“That’s at the end what maybe cost me the match, potentially.”
Roger Federer is not beyond finding rationalizations or excuses for some of his losses, including claims of injury, but this one Sunday following his 6-3, 6-2 loss to Andy Murray (in one hour and 25 minutes) really left me scratching my head.
Federer had been victimized by an unfortunate bad call by the baseline linesman on Murray’s side — a call that was exorcised by the Hawk-eye replay challenge system that Federer passionately hates. But we’ll get into that later.
Let’s first set the stage for this semi-controversy.
Federer was serving at 30-40, trailing 3-6, 1-2 when he stroked a swinging forehand volley that, while nicking the baseline, left Murray a play on the ball. That was key. The linesman called out — not loudly, but he did make a call. A bad call.
Murray heard it because after he threw up a short lob off Federer’s swinging volley, he looked right at the linesman. Federer, however, apparently did not hear the call. He slammed Murray’s lob for a winner and thought he had gotten back to deuce.
When it became clear to him that there was an out call, he dropped his racket in disgust and called for a challenge, which showed his swinging volley touching the back of the line.
Murray’s play on the ball was key because if he hadn’t had a play on it, Federer would have been awarded the point outright on the successful challenge.
And so, in this situation, he had to defend the break point again and lost the game. Afterward, he tried being gracious to Murray, calling him “a good player” and deserving of the title. But that little bit of irritation that seems to affect so many of his losses crept into the press conference.
“It was a classic bad mistake by the linesperson,” Federer said. “Kind of one of those moments you don’t want to happen so you don’t have to defend a break point twice. That’s at the end what maybe cost me the match, potentially.”
Cost him the match? Had he held serve, Murray would have been up 6-3, 2-2. How does this turn around the match completely?
Murray then came in for his press, and brought a little more common sense to this controversy.
“I felt that has happened to me a lot as well. I mean, if I was him, I would be annoyed, of course. But it didn’t. So, you know, you’ve just got to . . . I mean, as a player, you just have to kind of try to put it to the back of your mind.
“But that’s where the Hawk-eye system at least gave him a chance. Because, if not, it would have been called out and that would have been the game, done.”
The minor irony here is how often Federer has railed against Hawk-eye. While he didn’t hold serve, Hawk-eye gave him the opportunity to salvage that game.
So, was Federer so exasperated by the bad call that he lost his edge and, eventually, was broken to go down 3-1 in the second? We’re talking about one of the game’s finest players. He’s been in these situations before. Maybe it wasn’t a bad call. Maybe it was a net-flopper that left him at break point.
The great ones, as Murray said, put it behind them and move on. I have no doubt Federer refused to let himself be affected by the bad call. Why don’t we just give credit to Murray for eventually breaking (OK, with the help of Hawk-eye).
For you stat freaks, the 85-minute loss by Federer isn’t his quickest in a long time. He was taken down in 82 minutes on clay by Albert Montanes earlier this year.