Andy Murray’s victory over Roger Federer proved that his swift path to the semifinal of the Australian Open had no effect on him as the game stretched to five sets. Now, the five sets will work to his advantage as he takes on Novak Djokovic in the final.
Murray had played all his games in the heat until the semis, when he played in the cooler temperatures of the evening. Getting the daytime games done in quick time was of great benefit to him, as there’s nothing like intense heat to sap the strength of a player over the course of a long match.
In a strange way, if Murray had continued to dominate his games and cruised past Federer, he would have had less knowledge of how the court performed in the evening.
The courts have looked slower in the evening games, and there was a worry that Murray wouldn’t get up to speed with them in time for Federer. Even during his semifinal, when Federer clawed back to 2-2, you could be forgiven for thinking that Murray had his chance—that it was Federer who would emerge victorious.
Instead, Murray took control of the final set, putting the previous one out of his mind and hitting his shots in a manner that suggested he was having no trouble reading the court.
It might seem strange to suggest that Murray is in better shape now that he’s played a four-hour match before a Grand Slam final, but that may yet prove to be the case.
The final is another evening game, so any extra time spent on the court in a match situation works to his advantage. Not to suggest that court has the capacity to be a deciding factor, but it certainly evens out the situation.
Following his victory against Djokovic in the U.S. Open, and now Federer, Murray has the confidence, belief and momentum to beat the world No. 1 again.
The semifinal shared many traits with the match that earned him his first Grand Slam. He charged out to an early lead, but was then forced to regroup and take the game in the final set.
It’s long been a criticism of Murray that he lacks the ability to finish off games when he gets off to a good start, especially against the top players. Over the last year he has emerged with a steely resolve, putting every point behind him after it finishes and focusing on the next one.
Djokovic is not a player who can be battered into submission. That will just play into his hands, and the game will get away from the British No. 1. Instead, Murray will need to upset his opponent’s rhythm, using slice to prevent Djokovic launching a big backhand down the land.
Murray’s attacking play has been a big part of his recent success, but an equal contributor has been his instinctive knowledge of which shot to play.
It’s not all been attack and power; instead, his variation has been integral to victory.
In order to beat Djokovic and become the first player to win his maiden Slam and then follow it up with another, he’ll need every shot in his arsenal.
In order to properly trust those shots, he needs on-court experience in the conditions he will face in the final. That’s why his marathon semifinal is actually the best preparation he could have wished for.