Olympics: Murray d. Wawrinka

by: Hannah Wilks | July 29, 2012

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201207081156430151627-p2@stats.comTwo days after he carried his nation’s flag during the opening ceremony, Stanislas Wawrinka was unceremoniously shut out of the London Olympics, defeated by home favorite Andy Murray, 6-3, 6-3.

Murray exited this stage four years ago in Beijing, and his previous meetings with Wawrinka—they have played 10 times in encounters ranging from tense to epic, with only two settled in straight sets and Murray leading 6-4—suggested danger for the British No. 1. Add it the fact that he was returning to Centre Court for his first match since the emotional Wimbledon final loss—and the man who beat him, Roger Federer, was serenely watching from Wawrinka’s box—and it seemed, when Murray snapped at the umpire regarding the malfunctioning scoreboard during the opening game, that we were in for a long and grueling battle.

In the end, however, it was rather straightforward for Murray, and that had a lot to do with the ways in which he has improved since his five-set marathon with Wawrinka on the same court in 2009. Both men had chances to break in the opening two games, but after Murray held in the third game, both he and Wawrinka found some of their best serving to produce a run of 16 straight points won by the server. It was Wawrinka who couldn’t keep it up at 3-4, leaking errors for 15-30, then double-faulting to give up a break chance. Murray broke with a characteristic point, yanking his opponent around the court, daring him to come forward, then chasing down a volley for a delicate winner down the line. He served out the set at love, sealing it with an ace.

With the rain pounding on the Centre Court roof, Wawrinka needed a good start to the second set. Instead he quickly went down 0-40 and was broken after a forehand miss, one of 32 unforced errors he committed for the match. As Murray forged ahead, it was noticeable that he was building his service games around the basics—big serves and dictating with his forehand, a simple go-to pattern of play he hasn’t always been comfortable in employing.

Wawrinka, on the other hand, was serving poorly—just 44 percent for the match—and while he often came up with the more creative attacking play, he consistently missed finishing shots, particularly with his forehand. He failed to capitalize on Murray’s low first-serve percentage and soft second serve, and simply made too many errors. It was an unfocused, listless, error-strewn performance which leaves little room for criticizing Murray (although having only converted 3 of 13 break points was not great). At the end of the day, he showed up and played well, which is more than can be said for the Swiss.

The closing points of the match were Wawrinka’s day writ large. Serving at 3-5 and leading 40-15, Wawrinka double-faulted twice, then was well on top of a point at deuce after a lucky netcord, only to put a thoroughly makeable volley into the net. The match finished on another tame backhand error. It was a forgettable performance from Wawrinka, and Murray moves on to face Jarkko Nieminen or Somdev Devvarman in the second round.

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