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MURRAY FALLS TO MASTERFUL
By Ivan Speck
Daily Mail, 4th October.
The future was glimpsed yesterday at Wembley
Arena and it was pretty for Andrew Murray. Overawed and overwhelmed,
the 17-year old Scot was swatted away by John McEnroe like a fly
on the old maestro's racket. He was beaten in just 24 minutes,
by the score of 6-1, and had nothing to comfort him except the
thought it can never be as painful as this again.
There will be brighter days, of course - hopefully
at least a decade of them - but humiliation in front of a 12,000-strong
home crowd made this possibly the most embarrassing of Murray's
young life. Superset tennis? Give Murray an outside court at Flushing
Meadows any time and a crowd of a few hundred like the one in
front of whom he won the U.S. Open boys' singles title last month.
Instead, he was centre stage with a national
television audience to impress and had to contend with a pantomime
villian who possessed the touch of a tennis God. As if walking
on to a court amid fluttering spotlights with a glamour girl on
each arm and rock music pumping out from all sides was not enough
to unnerve the teenager, Mac the Mouth tipped him over the edge.
Even at the age of 45, McEnroe's sense of theatre
remains as acute as ever. To a huge roar, he emerged like a prize
fighter, whirring his arms to whip up the crowd further and winning
the match even before the players met at the net for their handshake.
Half-an-hour later, Murray could not run off the Wembley Arena
court fast enough. At least Glasgow's Scotstoun Leisure Centre
will offer a less intimidation setting tomorrow when Murray takes
his next step towards tennis fame in a futures event.
And to think a chorus of voices criticised Great
Britain Davis Cup captain Jeremy Bates for not thrusting the youngster
into the heat of a decisive singles rubber on Austrian clay eight
days ago. As Goran Ivanisevic - another to play just a set in
tennis's new in-yer-face format in which eight players compete
for a £250,000 winner-takes-all prize - was keen to point
out, the Davis Cup can be intimidating and is deadly serious.
Yesterday was supposed to be fun.
Murray tried to insist he had enjoyed the experience.
He said: 'It was great, but the court was far too quick for me
and I've never played against anybody like that. But I can take
from this that I played John McEnroe and it was an honour for
me to be on the same court as him'. To say that Murray simply
froze when faced with a grizzled old pro on a big stage would
be doing McEnroe a disservice, however.
So pure was the touch of the three-time Wimbledon
champion, so sublime his volleys, that it seems this Superset
format may give his career a new life. He certainly loved playing
to the crowd. He even got to check line calls, although, when
appealed to the giant screen replays, you sensed he was doing
it for effect and knew he was in the wrong.
McEnroe said: 'There are not many occasions when
I've been told to question as many calls as I want. That was music
to my ears. I wanted to show Andy that the old guy has something
extra. He was in a bit over his head. He's not used to conditions
like this. I smothered him before he was able to get going.'
Greg Rusedski serves against Boris Becker.
While Murray digested the tennis lesson, Greg
Rusedski revelled in the home support as he sought to win back
ina Sunday what he spent throughout January in legal bills, organising
his defence against the charge of deliberately taking nandrolone.
Rusedski chose close friend Paul McKenna as his courtside coach,
although the hypnotist looked for all the world like a starstruck
punter who had won the seat in a competition. Rusedski's first-round
victim was another tennis legend, Boris Becker. At Murray's age,
the German won the Wimbledon singles title.
As McEnroe compassionately pointed out, Becker
was one in a million. Murray fits into the other band for whom,
as yesterday's mauling proved, the teenage years are about learning.
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IT'S TENNIS BUT NOT AS WE
4th October 2004.
Croatia's Mario Ancic beat Britain's Greg Rusedski
11-9 in the Superset Tennis sudden-death shoot-out final to walk
away with the £250,000 winner-takes-all prize at Wembley
Ancic, aged 20 and ranked 20 in the world, and
31-year-old Rusedski traded serves for 20 games before Rusedski
finally capitulated on the third set point. Victory gave Ancic
a world record reward for three sets of tennis. The battle of
the big servers went with serve for the first 19 games before
Rusedski, after saving two match points, was beaten by a forehand
down the line.
Ancic, the Wimbledon conqueror of Tim Henman,
said: "It's been a great year in England for me and right
now I'm speechless. "It's my first tournament win, it isn't
an ATP event but it was worth fighting for. I was just concentrating
on serving." Rusedski reflected: "I wish I'd lost in
the first round because I wouldn't be feeling so bad now. But
Mario served too well and good luck to him."
After beating American Robby Ginepri in the first
round, Ancic was involved in a long semi-final when 45-year-old
John McEnroe pushed him all the way. The three-times Wimbledon
champion had already handed Britain's latest prospect Andrew Murray
a 24-minute masterclass, crushing the recent US Open boys' singles
Then, revelling in the razzmatazz of sudden-death
tennis, he stretched Ancic to 9-7 before finally coming to a double
fault. Both Ancic and Murray admitted they had never met anyone
like McEnroe, with the young Croatian conceding: "He played
unbelievable tennis. That's the best guy at serve and volley.
For one set he is so tough. "He picked up volleys and half-volleys
and showed he is a true legend."
McEnroe prepared to help Murray.
McEnroe revealed that he is ready to try and
help Murray reach the top. "He's the type of player I hope
I will be involved with because I think he has the potential to
be a good player," said the American. "The whole idea
is that I will be helping the LTA initiative by working with some
kids and he's the obvious choice.
"At first the idea was I would be a figurehead
but I want to get down in the trenches and hit with the kids,"
said McEnroe, who paid 17-year-old Murray respect by never easing
up. "You risk losing if you do something like that. I smothered
him before he had a chance to get into it," added the veteran.
Superset Tennis was making its European debut
and is set to return to London in the future. Wimbledon it isn't,
despite the All England championships' referee Alan Mills being
in charge. Rock music blaring, players marching on court in a
fashion more suited to a boxing world title fight, court-side
coaches giving advice and the latest hi-tech equipment giving
players the chance to challenge controversial line calls were
just a few of the innovations.
The use of Hawkeye to decide any line disputes
was unanimously welcomed by the players, with McEnroe saying:
"They are ahead of their time with that as it could be introduced
on the tour in the next couple of years."