Wimbledon Day 11: Not Enough
Posted by gauloises1 on July 3, 2010
Rafael Nadal d. Andy Murray, 64 76(6) 64
OK, let me get this out of the way: Rafa was incredible. Irresistible, indomitable … you know what, pick your own superlative and I’ll sign off on it. He deserves all of them. I may be lacking a lot of things (the ability to muster any attempt at graciousness right now, for example), but respect for Rafa is not one of them. He was [insert superlative], a true [insert noun], and demonstrated once again that his [insert superlative and noun] and [insert superlative and noun] are second to none.
It’s just that for me, Rafa being [insert superlative] is not … inspiring me right now. A flaw in me, no doubt, but we all know Rafa is both a magnificent player and an astounding competitor. It’s not a revelation. It’s not new. It’s yet another chapter in an unfolding tale of [insert superlative]. For me, it’s not the story. The story is where Murray came up short.
In case there was any doubt I’m British, that should have removed it.
Because Andy played well. He played really well. That’s just one of the many beautiful dimensions to this particular loss. He was in the points, in the games, threatening Rafa’s serve. He had break points in the first set, set points in the second set tiebreak, and led 4-2 in the third set. And what happened? Tame netted returns on second serves. Idiotic shot selection. Wild unforced forehand errors. Working brilliantly and courageously to earn himself an open court – and I don’t need to underline how hard that is to do against Rafa, do I? – and then time and again netting or going out when all he had to do was put it away.
I haven’t read much about this match yet (what do I need, ulcers?) but I gather the prevailing narrative is comprised primarily of (a) Rafa is [insert superlative] and (b) Murray was too passive. Well, that’s not what I saw. I thought Andy’s game plan was absolutely fine and would have been very effective. It was his execution that was the problem. Clearly, part of the credit for that goes to Rafa for being so damn [insert superlative] that his opponent feels he has to hit a perfect shot in order to win the point. Equally clearly, part of the blame goes to Andy. It isn’t as if he doesn’t have the experience, either of playing Nadal in Slams or being in a Wimbledon semi-final. And it certainly isn’t that he doesn’t have the ability.
What he didn’t have was what was required, or quite enough of what was required. Whatever you want to call it – heart, guts, balls, courage. The winner’s mentality. Whatever it was, he didn’t have it. And so the fact remains that he was close in every respect to Rafa (91 points to 98, if that helps). But he still lost in straight sets. Which rather raises the question of what the fucking point was, exactly.
Would it have been easier if Rafa had steamrolled Andy and been unquestionably superior from first to last? Possibly. The grass is always greener (although in fairness, the grass has almost always been greener than it is this year). I do feel that that possibility might have held out more hope for the future. It’s not unknown, after all, for a player to go from being double-bagelled in the quarterfinals of a Slam to beating that same opponent in five sets in a different Slam barely nine months later. A bad day can become a good day. But when a good day, a very good day, is still not enough – not nearly enough – and the responsibility lies primarily at your door, precisely what hope is there?
No, I’m really asking.