Wimbledon 2014: Andy Murray can take positives from recent run, says Barry Cowan
But Federer is on course for SW19 title...
By Barry Cowan
Last Updated: 03/07/14 12:59pm
Andy Murray’s defence of his Wimbledon title is over – but, despite the disappointing loss to Grigor Dimitrov, he now needs to regroup and attack the next four months and get back to his top level against the very best.
Andy hasn’t beaten a top 10 player since winning in SW19 last summer and with the pressure of playing against a improving Dimitrov – who is absolutely flying and playing brilliantly – I wasn’t surprised to see him go out. I’d predicted the result in Wednesday’s column.
What was surprising was that Andy didn’t make Dimitrov work harder for it. I thought Andy would have at least taken a set and made it tougher.
A lot has been made about Andy’s pre-match preparation and start to the contest – Dimitrov said he felt his opponent wasn’t on top form when they were warming up – but that could just be kidology from Dimitrov. He might have seen something that encouraged him but that doesn’t mean it was truly there. But Dimitrov believed it and that is half the battle.
Dimitrov also believed he was ready to take this step and reach his first semi. He’s won a lot of tough matches – including in Acapulco against Murray earlier this year, where he won a third-set tie-break – and his reservoir of confidence and self-belief has been building over a long period of time.
He’s been coming and he’s been getting better physically, mentally and tennis-wise – and yesterday he played so well and took the attack to Andy.
But as I said, there’s plenty of encouragement there for Andy.
Winning Wimbledon cannot be underestimated, in terms of the affect it’s had on him since. He achieved something he has worked so hard for and he said after he won ‘what’s next for me?’.
I think we saw that initially in Andy’s motivation and of course the operation he had on his back and also the struggles he had to get himself up again; it has also taken him time to get back to peak fitness after his injury. But I think he’s back in terms of fitness and I think he’s ready to make another move.
Dimitrov now goes on to play Novak Djokovic, who was pushed all the way by Marin Cilic. The Croatian is in fine form but Novak was locked in for the fourth and fifth sets and when he gets in that 'I’m not going to miss’ mode he’s so difficult to play against. You feel he’s never going to miss a ball.
Roger has got his swagger back. He's my favourite to win the title.
However, I also felt Roger Federer played fantastic tennis yesterday. He lost his first service game of the tournament in the first but from midway through that opener he was brilliant. He looked so secure on serve, he’s moving well and he’s confident. Roger has got his swagger back.
Stan Wawrinka was his first real test after being dealt a good draw but we learned Roger is back playing the tennis he was playing before the birth of his second set of twins.
I tipped him to win Wimbledon in April because of the great tennis he was playing – and, with Andy and Rafa Nadal out, he’s now my favourite to win the title.
He faces Milos Raonic in the other semi-final, who brought to the end the great story of Nick Kyrgios.
It’s remarkable what the 19-year-old Australian has achieved and his win over Nadal will live long in the memory. However, I felt it would be too soon for him to come back the next day and he hit the wall against Raonic.
Kyrgios was fortunate to win the first set but he hung in there, showed plenty of guts and I thought the fourth set was so positive for him. After going 2-1 down he didn’t disintegrate and lose with a whimper. He fought and took Raonic to the tie break.
The talent and athleticism is there but you also need heart and guts and he showed plenty in the fourth set. That was as encouraging going forward as some of the outstanding tennis he’s played.
Raonic served unbelievably well, though, and has got to his first semi, where we’ll see the current legends in Federer and Djokovic face the new breed in Raonic and Dimitrov.
The women’s semi-finals take place today and I’m looking forward to seeing Simona Halep take on Eugenie Bouchard.
It’s been a remarkable year for Halep. She made her big breakthrough at the French, where she reached the final, played an unbelievable match against Maria Sharapova and did everything right except win.
And she’s up against Bouchard, who is going to win a major and be number one at some stage in her career. We’ll learn whether she’s ready to make the next step today.
She made the semis of the French and the semis of the Aussie, but any young player learns quickly and it wouldn’t surprise me if she comes out and plays arguably her best match ever.
However, I’ve got a feeling for Halep. She’s been the most consistent player on the women’s tour this year and she’s in prime position to win her first Slam.
In the other semi, Petra Kvitova is the best grass court player left in the women’s draw – but she’s also probably the most unpredictable player left. She can win a set 6-0 and she could lose the next set 6-0 – which makes her contest with fellow Czech Lucie Safarova tough to call.
However, 2011 champion Kvitova has done it before and I’d go for her because of the pecking order of the two players. They’re both from the same country and I think it counts for a lot – Kvitova has been the number one Czech while Safarova has been the number two.
I think it will be an edgy match – and they won’t necessarily play their best tennis because they know each other so well on and off the court – but the experience of winning big matches might just count for Kvitova.