there. He is just injury prone. But maybe he can somehow manage it better. I hope so because tennis needs him. He is the only guy other than Fedal who can really challenge Djokovic and Murray. As we saw he destroyed Ferrer in the quarters and he is just mentally better than Tsonga and Berdych. That is the main difference and what I always liked about Del Potro. If he is healthy he isn’t intimidated by anyone. He just goes out there and rips his massive ground strokes. Also he is an attacking player, another reason why the game needs him in this era of slow conditions and defensive base line grinders.
He has a serve and ground strokes that are big enough to dominate even in this slow era. Some of the forehands he hit against Djokovic were missiles that got up into the 110-120 mph range. Just massive hitting. I like how rhythmic his serve is too. It’s a smooth stroke and very effective when on. He has pretty good volleys too. The game also needs him for more compelling rivalries. The Djokovic/Murray rivalry does not capture the imagination because their playing styles are too similar. That is one reason I wanted Del Potro to beat Djokovic, but also just because I like him more. I don’t hate Djokovic but he is damn cocky. And it is just more observable when he plays a down to earth, likable guy like Del Potro. Anyway Djokovic being in the final is not the worst case scenario because I wanted him to prove to people that the French Open loss to Nadal would not affect him.
Nadal fanatics were so adamant that said loss would break Djokovic’s spirit, while I kept asking why. Yes it was a tough loss but Djokovic is too strong mentally to be affected by it, and he came closer than ever at beating Nadal in Paris after all. And judging by his performance at Wimbledon it is clear that it didn’t affect him at all. He has been just about perfect, beating dangerous players like Haas and Berdych in straight sets. He exceeded even my expectations. It goes to show how well Del Potro played to push Djokovic as far as he did. No doubt Djokovic has been playing unbelievably well and that it would take an enormous effort from Murray if he is to become the first British male to win Wimbledon since 1936. Yet I believe he can do it. On paper Djokovic is surely the favorite to win this match.
Murray has struggled more on the way to the final. He was 2 sets to love down against Verdasco before staging a comeback and winning 7-5 in the 5th. That match served as a reminder that we are dealing with a different version of Murray these days. In the past he would have lost that kind of match. There are countless examples of it. You have to look no further than Murray’s round of 16 match against Verdasco at the 2009 Australian Open, which Murray lost 6-4 in the 5th. He often lost these kind of matches after being hyped to win his first slam. Another match that comes to mind is the one against Cilic in the round of 16 at the 2009 US Open. The funny thing is that those were the only losses he had to either of those players, while holding an 8-1 head-to-head over Verdasco and a 9-1 head-to-head over Cilic.
Murray delighted to be in a 2nd successive Wimbledon final
That just showed how fragile he was mentally and how he completely folded on the big occasion. He lost his first 3 slam finals as well, all against Roger. But winning the Olympics last year and beating Roger in the final was the precursor of what was to come at the US Open. It really helped Murray to believe and he proceeded to win his maiden slam by beating Djokovic in the final. And yet there are still people who doubts Murray and thinks he is a one slam wonder. For that reason it would be nice to see him win tomorrow. Murray is not a one slam wonder and there is no doubt in my mind that he is now the real deal. He once again proved it by beating a very good Roger in Melbourne and making the finals there. I think people probably doubt him because they don’t like him, and not for any rational reason.
Here is the guy in his 4th successive slam final. With players like Djokovic, Nadal, Roger, Del Potro, Berdych, and Tsonga around, how can he not be the real deal? If anyone hated Murray it was me. My readers will remember how I always slacked Murray off and said that he will never win a slam. Yet when he took Lendl on board I sensed a change may be coming, and I changed my attitude towards him. I’m not gonna keep hating him after the way he proved all the critics, including myself, wrong. You gotta have respect and admiration for that. To turn all those slam final losses and tears around took something special and I couldn’t help being happy for the guy. It takes a really cold person not to be happy for Murray after the way he turned things around. Now the ultimate challenge lies in front of him. He is once more in the final of the tournament that he always wanted to win and that the whole of Britain is desperate for him to win.
That is why I believe he has struggled against the likes of Verdasco as well. He carries a lot of hopes on his shoulders, like he always has. He justified those hopes when he won the US Open, but he is now right in front of his own people on the center court of the most important tournament in tennis. Will he come up short again like he did last year, or can he exorcise his demons once and for all and win the biggest of them all? Certainly the odds are stacked against him, as it usually is. But this time he knows he can do it. He has done it before, in a slam final against the same opponent. To make Djokovic the outright favorite in this match would no doubt he a huge mistake. Yes Djokovic is the favorite on paper, but a famous Murray victory may just be written in the stars. I will stick to my prediction of several months ago and go with the underdog.
Murray in 5.