WHO’S my pick for the suspenseful and chilling movie to be shown at 4:30 this afternoon? It’s hard to pick.
Consider these facts: Roger Federer has 15 major trophies while Andy Murray has zero. Does that mean that R.F. is assured of Grand Slam no. 16? No, because head-to-head, A.M. beats him 6-4. Does this mean that Andy has the upper-hand? No. Because the last two times they met, it was Roger who won. Then, the question: Does Murray’s drubbing of Nadal (in the quarters) mean that he’s in peak form and will be the favorite? No. He’s playing better than at any other time in his 22-year lifetime—but so is Roger. Did you witness how he obliterated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga two nights ago? He has to be the favorite.
But which one? Roger? No. Andy? No.
This is my point: The 2010 Australian Open final promises to be a quintessential fight. Swiss vs. the U.K. A 28-year-old veteran against an almost-sure future world No.1. Two-handed backhand against a one-hander. Nike vs. Adidas. Married man with twin daughters versus a drab-looking Briton who I’m sure is one of the most eligible bachelors in London.
Won’t this finale be electrifying and sensational, to provoke our hearts to pound furiously and fast?
I like what writer Steve Tignor penned in his blog, Concrete Elbow: “Federer and Murray don’t dislike each other from what I can tell, but at various times Murray has been irritated by Federer’s ‘I just need to figure this kid out’ attitude toward him, which he stuck to last season even after Murray had beaten him two straight times. Murray may have thought: ‘If the guy accepts Rafa as a rival, why can’t he at least start to accept me?
I’ve got a winning record against him as well.’ That’s what makes this match so intriguing. Federer wants to show that he really just did need to figure Murray out, that the king isn’t giving up his throne any time soon; while Murray, the new kid, the little brother, the heir apparent perhaps, wants to take his first step into that All Time Great Club. He can only do that by beating Federer where everyone, including Federer, accepts that it counts, in a major final. And you only get so many chances in your career to play them.”
The question is, who is more pressured to win and claim the title, Wizard of Australia?
“I mean, look, he’s in his second Grand Slam final now,” said Roger. “I think the first one’s always a bit tougher... But now that he didn’t win the first one, I think, doesn’t help, for the second one around. Plus, he’s playing, you know, me, who’s won many Grand Slams prior to that, been able to win here three times so I know what it takes and how to do it, which is definitely an advantage. I don’t feel like the pressure is really on me having to do it again, because I did it before. I think he really needs it more than I do.”
Ha-ha. Well, with 15 Slam trophies at home versus zero for Murray, sure, the Briton is salivating and wanting it more. But this means extra pressure. For it’s been 74 years since an Englishman, Fred Perry, captured a major title (1936 US Open).
What does Andy have to do to beat Roger?
First, he has to go aggressive. He has to take chances. He has to pound that backhand down-the-line, blast that first serve then attack the net to volley, he has to vary his repertoire, hurl drop-shots to surprise and fling slice shots that dip low on Roger’s Nike shoelaces.
What’s interesting is this: While everybody else except Rafa, whenever they face Roger, freeze and get intimidated, Andy Murray does not. He’s unfazed. He’s unafraid of Roger. Mentally, especially because he leads their record 6-4, he knows he can do it. And, believe me, in tennis, it all starts and ends with brain-power. Also, I think Murray’s backhand is the best there is today. Backhand to backhand, he beats Roger. If he puts this ammunition and fires plenty, A.M. will be deadly.
“Federer is the man to beat,” said former netter John Lloyd, “but Andy can win, there is no doubt about it.”
Watch the final this 4:30 p.m. on Star Sports.