Monday, August 6, 2012

Olympic Tennis: Serena Williams and Andy Murray

Last week, Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova for Olympic Gold. It wasn't even close. Then yesterday, Andy Murray, who had never defeated Roger Federer in a Grand Slam final, annihilated the Swiss star in three straight sets.

How did this happen? How did two reigning stars (Sharapova, no. 2 in the world, and Federer, presently no. 1, and arguably the best ever) lose so emphatically on the grandest stage in tennis, Wimbledon?

You can't blame it on age -- Williams is 30, as is Federer.

Nor can you say it was a Wimbledon letdown -- Williams had just won at the All English Club last month, as had Federer.

Can't say it was entirely the home crowd advantage, either -- Murray did not benefit from it in his final match against Federer at Wimbledon.

Nor can you say that these are two seasoned winners, as this is entirely new territory for Murray.

You could say that Federer was tired from his marathon semi-final match against Juan del Potro, which took 4 1/2 hours and a 19-17 third set. You could say that Wimbledon might have been different it had been played outdoors, Unlike the Olympics final -- where Federer never seemed to adjust to the wind -- the Wimbledon final was mostly played while the roof was closed. (As McEnroe said yesterday, "Federer would love a little rain right now . . . .")

The story lines for both winners could not be more different. Murray, winless in grand slams, had something to prove. On the other hand, Williams is playing as if she wants to dethrone Chris Evert as the best American player ever.

But nothing can explain how completely dominant both Williams and Murray were in their matches. Sharapova and Federer were never in it, and when is the last time you can say that about two grand slam finals in succession?

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