Rogers Cup is Murray’s Not Federer’s
By Dave Seminara
It takes a lot to make Andy Murray smile. And pose. And pose and pose. But he did all of those things today, after winning the Rogers Cup in Toronto, with a straight set, rain interrupted 7-5, 7-5 victory over Roger Federer.
Murray was his gloomy self all week, and seemed to be carrying the weight of the United Kingdom on his shoulders as he steadily mashed his way through the star-studded draw, dispatching both Nadal and Federer en route to his second consecutive Rogers Cup, and his first ATP title of the year. But after taking down Fed, he jogged up into the stands to hug his mum, and lingered on court for what seemed like ages- even allowing himself to be bullied by the insatiable crew of photographers, who wanted him to do everything short of actually swallowing the trophy.
But by the post-match press conference, he was back to being the Scottish Ivan Lendl- a damn good player who expects to win, but doesnâ€™t seem particularly happy or engaging even in victory. Murray betrayed none of the emotion he showed on court, but insisted that he was happy. â€œI feel great, any time you win a tournament, youâ€™re incredibly happy; there is a sense of relief,â€ he said.
Relief seemed like the right word- and Andy used it again. â€œIt was a bit of relief, Iâ€™m very happy but itâ€™s also important not to get ahead of yourself, there are some really important tournaments coming up and I want to try to keep it going,â€ he said.
â€œItâ€™s very satisfying; it (beating Rafa and Roger) doesnâ€™t happen that often to anyone. Itâ€™s the 1st time Iâ€™ve done it.â€
Murray started the match like William Wallace rampaging through the Yorkshire Dales, breaking Federer in both of his first two service games. Â His level soon dipped, but he survived a sloppy 1st set, which was marred by rain delays and a myriad of unforced errors and five service breaks, 7-5. Â He blew another break lead in the 2nd set, but broke Federer at 5-5 in the 2nd and served Federer right off the court and on to Cincinnati. Â It wasnâ€™t a particularly compelling performance from either man, but Murray made fewer mistakes, out-served Federer and seized five of the ten break point chances he had, while winning an impressive 74% of points on his 1sts serve.
The win is a great one for Murray, but he won the Rogers Cup last year as well and became a trendy U.S. Open pick in the wake of the win. But he lost in the round of 16 to Marin Cilic at the Open and once again became the whipping boy of Fleet Street- the talented guy who couldnâ€™t win a major. As Federer un-charitably pointed out in the post-match press conference, winning in Toronto still isnâ€™t the same as winning a major. â€œItâ€™s obviously nice, but it still doesnâ€™t give him a Grand Slam title,â€ Federer said.
Murray may not be the charismatic hero the tennis world craves, and if he, or someone like him supplants Federer as the top player in the game, interest in the sport, particularly in the U.S., will wane. Still, one canâ€™t help but feel happy for Murray. Heâ€™s a bit of a bore, but heâ€™s also a hard-worker and a sincere young man, who also happens to be a damn good tennis player.
Finding fault with Roger Federer is a foolâ€™s exercise. The man may very well be the greatest player of all time, but with just 1 title in the last 12 months- the driest spell heâ€™s had since the early days of his career- one has to wonder how many more major trophies Roger will earn.Â He speaks rather forcibly about feeling good about his game, but surely a man as competitive as Roger Federer must be fretting just a bit about his level relative to the rest of the field.
Fed often reminds the press that most other players would be thrilled to simply go deep into tournaments- never mind winning them. But the truth is that itâ€™s a lot easier to go deep into tournaments when you enter as a #1 or #2 seed, and play less heralded players early on in the draw. Federer has been on the decline for some time now- even in winning 2 majors in â€™09; his form was still significantly lower than the super-human tennis we saw in his prime. This is not the time to be writing Rogerâ€™s obituary to be sure, but his days of dominating are surely over, and he tacitly acknowledged that in the post-match press conference.
â€œIâ€™m very good, but I donâ€™t have the margins like in womenâ€™s tennis or whatever, that you can just come out and dominate an opponent every single time,â€ he said.
Murray, for his part, said of Roger’s game, “I don’t think he’s getting worse- I just think the rest of the field is getting better.”
Federer was philosophical, as always, about the loss. â€œObviously it was a touch disappointing,â€ he conceded. â€œBut I thought I played well. Andy was aggressive and was taking the ball early. He wasnâ€™t giving me much- he crushed his serves at the end, and he deserved the victory.â€
Despite those gracious words, Federer also noted that he is still suffering from nagging injuries. â€œI d have muscle pain all over my arm, my shoulder and my chest, but thatâ€™s something Iâ€™m quite used to,â€ he said. â€œIt started at the beginning of the week, a small hindrance, maybe, but I could serve full and it didnâ€™t play anything on my mind. Itâ€™s just fatigue a bit and also pain, but muscle pain- itâ€™s not something I worry about.â€
Much was made of Federer bringing Paul Annacone on board, but, alas, it appears as though this coaching relationship with Federer could be over before it even really started. Annacone was not in attendance for the final. â€œHe was watching from elsewhere, from a fair ground, because heâ€™s still involved with the LTA (British Lawn Tennis Assocation),â€ Federer said after the match. Fed confirmed that Annacone also wonâ€™t be in Cincinnati.Â One can only wonder what other obligations Annacone had on a Sunday, or why his torch appears to have extinguished so prematurely.
After one more dress rehearsal next week in Cincinnati, the real test for both men will come at the U.S. Open. A win for Federer, and all of his struggles will be forgotten; a win for Murray and the â€˜canâ€™t win a majorâ€™ monkey will be off his back. â€œI want to win one (a major) obviously,â€ Murray said. Â â€œI believe Iâ€™m good enough to, but like I said, itâ€™s a very difficult thing to do because of the players around- Roger and Rafa.â€
For one week in Canada, though, Roger and Rafa proved to be beatable.