Holy mackerel! Holy cow! Wholly impressive. Andy Murray stunned Andy Roddick on Saturday and sent a loud message that he's got to be taken seriously.
Against one of the biggest servers in the world, a finalist at Wimbledon for the past two years, Murray let his game do the talking. His poise with his racquet - and what poise and efficiency he showed - was a surprise to a lot of people. I was amazed by the result and the performance. Murray's American opponent was stunned.
And this wasn't a fluke. You cannot say that Roddick played terribly or that there was a whole load of areas where these guys were, for two-and-a-half hours, inexplicably mismatched. That was not the case, as I'll explain in a moment.
First, I'll tell you what I think was more significant than any specific shot construction or strategy: Murray's nerve. He stood up to a big challenge, single-mindedly, amid an awful lot of hype and with unrealistic expectations, and said: "I'm big enough for this challenge." And with that attitude as his bedrock, everything else flowed. My goodness, couldn't the England football team have done with a bit of that nerve in their penalty shoot-out? Murray, the Scotsman, stood up far better than the English soccer team did.
It's a shot in the arm for British tennis, courtesy of Scotland. In one sense Murray's victory was a thrashing. A few key statistics actually show that it was much closer. Roddick had 21 aces to Murray's six. Roddick's percentage of first-serve points won was 73 to Murray's 74. Roddick made 23 unforced errors to Murray's 20. There's not a big difference there.
For me, the big story lies in a little number. Roddick converted only one break point of 12. Murray converted three of 12. Simply, Murray played the big points better than Roddick. And that's down to nerve.
To digress briefly, there are no Americans left in the men's draw, a fact with too complex a background to explore here. But I don't believe Roddick needs more than minor adjustments - and a few words of wisdom, encouragement to boost his confidence - to become a true contender again. And as for Andre Agassi's last match at Wimbledon, all we need say is his exit was classy. Andre, we will miss you. We wish you success in all you do in your life now. And thank you.
But back to Murray, who must immediately file the victory over Roddick in the cabinet marked "Ancient History". It means nothing in today's next match, against another young foal - Marcos Baghdatis, of Cyprus.
Murray has got to come out on to Centre Court and do it all again, against a good groundstroker who will be keen to simmer him down. Not only that, the dynamic has changed. Roddick was the hot-shot before, Murray was the underdog. Now he's the target, and it takes a whole new mentality to come through when you're being shot at rather than shooting. There's extra pressure on his shoulders today. It's a toss-up, and will not be easy.
Read my views on the game, year round, at www.nickbollettieri.com
Is the coach's role overstated?
This week I'll answer some of the questions you've been sending to me along with your e-mail applications to win a one-month scholarship at my Florida academy. The prize is for one student (Under-18s only), and includes tuition and board. Just tell me: how can I help you, and why? So, today's question: amid an ongoing debate about the necessity of coaches, Jon Blythe wrote that junior players "suffer from information overload and an inability to solve their own problems". He asked, in that context, whether the role of coach is overstated. From a young age, players should be encouraged to speak up because they will be central to their own success. But coaching is essential at the formative stage, to get all the basics in place. Later, the coach role changes. It's not so much about a player's game (minor modifications) but everything from rackets, to flights, research on opponents, motivation, good places to eat, suitable practice partners and 100 other small but important things.
Time for big guns to start firing
Mario Ancic is one win away from providing a banana skin for Roger Federer, who has not lost on grass since Ancic beat him in 2002. I take Ancic to come through his fourth-round meeting with Novak Djokovic in four or five sets using his big-bang serve, his movement and a strategy of coming in all the time. Lleyton Hewitt was tested in the second round, eased through the third and has to come out and play with style against David Ferrer to lay down another marker of intent. Ferrer did well to come back from two sets down to Fernando Gonzalez but I take an in-form Hewitt to make the quarters. Li Na, like so many of the emerging Chinese players, is tough as hell, and looking for an upset against Nicole Vaidisova. But the Czech teenager, who's been at my academy for eight years, is a steely competitor herself, and I take her to win in three. Daniela Hantuchova has no chance beyond two sets against Justine Henin-Hardenne because the Belgian will punish her in rallies from the start. Daniela needs to hit hard and early but I take Henin-Hardenne in two.Reuse content