October 26, 2014
Talk about a Super Sunday!
First Roger Federer swept aside David Goffin to edge within 500 points of Novak Djokovic in the battle to decide world number one.
Then Andy Murray virtually booked his place at the end-of-year finals in London, after saving five championship points to defeat Tommy Robredo and take the title in Valencia.
Bear in mind that Serena Williams had begun what became an historic Sunday by inflicting a revenge “bagel” on Simona Halep to win in Singapore, and you wondered whether there had ever been a day of tennis quite like it.
By the end of this unforgettable trilogy (see our separate report for Serena’s heroics), we were almost as exhausted as the players – even though Murray and Robredo were on the point of physical collapse after their indoor epic.
Among the big-hitting men, first we saw Federer’s 6-2, 6-2 destruction of Goffin, a young Belgian who fought hard but isn’t yet in the same league. It was the Swiss master’s sixth win in Basel, his fifth title of the year and the 82nd of his illustrious career.
Finally, on home ground, “The Fed” admitted he has his eye on world domination once more.
Roger, 33, said: ‘It would be very special to reclaim number one because being world number one is what it’s all about in our game. With the year I’ve had, the number of finals and the level of tennis I’ve played, I’m pleased to see that I have a shot.
‘But having a shot and being there are two separate things. I’m sure that Novak is going to come in very motivated just after having a baby, and I’m very happy for him. There are clearly interesting weeks ahead.’
With 2,500 points still to play for, we can look forward to a dramatic climax to a wonderful tennis year. And after they gave us such a wonderful Wimbledon final, it is fitting that Federer and Djokovic are the two contenders for world number one when all is said and done.
The importance of Federer’s latest win should not detract from one of the greatest three-set matches in living memory, the bruising showdown between Andy Murray and Tommy Robredo in Valencia.
They almost fought each other to a standstill. And as the unlikely plot unfolded, we didn’t dare to consider that history could possibly repeat itself. Murray had saved five match points against Robredo in the Far East recently. In Spain, over the course of two extraordinary tie-breaks, Murray saved yet another five. These were championship points and could have put a nasty dent in his hopes of reaching the year-end finals in London.
Every time the Scottish Braveheart looked down and out, he found the mental strength and sheer quality under pressure to bounce back.
It was all a far cry from Murray’s tame first set, during which he let Robredo outgun him by twelve winners to seven. One amazing point in the seventh game left Murray slumped over a barrier and 32-year-old Robredo sitting in a chair, smiling disbelievingly as he regained his breath. The home favourite took that opening set 6-3 and deservedly so.
The younger man seemed to lose patience with the crowd early in the second and yelled: ‘Come on, I’m trying so hard, give me some support, come on!’
But all the support in the packed arena was for Robredo, whose punishing forehand threatened to decide the final.
When he had two championship points in the second-set tie-break, though, Robredo’s composure deserted him – or perhaps it was just Murray’s incredible never-say-die attitude. Somehow Murray edged that first breaker 9-7 to take the match into a third set.
There was further drama at 5-4 to Murray when a ball dropped out of Robredo’s pocket and he claimed he has stopped mid-rally as a result. After an intense argument the referee was called and the officials ruled that, without Murray’s complaint, the distraction of the ball was irrelevant. The Spaniard overcame his anguish and a championship point to level at 5-5 and the final set soon reached an inevitable tie-break of its own.
With the quality of tennis still breathtaking, Robredo earned championship points on three more occasions, the first apparently fatal…until Andy came up with an impossible piece of stretching defence. At 7-8 down, Murray saved Tommy’s fifth championship point and that defiance proved pivotal.
The battling Brit refused to be beaten and through sheer determination he claimed victory 10-8 in the breaker. His reserves of energy totally spent, Andy collapsed onto the floor in unashamed relief.
Robredo jokingly aimed rude gestures at his conqueror when they met at the net, though the smile on his face masked his bitter disappointment.
As for Murray, it is almost “mission accomplished.” He can’t fight for world number one like the evergreen Federer. But Murray has almost certainly earned the right to perform in front of a home crowd in London at the year-end finals. He has now climbed to fifth in the points rankings and is showing signs at last that he might yet return to former heights.
Just another day’s tennis? Even in our golden era, this was almost ridiculous, an embarrassment of riches.
Book now for Wimbledon 2015. Big-time tennis never seems to disappoint these days. On the contrary. Time and again, it surpasses all expectations.