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Friday, July 3, 2009

Murray defeat leaves fans deflated

Photo Titled Murray at full stretch
Andy Murray stretches to reach a shot from Andy Roddick during their semi-final.
The result came too late on Friday evening for the London Stock Exchange to be affected or for sterling to slump in value, but Britain is now officially in a state of deflation – after Andy Murray’s Wimbledon’s hopes were ended at the semi-final stage by Andy Roddick.

The American’s 6-4 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (7-5) win was fully deserved, as he cashed in on his 21 aces and a multitude of other damaging serves which eventually eroded Murray's confidence and undermined his resistance.

As the last of Murray's 20 unforced errors rattled into the netting, Roddick knelt on court, the peak of his white cap touching the turf. He stayed this way for several seconds before getting to his feet and applauding the crowd's sporting acceptance of what he had just inflicted on them – and on a watching TV audience, whether at home, on Henman Hill or on No.2 Court, which had thrown open its doors for fans to watch on giant screens.

All of them were of course hoping that “our Andy” could win the first of two matches which would deliver the first British Wimbledon men’s singles champion since Fred Perry 73 years ago.

As a veteran American tennis writer quipped after Roddick's first tiebreak success put him in front by two sets to one, "It's gonna be 74 years now." So it is, Bud.

It was Roddick's uncanny success in tiebreaks which put the final seal on his upset win. This year he has played 30 of them and, with the two he won here, his count is 26-4.

For this eagerly anticipated contest, even the weather was on its best behaviour. Heavy grey clouds which had hung over Wimbledon all morning and part of the afternoon obligingly lifted and the sun graced us with a belated appearance. In the Royal Box, tea had even been forsaken for this one.

And there was an apparent formality in the support for each man for obvious reasons – “C’mon Andy” would have been redundant on this occasion. Not surprisingly, the “C'mon Murray" calls comfortably outgunned the "C'mon Roddick" ones, but there was support for the American.

One stentorian spectator regularly bellowed his "C'mon Roddick" from behind the media seats but in the first set the American did not need much encouraging, hammering aces in excess of 130mph and charging the net to test Murray's passing skills. In addition, the American's error count was lower and his service break in the 10th game to capture the first set was merited.

To growing acclaim, Murray's early break of serve in the second set confirmed that he was back in it, thanks mainly to his ability to match Roddick in the number of aces, if not quite the speed. The American was also adept at throwing in slower serves, and that was another plus factor in his fine match play and excellent tactical plan, worked out by his coach Larry Stefanki.

Murray lost the ability to keep drumming up aces in the third set and opted to mix pace with patience on his ground strokes in a bid not to offer the American pace off which he could feed. With his slower serves, some in the high 70 miles an hour range, being heavily punished the match began to drift away from him and he was not helped by receiving a warning from the umpire, Pascal Maria, for an alleged obscenity when one of his shots flew wide.

At 5-2 ahead the Roddick camp must have reckoned the third set won but, in his finest spell of the match, Murray staged one of his head-on charges, snipping away at the American lead and sparking a football-type chant of "Mur-ray, Mur-ray, Mur-ray." They carried their man into the tiebreak but not through it, despite the hysteria which greeted the set point he held - but lost. Roddick had prevailed when it really mattered by upping his service speed even higher, to 138 mph on one ace.

As they went deeper into the fourth set most of Centre Court was in shadow. In mourning might have been more appropriate, and when the second shoot-out came along you somehow knew beforehand which gunslinger would win it.

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