Saturday, January 3, 2009

Miami heat

Well it looks like someone has made the most of their offseason (however short it may have been)!

Andy Murray, who went through a crazy conditioning program down in Miami (check out the day-by-day account at Down the Line! for details) just won the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament. First he dropped the hammer on James Blake, 6-2, 6-2, and then chalked up another win over Roger Federer, beating him 7-6 in the third. He went on to beat Rafael Nadal in three sets.

Originally, with this post, I was going to talk about how I thought despite his grueling conditioning, I still wasn't going to consider him my favorite for the Australian in a couple of weeks. Here's why:

You see, Murray has every shot in the book, which I think rewards him best on the fastest surfaces, such as carpet, grass and quick hard courts. He can take someone's ball and has good enough hands to do anything he wants with it: He can loop or slice someone's flat shots, drive through their topspin, etc. I just think when it's more on him to create, he gets in a little bit of trouble; not much, just a little. Having to do that on a slower surface, such as clay or Plexicushion, which they've been using at the Aussie now instead of Rebound Ace (check this out at Tennis Brain), might be too tall an order to pull off for seven matches playing best of five.

Plus, when it gets in the later rounds, with his ranking, he'd probably have to face Nadal in the semis there and likely either Novak Djokovic, Federer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the finals. That's a lot to ask of a guy!

However, if this exo he just won in which he went back-to-back against the two best players in the world and won is any indication, I might have to revise my way of thinking. I'm not totally ready to make him my Aussie favorite yet, but I have to admit, I'm a little more convinced of his chances. And if it works out for him there, I bet Miami will be the hot spot for other players in their time off!

(Photo: Getty Images)


TopSpin said...

Hi Van - Hope you had a good break!

Its funnny, but I take a slightly different view on Murray.

I think you're right about him being better on faster surfaces, but I also believe his more flexible and varied style of play will allow him (in time) to perform better on slower ones.

In fact prior to Wimbledon, his style if anything was more suited to clay and was perhaps a little too loopy and grindy for my liking.

What was letting him down then was his fitness, and I still believe both him and Djoko have some way to go before they catch up with Fed and Nadal in the fitness stakes.

But as you say he's put his time to very good use over the off season...

After this performance in Abu Dhabi I don't see how he can not be one of my picks for the Aussie Open, although I'm also quite interested to see if the off season has kick started Djoko back into form.

van said...

Hey TopSpin, my holiday season was pretty good. How about yours?

I know what you mean about Murray's game in the past. Sometimes to me, he looked like Mats Wilander playing back in the '80s, which wouldn't be a consistently threatening style to play against. Hitting loops and drop shots could get you in a lot of trouble nowadays! I know he's hitting flatter, but I feel on the slower surfaces he couldn't generate the pace necessary to win nowadays. That being said, I'm definitely intrigued to see how this year shapes up for him.

heyheyhey said...

I would be very surprised if Murray doesn't go far at the Aussie. He doesn't have as much talent as Federer or Nadal, or even Nole, but he has made up for it with his workout regime. I predict a slam win for him in 2009. Maybe the Aussie, but he's not who I think will win it.

Shelia said...

Hi Van! Happy New Year! Geared up for tennis '09? I'm ready.

I never know what to think about Andy Murray, he's such a head case. There's no questioning his physical ability, that's rarely been the issue. I guess we'll see if he's got that in check this year. I did notice him begin to get a better handle on it last year.

How's fatherhood?