Wawrinka d. Murray 6-7 7-6 6-3 6-3
I don’t think anyone knows what lay behind the the fog of irritation, desperation and temperamental fug that descended on Murray at the beginning of the third set, least of all Murray himself.
All that remains clear is that:
a) It seemed to have been triggered by physical complaints – Muzz spoke of fatigue, issues with his quad and feeling “pins and needles” in his elbows.
b) The subsequent lapse cost him the set and almost certainly the match.
Asked about where this performance ranks with those of other Slams he drew attention to having lost those others to “the best of all time, the 2nd best of all time” and Berd…
Make of that what you will.
Protocol precludes me from kicking a man when he’s down, but, really, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that this is, in some ways, worse than either of those losses. Or that Muzz’s own body language, demeanour and attitude, so often the go-to point of attack for the tabloids, really does, in this case, shoulder a large degree of responsibility.
For one thing it’s his earliest Slam loss since RG 2008 (his worst surface).
But that would be nothing if it weren’t for the very plausible suggestion that everything was indeed, this time, falling in place.
He appeared to have largely overcome accusations of passivity that constantly plague him – in so far as the natural grain of his game allows – though still lacking what Bollettieri romantically calls a “bread & butter” (putaway) shot.
And whatever torrent was disturbing the normally passive, harmonious waters of Team Murray appeared to have subsided with the seemingly amicable departure of Miles Maclagan.
What matters not is that your body, your luck or your opponents normally dependable ability to combust in a Catherine Wheel of self-doubt failed you, but how you react to to these circumstances - however unexpectedly they were foisted upon you.
What marks out those other two greats he quotes is precisely this ability to avoid the pitfalls of self-doubt, confusion and, dare I say it, anger, and to then find a way of winning matches when they aren’t playing their best tennis.
It’s an imprecise art and whilst it’s true they both have an abundant reserve of confidence (born of winning big matches), it’s also, unfortunately, an ability Muzz will have to aspire to in order to take that next vital step. A step that has now acquired a renewed sense of urgency about it.
There’s the desire (which he clearly has) and the battle to avoid being overwhelmed by the angst-ridden, consumptive flatulence that proceeds from that desire when things aren’t going your way.
It’s an internal battle Muzz will have to win if he’s ever to win even a single Slam.
Consider it the biggest mandate of whomsoever Muzz takes on as Coach this fall.
All of that on one side.
And Stan and the forces of UV-protected Chaos on the other.
You can fight against the physics of your opponents tennis, you can even fight the constraints your own body places on you (you don’t always win) but you can’t fight the dark, chaotic and turbulent forces of inspiration.
Coz that’s what Stan plainly was out there: inspired.
I was initially sceptical of the MTO, not because I didn’t believe he was hurting, but because I thought he should have let Muzz finish his service game. There’s also the rather biggish problem I have with considering muscle cramp as injury (I don’t) and whether or not it should merit a MTO at all, which we'll leave for another day.
It should be of little surprise that Stan has an impeccable serve and ability to finish at the net.
It should be of even less of a surprise that Stan has the best single-handed backhand in the world.
When he chased back that lob, turned round and hit that magnificent backhand winner it was clear I was dealing, not with a mere tennis player in his element, but some heady fusion of rock-and-roll and the dark arts. And duly dispatched two leprechauns to cut off Peter Lundgrens hair which I'm convinced is the source of Wawas strength.
Let’s look at the evidence.
Fed? History tells us all we need to know.
Safin? If anyone could tame Marat enough to see him through to winning his second and sadly final Slam, it had to be Lundgren.
Should it surprise us that his association with Stan has resulted in a previously missing though no less magical edge?
Who cares if he can’t stay sober enough to put two words together for the LTA?
The power is in the hair people. You read it here first.