Tramlines

Murray the undisputed world number four

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Order was restored on Friday as the two best players in the world showed their mental and physical superiority to the chasing pack after withstanding the sternest tests they had been given thus far at Wimbledon.

New world number one Novak Djokovic will face defending champion Rafael Nadal in Sunday's final at the All England Club and no-one can dispute that they are worthy opponents.

They went through in two very different matches, between very different players: Djokovic's win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was an eye-catching wonder of athleticism, adventure, flair and technique; Nadal and Andy Murray, meanwhile, threw up a baseline war of attrition that the Spaniard trumped by virtue of making fewer mistakes (and being the better player).

Murray's play since the French Open has, at times, been exceptional, but he makes far too many errors to lay claim to being anything other than the fourth-best player in the world.

Which is no mean feat - Murray is the best British player Tramlines has ever seen in the flesh and is as comfortable in his superiority to the chasing pack as the top three are over him.

Indeed, Trammers reckons that in the pre-Federer/Nadal era - when the likes of Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick were serious contenders - Muzzah would have been a world number one and multiple Grand Slam winner.

Robin Soderling, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Gael Monfils occupy the rankings from five to eight and they cannot touch the Scot, although a resurgent Juan Martin Del Potro could get close if he continues his decent post-injury run.

And, above Murray, only the decline of Roger Federer will allow him back into the top three because, on repeat showings at the highest level, Our Man has a heck of a lot of improving to do - some of it technical, but mostly mental.

The ability gap was shown clearly on Friday.

After taking a tense first set Murray hawked up a rotten second set, effectively handing Nadal a way back into a match before drifting from thereon in, losing seven games in a row at one point as a catalogue of mistakes were rebuffed by a slick but not exceptional performance from the Spaniard.

Indeed that second set saw Murray make 12 unforced errors.

His opponent's tally? Zero. Zilch. Nada(l).

Nadal agreed.

"He had an important mistake, easy forehand, that was probably one of the turning points of the match," he said afterwards of the first of the aforementioned howlers.

The beefcake Spaniard, to be fair, was not exactly a bystander: his desire and desperation to get something - anything - on seemingly unplayable shots seemed to rattle Murray into the boo-boos that saw the Scot slip from a set - and the possibility of another break - to defeat in what seemed like the time taken for a rally from the previous semi final. But two of the mis-hit smashes, in particular, were terrible.

Indeed, a couple of diving Nadal efforts aside, the match was not as easy on the eye as the Tsonga-Nole showcase, which was quite frankly astounding at times.

Djokovic isn't usually one for public displays of affection on court, but there were occasions when his beaming smile hinted at a touch of bromance with Tsonga after the Frenchman repeatedly defied gravity to meet - and occasionally beat - the Serb's precision tennis.

The proud Serb is the best player in the world at the moment, not just in terms of ranking points but the three-course meal he brings to the table: the combination of a fearsome physicality with millimetre-perfect shot-making - and a Tsonga-matching bravery.

The past few weeks in West and South West London have shown that Tsonga is not far off the top guys, so long as he can bring the consistency that his talent merits - a consistency that Murray shows apart from when it matters the most.

Aside from the occasional such rankings anomaly - Del Potro being the other high-profile example - it is strange that the men's rankings are intellectually sound while the women's version seems to have no bearing in actual ability or big-match form.

As clear as Murray is the undisputed world number four, Nole is the number one and deservedly so. You could not say likewise about Caroline Wozniacki and co, whatever the logic in the points system.

With Federer surely too old to claw it back and Murray too stubborn to address his clear mental issues, only Nadal can really challenge Nole in the next few years.

And when best to start than the Sunday glare of Centre Court...

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MISTAKE OF THE DAY: Murray was a set to the good when two near-identical unforced errors in the second set - with Nadal stranded - saw the Briton fluff his lines with terrible smashes to go from the brink of a break point to being broken himself. They were bad mistakes by anyone's standards and not worthy of a wannabe Grand Slam winner.

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SHOT OF THE DAY: There were a handful of contenders from the Djokovic-Tsonga mini-epic, but the pick has to be the rally that left both men flat on their fronts after a seemingly impossible sequence of acrobatic volleys at the net. And then there was Tsonga's remarkable recovery to volley away a Nole drop that clipped the net, and then there was Djokovic's flying backhand when all seemed lost, and then... you get the picture...

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SNAPS OF THE DAY: Leading on from shot of the day, you can take your pic (boom boom) although smutty Trammers's fave is the evidence that, to compete with the hunky Tsonga, Nole had to unleash his third leg...

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CELEB SPOTTING: I think it's safe to say that we're all sick of P-Middy's heavily-tanned jowl gracing these pages, so how about someone who is famous for being good at something, other than by birth or default? In this case, the talent is being able to make Richard Nixon cry - ladies and gentlemen, Tramlines brings you David Frost!

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