Andy Murray wins in London, a star rises in Germany
After the climax of the clay-court season in Paris, the grass-court segment commenced with tournaments that are described as tune-ups for the Championship, Wimbledon. The men played in Halle Germany and London. The ladies played at Nottingham and would move to Eastbound next week.
Murray won at the Queen’s Club in London, for the fifth time. He lost the first set to hard-serving Canadian Milos Raonic (now coached by John McEnroe) but won the second at 6-4. In the decider, Murray broke Raonic’s service in the first game and held for a 5-3 lead.
Serving to stay in the match, Raonic fell behind 15-30. A powerful service return by Murray gave the Briton two match points. Raonic saved the first match point with an overhead smash and a second overhead got him the deuce. An ace gave him the advantage but it was cancelled by a Murray passing shot.
On the next advantage, Raonic netted an easy volley to hand Murray the victory. In the history of the Tournament at the Queen’s Club, seven players have won the title and then proceeded to win The Championships. They are John McEnroe (1981 and 1984), Jimmy Connors (1982), Boris Becker (1985), Pete Sampras (1985), Lleyton Hewitt (2002) and Rafael Nadal (2008). Andy Murray did so in 2013.
Across the English Channel, in the finals in Halle Germany, it was a battle of two Germans; the rising star, Alexander Zverev, and Florien Mayer, who was coming back after a two-year injury layoff.
In the first set, games went with serve and Mayer led 3-2. In the sixth game, Zverev hit a service that was called out but he successfully challenged the call but was made to replay the point. A net cord went in favour of his opponent at the replay. He fell behind 0-30; and then made two successive double faults and Mayer had the break. The Canadian won the seventh game and broke the next service of a dispirited Zverev to win the set 6-2.
In the second set, the 19-year old broke Mayer in the first game and held for a 2-0 lead. He was up 3-1 but he was broken in the sixth game for a three-all.
From then on, each player held serve. Serving to level, Zverev faced three match points in the ninth game but survived them and proceeded to break his opponent’s serve in the 11th game. Serving for the set, he fell behind 15-30, leveled with a service winner and at 40-30 he hammered an un-returnable serve. The match was even at one set apiece.
In the third set, Mayer held serve for 3-2 lead and broke Zverev at love. He wrong-footed his opponent to lead 30-0 on his serve, and held at love for 5-2. Alex recovered from a 0-15 start and delivered two aces to clinch the eighth game. Serving for the match, Mayer lost the first point, and then the second. He drew level at 30-all; then 30-40 but deuced. He got the first advantage point and lost it. On the third and his fifth match point, a forehand from Zverev sailed over the line. Mayer had won his second career title.
Although he lost the finals in Halle, the focus is on the 19-year old Alexander Zverev. His father was a former professional player. His brother is currently on the tennis circuit. His mother is a tennis coach. Alexander was born in 1997, six years after his family emigrated to Germany. His victory over Roger Federer in the semi-finals, 6/7; 7/5; 6/3 was a symbolic change of guards. The older order is changing. Zverev matched Federer, stroke for stroke, power for power. As in boxing, the champions are not leaving the stage in victory but are being pushed out by the uprising stars. This is the thrill of tennis; as with all sports.