Wimbledon: Murray d. Davydenko

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 /by

AMRRAll the world's a stage, and Andy Murray's a major play actor. That's the tact Nikolay Davydenko took before today's first-round showdown, when he suggested the Scot's hobbled lurch around the court while clutching at his back at Roland Garros last month provoked laughter in the locker room from players wary of Murray playing the pain game.

Moving beautifully and striking convincingly, Murray reduced the former world No. 3 to a personal punch line in a 6-1, 6-1, 6-4 thrashing. The fourth seed showed his entire spectrum of shots to bamboozle the flat-hitting Davydenko, who saved a break point to hold in the first game, then looked helpless as Murray raced through nine consecutive games to seize a 6-1, 3-0 stranglehold on the match.

The three-time Wimbledon semifinalist set the tone for the match by hitting the two strokes that can go askew under pressure—the serve and forehand—with conviction. Murray dotted the service box with 10 aces, dropped just seven points on his first serve, and did not face a single break point in denying one of the game's elite returners any inroads into his service games. When Murray tightens on the forehand, he tends to decelerate the swing and lose depth on that shot, but he punished Davydenko off that wing and maintained racquet-head speed throughout.

Grunting loudly, Murray smacked an inside-out forehand winner to break for 5-1 before slamming a backhand winner down the line to seal a second set in which he won 16 of 19 points played on his serve. Murray entered the match with a 61-1 record in majors when holding a two-set lead; the crowd, appreciative of the mastery but seeking to fill the competitive void, erupted in a brief wave after the set.

Put yourself in Davydenko's shoes for a moment. You're a 31-year-old vet who views Wimbledon's grass with all the enthusiasm of Twister played on a patch of poison ivy—six first-round SW19 exits will do that—and you're facing the world No. 4, who is younger, bigger, stronger, faster, and has much of the nation behind him. Maybe you would launch a verbal volley, too, in an effort to unsettle the favorite. But if you're going to stir up the pre-match punch, you've got to bring some competitive fizz. Davydenko, a pure ball striker at his best, was muted by Murray's single-minded focus and multi-faceted game.

Murray's rangy build, speed, and scrambling ability play well on grass, but his struggle to impose his forehand more effectively against the best players has seen him stall in the semis. If he can hit his forehand as forcefully as he did today, Murray looks like a man eager to spread some more hurt on opponents.

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