Archive for August, 2012

Review: Tennis at the London 2012 Olympics

For years, Andy Murray has been looked upon as the perpetual #4. The punching bag to Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal. The one unable to capitalize on opportunity. But last Sunday, in a furious display of beautiful tennis played by one individual, Andy Murray won his first big title, defeating Roger Federer in straight sets 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, and earning the Gold Medal in the Men’s Single’s tournament at the London 2012 Olympic Games. It was the first time that Murray has triumphed over Federer in a five-set contest, and with the victory, Murray also became the first male competitor representing Great Britain to win the gold in singles play since 1908.
 
But what does this mean for all of the competitors in this year’s tournament? Well, let’s break it down for each player:
 
Andy Murray
 
Murray shows that he can close out a championship against top competition under major pressure
 
Murray’s struggle in the past has been his own mind. It’s usually the situation that overwhelms Murray when he gets a shot at winning a Grand Slam title, especially when it came to the Wimbledon final last month. Murray soundly beat Federer in the Gold Medal match, which isn’t easy to do, even if Federer wasn’t completely at 100% for this match. Federer’s the established king of the grass court, and Murray showed everyone that he’s capable of performing his best against the best the sport has to offer. Andy beat the #1 and #2 players in the world to win the gold medal, and that speaks volumes regarding the state of his game.
 
Shows he belongs as a Top 3 contender, and a valid replacement when Federer retires from the game
 
The Top 3 players in the world have always seemed to play this perpetual game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with each other: Federer has the capability to defeat Djokovic with his low slices, finesse, and net play; Djokovic can beat Nadal with his ability to change direction on Rafa, as well as capitalized on Nadal’s short returns on serve, and Nadal can consistently beat Federer with the lefty topspin forehands kicking high to Federer’s righty backhand. But when Federer retires in a while, Andy Murray can insert himself as a legitimate contender in Roger’s stead, and you’ll be seeing him win many championships in the future.
 
Not just a volcanic counterpuncher anymore
 
In the past, Andy was considered the best player, with multiple skills at his disposal to beat just about anyone. However, he had two problems – one was his temperament, and the other was knowing how to utilize shot selection in the most effective way. He would sometimes fall into a neutral, counterpunching style of play, and was very indecisive when it came to being aggressive. Working with Ivan Lendl has helped him immensely – he sees opportunities better, uses his shots effectively, and he’s much calmer on the court, much like Lendl was in his day. This is a new Andy Murray we’re seeing, and people might say he’s overdue, but he’s going to become an even bigger threat now that he’s come through in the clutch, and he’s going to carry that momentum to New York in a couple of weeks.
 
Roger Federer
 
Wins one of the first medals for Switzerland in the 2012 Games
 
With his Silver Medal, Roger Federer becomes the first of two athletes to win a medal for Switzerland. He won’t look at the Silver Medal as a blemish to his career – if anything, it’s another accolade to add to the many that he’s gotten throughout the years. He might not be a Career Golden Slam winner, but that just puts him in the same column as Rod Laver, Fred Perry, Don Budge and Roy Emerson, and still ahead of people like Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and Ivan Lendl. Given what he’s done in his illustrious career, Federer has nothing to be ashamed about, and being a Silver Medalist won’t hurt him too badly.
 
Making history and building the new generation
 
Even though he came up short in the final against Andy Murray, Roger Federer still made history in being a part of the longest 3-set tennis match in Olympic history, where he beat Juan Martin del Potro 19-17 in the third set after four hours of play. Also, in playing against del Potro in that epic match, and putting over Murray in the championship, he’s helped to push the new stars to greater heights. Juan Martin del Potro’s performance at this year’s Olympics may mark a return to form after his wrist surgery a few years ago, and Murray’s win will elevate his game in the major championships to come. Federer’s credibility as a Grand Slam champion and one of the greatest of all time makes him the one to beat, even if he isn’t the #1 in the world at the time. So when a newcomer can triumph over Federer, it’s a big career rub for that newcomer. It was much the same when Federer defeated Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001 to get to the Quarterfinals – Sampras was the king of grass back them, and for Federer to win against Pete spoke volumes of his future.
 
Still #1 in the world
 
Let’s not forget that at 31, Roger Federer is still currently #1 in the world. Roger’s revived his game to epic form, and he’s been playing as well as ever, starting the year with a winning streak including the BNP Paribas title, and winning Wimbledon with the odds against him. He’s shown that he can beat Novak Djokovic on a regular basis, and that he’s still one of the best closers in the game, as long as it isn’t Nadal on the other side of the court.
 
Juan Martin del Potro
 
He’s baaaaaack!
 
Juan Martin del Potro has been on the long road back to the top of the mountain, but his performance at the Olympic games was one to remember. Juan Martin had to beat some big names to get onto the podium, including Gilles Simon, Kei Nishikori, losing to Federer in a heartbreaker, but then beating Novak Djokovic to earn a bronze medal. Also, with that with, he becomes the first athlete from Argentina to become a medalist at the 2012 Olympic Games. This is a major plus for del Potro, and I will expect him to contend much more in larger tournaments down the road.
 
Novak Djokovic
 
Picking up the pieces
 
This might be an Olympics that Novak Djokovic would like to forget. If he didn’t come through at the Australian Open at the beginning of the year, many would say that he’s been having a lackluster season. Not all of this has to do with Novak’s level of play – he’s still consistently in the semifinals of most tournaments. It’s mainly been Novak’s head as of late, which might have had to do with a tragedy that occurred in his family earlier this year. Novak’s play just hasn’t been the same since, but I expect him to be back to his normal self very soon. He needs time to heal, and when he does, he’s gonna be back at top form, and a force to be reckoned with.
 
Technical jargon
 
Here’s just a couple of footnotes I had for the Olympic tennis tournaments:
 
– Andy Murray, in his win over Roger Federer, held his serve every game he was on serve, dismissing 9 break points in the process. Federer has historically been bad at capitalizing on break chances, but Andy’s elevated play and stellar serving proved to be a tough combination to beat.
 
– Also, Andy Murray’s service returns were second to none. The placement and depth of his returns kept Federer either on a dead run to cross-court shots or far behind the baseline on defense.
 
– The Gold Medal match also showed the fewest games won by Federer in the first two sets, with only 3 games won. Previously, the low number of games won by Federer through the first two sets was against Nadal, where he had a total of 8 games.
 
– The 19-17 final set between Federer and del Potro lasted 36 games, which could be the equivalent of playing an entire three-set match in one set. If you were to logically distribute the number of games played in the third set as if they played five sets, the score would have been 3-6, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4.
 
– People have all but forgotten who TIm Henman was at this point
 
– The Bryan brothers finally earned their Olympic Gold Medals in Men’s doubles play, which means they have completed the Career Golden Slam (They have 5 Australian Opens, 1 French Open, 2 Wimbledon titles, and 3 US Opens together to add to the Gold Medals), and they are arguably the best doubles team of all time.
 
– Other winners: Mirnyi/Azarenka win the Mixed Doubles, Serena wins Women’s singles, Williams sisters three-peat in Women’s doubles
 
 
 
 
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