Wimbledon Men’s Final Review Andy Murray Defeats Milos Raonic
A Federer or Djokovic-less road to a Grand Slam title finally lay before Andy Murray at this season’s Wimbledon, and, defeating Milos Raonic (6) 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 in the final, he was only too happy to cruise along the highway.
After eight years of reaching, and contesting, slam finals, Murray’s eleventh final featured someone other than the Swiss or the Serbian, who had beaten him eight times in all (Federer three times, Djokovic five), and against whom he had only been successful on two occasions, against the Serbian at the US Open ’12 and Wimbledon ’13 (2-8 in slam finals looks crushing on the surface, but dig deeper and 2-8 versus the game’s number one and four all time slam haulers is a little more soothing.)
Up until deep in the fourth set of Federer’s Wimbledon semi-final versus Milos Raonic this year, it looked like Murray’s slam final history might be repeated.
Unfortunately for Federer, but fortunately for Murray, Raonic ended that era, and presented Murray with a slam final first-timer, and slam final debutantes tend to be undone by their inexperience, most particularly on the big points versus top players, as Murray can testify himself after losing to Federer in his first Slam final at the 2008 US Open in straight sets, 32 Grand Slam finals ago.
Murray was now the favorite, and in the final, he played like one. The 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) scoreline tells the truth of the match, one in which everything was clear on Murray’s side. The second seed’s strategy to keep his serve steady, run down every ball, keep his error count low, and his intensity high, never wavered, and he never faltered.
Raonic’s plan was less clear. The big serve was never in doubt- he was after all only broken once against as great a returner as Murray- but everything else was a little vague, and even just a little is too much in matches like these. He attacked, the right approach to the match and the only way he was going to break Murray down, but too often he came in on the wrong approaches, sending the ball into Murray’s hitting zone or into spots which the Scot could get to, and, with his counter-punching skills, pass the Canadian with typical precision.
Raonic’s play, especially in the tiebreaks, was never good enough in a match he was experiencing for the first time, but one which Murray had seen over and over again. This time, though, Murray was spared the deja-vu of Federer or Djokovic in the final. This time he was seeing it with new eyes.
Those eyes must have opened as wide as the draw did once Djokovic had been upset by Sam Querrey in the third round. Murray had already been blessed with a very kind draw, and with Djokovic’s absence, it was nothing less than indulgent – Nick Kyrgios, who Murray had beaten in three slams in 2015, in the fourth round, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarters, against whom he led 12-2, and Berdych in the semis, a man he had beaten in their previous 4 matches and won 9 consecutive sets against. The final act of generosity came with Federer’s defeat and a final opponent in the form of Raonic, whom he had beaten 6 of 9 times, including at this year’s Australian Open and at Queens.
Murray could not have envisioned a better draw himself, and while Tsonga did push him to five, Murray’s 6-1 final set win over the Frenchman tells us just how determined he was not to let this draw, an easy run to a slam compared to his past efforts, one he had earned the hard way, collapse before him.
Plenty of players have won slams in similar style draw-wise, that’s part of the luck of the draw, draws you have to stay in to win. While Nadal did not even start, Djokovic stumbled before the second week, and Federer let a winning match slip from his grasp, Murray was still there, riding into the final on his first straights sets slam semi-final win.
Murray was in the draw all the way to the finish line, sprinting across to win a third slam title three years after his last, with Ivan Lendl beside him as he had been then. Another slam title after a career threatening injury in 2014, and further potentially confidence-destroying slam final losses to Djokovic in Melbourne (2015, 2016) and Paris (2016). Another slam title which ranks him alongside Jan Kodes, Gustavo Kuerten and Arthur Ashe as three-time champions.
In slam winning shape, in an era in which the experienced, stamina-strong athlete can thrive in slow conditions which allow them to evade the more dynamic step of youth, Murray’s time has come at exactly the right moment for the Scot. On Sunday, he seized it, and the confidence and experience that comes with doing so, in a match he was favored, for the first time, to win, can only help him when slam final twelve comes along, Federer-Djokovic or no Federer-Djokovic on the other side of the net.
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