Wimbledon 2011: Andy Murray regrets his fatal mistakes
BETTER but still beaten. Andy Murray took a set off Rafael Nadal yesterday but still ended up some way short of getting the better of one of the greatest players ever.
Despite taking a set off Nadal, something he has failed to do in previous meetings, Murray lost 7-5, 2-6, 2-6, 4-6 to the No 1 seed, who will defend his title against Novak Djokovic in tomorrow's final. Whatever the result of that match, Djokovic will take over as world No 1 on Monday, but yesterday on Centre Court it was Nadal who looked by some way the best player on the planet.
Murray revealed this week that he had dreamed of winning a Grand Slam, but that he did not know which of the four trophies it had been. We now know that, for another 12 months at least, it will not be a Wimbledon victory which fulfils that dream.
He was rueful after the defeat. Not tearful, as he has been when losing a Grand Slam final, but understandably downhearted. Although sure he had played better over this past fortnight than he had done last year, especially against Nadal, he also admitted there were aspects of his game which could and should have been better.
"It's been a good tournament," said Murray, for whom this was a third successive Wimbledon semi-final. "I think it could have been better today. I wish I didn't make as many mistakes, but that's the thing - sometimes I've come off the court and thought, Hmm, maybe I should have taken a few more chances.
"Then today it's kind of the other way. I went for it and started making mistakes. It was good for a set and a little bit, then went the other way. But the tournament as a whole has been good. I would have liked to have finished better."
Having played too defensively in the past, Murray has employed a more assertive game this year, correctly convinced he had to try something different if he was to win a Grand Slam title and come closer to matching the world's top three, Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer.
But he admitted that on this occasion, playing high-risk tennis was not the answer, and that other tactics might have at least kept him in the hunt as he sought to build on winning that opening set.
"You can beat him by playing patient," he said when asked how else he might have got the better of Nadal. "When I've beaten him in the past - I've beaten him at the US Open and the Australian Open - I played a little bit more patient. Today I maybe got the balance a little bit wrong.
"But you need to try and find a way. Each time you play against one of the best players you need to play slightly differently each time because they're going to change their game against you. You have to make adjustments.
"Every time I play him I explain the same thing.It's tough. He makes a lot of balls. He's very good when he's behind. He's one of the best players ever, and a great athlete on top of that.
"Even when he's not hitting the ball unbelievable from the middle of the court, he gets to a lot of balls, makes you play an extra ball all the time. And eventually today, like after the first set and a half, when I started making mistakes, he raised his game and started playing better and capitalised on it."
From the moment when Murray missed an easy forehand which would have given him a break point in the second set, Nadal hit back to seize control of the contest, winning seven games in a row from 1-2 down in the second set. If there was a turning point in the match, that was it. Murray was loath to accept that defeat was inevitable from that point, but he did accept that his game had declined from that moment.
"It was a big point," he said. "I was playing very high-risk tennis for most of the match. I went for it today, and I started to make a few mistakes after that.
"But you can't talk about a match that goes almost three hours being decided based on one point. Again, like I say, I was going for it. Against Rafa you have to go for big shots. I slightly overhit that one.
"Today I was going for all my shots, and I started to make some mistakes afterwards. But that point was one that I should have won for sure."
Murray is still without a full-time coach, and when he appoints one he may find new ideas about how he could compete with Nadal. For the moment, however, he believes that a higher work-rate could be the key.
"I feel like I'm playing better tennis than I was last year at this point. (I need to] work harder than I ever did before. Try and improve my game and get stronger. Be more professional.
"That's all you can do. It's a very tough era I think in tennis. Tennis right at the top of the game is exceptional. So not only to get level with those guys, but to push past them, you need to work harder than them. That's what I need to try to do.
"I work hard. Really, really hard. I need to work two, three per cent harder than I do just now and push myself to be the best athlete that I can be. I just need to work a little bit harder, get better."
Working a little bit harder is always possible. Getting better may be too. But, as Murray found out yesterday, you can get better, but still not be good enough to get the better of Nadal.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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