ATP World Tour Finals Day 5
Fabulous Roger Federer came within two points of serving up a dreaded double bagel against a troubled Andy Murray in what fast became a humiliating experience for the Brit on home soil.
You sensed that if he had really wanted to rub salt in the wounds, Federer could have dealt the ultimate blow to Murray’s pride. He eased off for long enough to avoid that dubious honour – a nice guy to the last.
It is hard to convey just how masterful Federer was after losing the first two points of the match. He emerged the winner from a 35-shot rally and never looked back. ‘Who knows, maybe it was the turning point of the match,’ Roger said kindly. ‘Then it was a question of getting the lead and protecting the lead.’
On one point Federer had Murray scrambling forward to a drop shot and back for a lob he never reached. Andy trudged about in a forlorn state as his unforced errors count passed twenty. He acted like a player who had never won anything in his life and you would never have guessed that their head-to-head record was eleven-all before this one-sided demolition.
Federer had reduced his opponent to little more than a novice in stature, it looked like man against boy out there and frankly it became increasingly embarrassing. Despite the brutality, you couldn’t blame the greatest player of all time. He had to continue with the slaughter until he knew he was out of sight.
A delighted Roger said afterwards: ‘I knew I’d qualified so maybe I went into the match more relaxed, but it’s not the way I thought it was going to go. I hope Andy can play a good season next year. As for me I’ll keep going, I’m very happy and excited with my performance.’
Having barely faced a significant challenge in the match, Federer set his sights on a more daunting problem tomorrow – how to handle four young children in crowded London. ‘Not many people in this city, not many kids, very relaxed,’ he joked sarcastically. ‘No, I don’t know what I’ll do on my day off, I’ll ask Mirka.’ Asked if his wife was the boss, Federer looked slightly uncomfortable before replying: ‘A little bit, a little bit.’
It was the most perturbed he had looked all evening, because Murray certainly didn’t give him much to think about. Few can realistically expect Amelie Mauresmo to be Murray’s coach for 2015. The Scot has lost all his aggression since the departure of former coach Ivan Lendl, life has been far too gentle under Mauresmo.
Murray must be brave enough to change coach again. Defensive tennis doesn’t work for Andy any more, if indeed it ever did. He needs someone to push him harder, he must be encouraged to take more risks, because this passive Murray will never beat the big guns when it matters.
Murray admitted: ‘That was a tough night. I’ve lost Slam finals but this was not ideal from my side of the court. Roger played exceptionally well, that’s for sure. I can say I’m disappointed with my performance but if I’d played well he probably still would have won, he was striking the ball so cleanly.
‘6-0, 6-0 has never happened to me in my career and it was very disappointing that in nearly happened in a match like this. I’d have hoped to play better but when he was extremely loose and already through in the group he was able to try shots that he might not try in other situations. Everything he tried came off.’
That, unfortunately, is the whole point. Federer tried things. Murray didn’t. Who dares wins. It is a simple motto and one that should give Murray immediate food for thought.
Earlier Kei Nishikori had defeated David Ferrer, standing in for the injured Milos Raonic, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. That left Murray with mission impossible, because he needed to beat Federer in straight sets.
Few thought that was going to happen. But no one predicted quite such a devastating defeat.
What this means for London is that we can probably look forward to an absolutely scintillating final between Novak Djokovic and the resurgent Federer – two giants of the sport who have rarely looked better.
Their semi-finals should be little more than a formality. But then again, we have been surprised many times before.