rob asked me for a Wimbledon men's finals preview and a preview he shall have, albeit a half-assed one. As you likely already know, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are set to square off for the Wimbledon title on Sunday. Djokovic has beaten Murray in 11 of their 18 meetings, including the last three in a row. The two have met in Grand Slam finals four times, with Djokovic winning three. But Murray has some odds in his favor. For example, won the only time they played on grass, the 2012 Olympics which were held at Wimbledon. And Wimbledon is in England, which is where Murray is from ... well, not really. Murray is Scottish, and an Englishwoman that I used to work with explained that Britons from England didn't consider Murray to be a true Briton until he won the Olympics, despite the fact that there's nary an animal alive that can outrun a greased Scotsman. After that they decided to acknowledge his Brittitude with the hope that he could be the first Brit to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936 blah blah blah. I'm not sure why the Brits are so enamored with Fred Perry, he seems to spend all his time designing clothes for emaciated sallow foreigners who look like they fell out of an Irvine Welsh novel:
Perry certainly lost his fastball from the 70's when he designed for mustachioed men with feathered hair and tube socks:
Speaking of clothing, Djokovic rocks UNIQLO gear, and Amanda Warner (half of MNDR) is a UNIQLO spokesperson. So don't front on what the Djoker's wearing on Sunday.
Sartorial asides aside, I expect Sunday's match to be a slugfest. Two of their last three Grand Slam matches went 5 sets, and the third was a 4-setter. More importantly, both play a similar defensive/counterpunching style, and by that I don't mean to suggest that their games lack offense. Both play consistent, relatively high percentage tennis by keeping the ball deep and high over the net, moving their opponent around, and crowding the baseline to the extent possible. Sure, they will take advantage of a short ball and put it away, but typically in a high percentage manner.
By contrast, Juan Marin del Potro is more of a gunslinger. He likes to rip backhands down the line, which is a lower percentage shot than crosscourt because the net is higher and you have a shorter distance in which to land the ball. He also likes to force his opponent to hit a short ball in the center of the ad side of the court so that he can unleash what is probably the nastiest inside-out forehand in the game. Check out the shot at 0:37.
Against Djokovic he went for a lot of insanely angled short inside-out forehands from the ad side and hit many. But he missed many too. I suspect that this shot was less painful to hit with his hyperextended knee than the backhand was, and that he wanted to end points as quickly as possible given his injury.
While we're doing short post-mortems on today's matches, GTB's favorite son Jerzy Jankowicz fell in love with the slice forehand/drop shot, of all the improbable shots to develop a crush on, during the third set of his match against Murray and it was his undoing. He should have stuck with what got him to the semis: big serve, big forehand, big Pole.
I once asserted that Andre Agassi would've been one of the greatest of all time if he worked hard and gave a shit. I think Djokovic's skill set is quite comparable to Agassi's and the Djoker certainly has more heart. He also has similarly bad musical taste; according to Wikipedia, "His favorite songs are Carl Orff - Carmina Burana,Vangelis - Chariots of Fire and Pulp Fiction Soundtrack - Opening Theme." Djokovic has the remarkable ability to produce offensive shots from defensive positions--even when he's forced to hit an out-of-position shot, he creates something that puts pressure on the opponent and get him out of position. Watch this sequence.
He plays smart tennis and his base game has no visible weaknesses ... and he really really gives a shit. Taken together, I think Djokovic could wind up a top-10 all time great, becoming what Agassi should have been. He'll probably beat Murray on Sunday in 4 sets.
Murray came back down 0-2 to Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals and at the time I felt like that would get him over the hump, along with the home crowd backing him while eating crumpets drenched in HP sauce and pounding pints of Samuel Smith's India Ale. Then I watched Djokovic beat del Potro and realized that Djokovic simply has better stuff right now. Every man, woman, and child in London could attend the match and cheer for Murray, but it won't be enough. Not even his Felicity Shagwell look-a-like girlfriend will be enough to derail Djokovic, not the way he's playing now. Murray's a damn fine counterpuncher, but unless he suddenly grows to be seven feet tall and learns how to shoot fireballs from his eyes, Djokovic has the potential to run him over on Sunday. Simply put, Murray cannot stop the Djoker.
That said, rooting for Murray is the right thing to do and I encourage you to do so. Just yesterday we celebrated our independence from Britain and the subsequent asswhooping we meted out upon them. Britain has been a steadfast ally ever since and their opportunity to fete a native son for vanquishing a foreign invader is long overdue. Freedom! And all that good stuff.