First, I should clarify that the entire game has become more tedious.

Up until 2000, there was enough variation in court and ball speeds that you could have wildly different styles dominate each surface. When Sampras was #1 in the world for six years in a row, he was beaten routinely on clay, so there was a completely different type of player dominating four months out of the year. Now, the basic play is big serve and run around your backhand to hit a huge forehand. There hasn’t been one player to win a Grand Slam as a serve and volleyer since Sampras won the US Open in 2002. Federer beat Sampras in 2001 at Wimbledon by serving and volleying. By 2003, when Federer won his first Wimbledon, he was already playing serve and big forehand.

Anytime you have players with similar styles, the points fall into similar patterns. The reason people loved Federer vs. Nadal was because of the differences in their styles. Same thing with Agassi-Sampras and McEnroe-Borg.

It’s really a shame that they have standardized the game. It has allowed two generations of players to learn only three skills — serve, forehand and backhand — and ignore the rest of the game. That’s also why you see everyone hitting topspin volleys — it’s just another groundstroke.

One of the reasons that the British crowd loved how Willis’ quirky style of slice backhands, drop shots, lobs, coming to net, and the occassional big forehand.

On the other hand, Murray and Djokovic are clones: western forehand, two-handed backhand, great returns, great fitness, natural counter punchers. The only time it gets interesting is when one player gets tired enough that they have to take chances to win points.

Murray’s hits his forehand a little less in front of him than Djoko. He’s much more comfortable letting the ball drop, whereas Djoko and the aggressive players are comfortable hitting the ball on the rise, which takes away time from your opponent to get back in position. This one difference alone creates more and more pressure on the defensive player as the point continues. By the third or fourth shot, the defensive player will be in a huge hole.

Murray can hit a bigger first serve, but it is primarily a slice serve. If he serves really big on grass or fast hard courts, that’s his one hope. In 35 matches, Murray has beaten Djoko 6 times on fast hard courts, twice on grass (Wimbledon, 2012 Olympics), once on medium hard courts (US Open) and once on clay. Djoko has won 24 matches on all surfaces, except grass.

On the second serve, Djoko has a decided advantage winning 57% of second serve points, compared to Murray at 52%. Murray’s serve is slower and tends to land shorter in the court, so he puts very little pressure on Djokovic.

Djoko knows that unless Murray takes big risks (which goes totally against his nature), he’s got a solid edge in every match.

If you want to see who is really in control of a match, don’t follow the ball. Watch what each player does throughout a point. The player that stays 5–10 feet behind the baseline is usually doomed. The player that can transition from a defensive position and get back to the baseline has a chance to turn a point around.

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