This past Sunday Andy Murray won his second Wimbledon championship by defeating Milos Raonic (6–4, 7–6, 7–6) in the tournament final. Murray won Wimbledon by playing unrelenting defensive tennis. Honestly it may have been one of the sneakiest dominant displays in recent sports history. During the tournament Murray won 21 of the 23 sets he played cleaning up against the best players in the world. Yes, Novak Djokovic’s early exit didn’t set up the much anticipated final but Murray’s dominance was unquestionable as he seized the moment winning a 2nd Wimbledon trophy. In my view, Murray’s victory cements his place in history as one of the greats during tennis’s Golden Age.
Murray’s Defensive Dominance versus Milos Raonic
The signature of Andy Murray’s game has become his ability to extend points pushing players to go for more and, if Murray is at his best, eventually forcing the opponent to question the potency of their best weapon. Murray accomplished this throughout the tournament and principally in the finals versus Raonic’s herculean serve. It was unreal watching Milos Raonic consistently serve 130+ mph only to see Murray return the ball back repeatedly. Mike Agassi used to coach his most famous pupil and youngest son, Andre, to hit a player’s best shot back to them forcing the opponent to hit their best shot again and again without winning points to break down the player mentally causing a “blister on their brain.” Mr. Agassi must have enjoyed watching the Scotsman win Sunday. Murray’s return of serve was exceptional versus Raonic, whose serve already at the top of the tennis world reached what seemed like another level this weekend (we’ll cover his 147 mph serve vs. Murray later). After Raonic served only 1 ace in the 1st set and 3 aces in the 2nd set (and no service winners in either set) it was clear that as the match continued Raonic was going for more on his serve than he would have liked resulting in a declining first serve in % each set from 69% to 66% to 57%. Although Murray only broke Raonic once it was clear extending the Canadian’s service games benefited the Scotsman and most importantly led to Murray’s high number of mini-breaks during the 2 tie breakers. Just like Andre Agassi did in 1992 versus Goran Ivanisevic, Andy Murray proved that a world class return of serve can defeat a world class serve, even on grass.
Andy Murray’s Legacy
Like the politician you want to have a beer with, Andy Murray is the tennis player you want to drink a beer to. His game isn’t as gracefully charismatic as Federer’s nor as athletically dominant as Djokovic’s but Murray’s charm is his everyman style. His modern power baseline game that features a rugged two-handed backhand may not be elegant but it is the most versatile and perhaps effective backhand on tour. Murray’s athleticism mixed with power is exciting but his best features aren’t what you would associate with a world class tennis player. His hustle, so transparent that he lets out his patented grunt while chasing down would-be winners, is motivating, his two-handed backhand passing shot is almost as certain and fun as a Steph Curry 3-pointer and his animated responses as he looks up to his supporters gives him his everyman charm.
Murray has been a Hall of Fame-worthy player for a few years now. He has won 2 Wimbledon titles, 1 US Open, an Olympic Gold Medal and a Davis Cup during an era that tennis historians will view as the Golden Age. His consistent success earned him entry into the vaunted “Big Four,” a historically talented Mount Rushmore (and ironic given the lack of an American presence). In fact, enjoying Murray’s fundamentally sound game may just be the litmus test for the hard core tennis fan.
This story could have been about Murray’s renewed partnership with coach and tennis great Ivan Lendl, and it is definitely worth noting as Lendl has certainly helped him mentally and tactically, but honestly this is about Andy Murray. His Wimbledon run these past 2 weeks has been incredible. For casual tennis fans he certainly took the drama out of the tournament dominating all of his matches (even after the two sets he dropped to Tsonga he won the fifth set 6–1) but this tournament may have been Murray’s masterpiece. Pure dominance all the way through. Murray’s summer will continue with his title defense of the Olympic Gold and a run at another US Open title. Murray will have a good chance at winning both however his Wimbledon win will be his crowning achievement in 2016.
Further Murray broke down Raonic’s new found net game. Under the recent tutelage of serve and volley great, John McEnroe, the Canadian had shown an improved net presence weaved into his powerful serve and baseline game. In the SF versus Roger Federer and QF versus Sam Querrey, Raonic had converted 68% and 72% of his net points, respectively. Further, Raonic, even before linking up with McEnroe, had converted 68% of his net points in the Australian Open SF versus Andy Murray. However Murray’s passing shots were too much on Sunday as Raonic only converted 62% of his net points. The key to defeating Raonic at the net was Murray’s backhand passing shot . The Scotsman hit 12 passing shot winners by backhand versus 1 forehand passing shot winner.
The one point that best summarized this year’s Wimbledon final was Murray’s return of Raonic’s 147 mph serve in the 2nd set which Murray ultimately won with a cross court backhand passing shot. Honestly, Djokovic may still be the deserving World No. 1 but this return and subsequent winner proved why Murray was this year’s deserving Wimbledon winner.