OK, let's state the obvious first. This is a huge match for Andy Murray and he could not be facing a tougher opponent than Rafa Nadal, a dream of a tennis player. Boy has the Spaniard got it all. He is unique.
But it's not just the opponent on the other side of the net that Murray has to deal with today. There's the expectation and, man, does Wimbledon, heck Britain, expect. It's been a long wait, hasn't it, guys?
The good thing for Murray is that watching him over the past two weeks, actually let's throw the French Open into the hat as well, he's been mighty impressive. And that's not only for the way he has been hitting the ball, it's been the way he's walked the walk too. This is a guy heading towards his peak.
Murray is a character. There are times he reminds me of Andre Agassi, noticeably his ball-striking and the anticipation he shows in getting to the right place at just the right time. But even Andre would have had his hands full with Nadal.
Sometimes I watch Nadal and pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming. His consistency is staggering and allied to that is his self-belief. Holy cow! He believes in himself to a degree that means every last inch of the court is his. And he has a certain rare gift you cannot teach. It is called passion, baby!
Let's line these guys up. Nadal hits his forehand with a ton of spin.
Watch how when he runs wide he gets his racket head on the outside of the ball and delivers it down the line for a winner. Murray's forehand is steady. He will get most balls back and recently has added more of a killer approach. He too hits with plenty of spin.
While Nadal plays left-handed, he is in life a righty and this adds an edge to his game. This extra strength and coordination in his right hand makes his backhand lethal and allows him to hit high balls while off balance. Murray has one of the best backhands in the game. His balance and body control enable him to do just about anything he wants from this wing. When it comes to the serve, Nadal has a tremendous advantage being a lefty. He can take his opponent out wide when serving to the advantage side and he can serve into his opponent's body when serving to the deuce court, making it difficult for righties to open up their big forehands. Murray's serve is much improved and it brings him more free points than it used to.
A feature of the modern game is movement and nobody gets around better than Nadal. At the same time, Murray is an excellent mover and is up there with the top guys.
Nadal has a good sense of position. He likes to stand a few feet beyond the baseline but is quick to come in. Now here is an area Murray needs to improve. I've said it regularly over the last couple of weeks – you cannot win a Grand Slam from way behind the baseline. Murray has a tendency to stand too far back and, even though he gets to every ball, his opponent can retrieve his returns. It is getting better and his attacking game is much more obvious these days. He has to go at Nadal, surprise the guy. Force the issue, Andy – go on.
Nadal is one of the best, though, and that is why I have to come down on his side – just. I tell you, this is not a match to miss. Hell, if I were you I would call in sick just to make sure you catch it.Reuse content