Archive for July, 2012

Federer v. Murray Inspires a Wider Audience

July 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Tomorrow’s Wimbledon Men’s Final match between Scot Andy Murray and Swede Roger Federer has got to be one of the most-anticipated tennis clashes in recent history. Both men are extremely talented and well-respected in the tennis community. Both men have a shot at history. More on that in a second.

For many, it’s hard to get excited about tennis. There are only four regular tournaments the sports media covers, and when they’re covered, they’re usually relegated to ESPN 2 or worse. Add to that time zone changes, which lead to matches starting at seven or eight in the morning. Not a good combination for ratings, or anticipation at any level.

But then there are tennis fans, who follow the sport loyally and wake up early because it’s what they love. This is the audience that comprises the a large part of Grand Slam viewership. The other part is less dependable but more mainstream – the audience that wakes up from a tennis-deprived slumber when a great match presents itself. That’s who I hope will be watching tomorrow morning when Federer and Murray take to the grass at the All-England Club.

They’ll be watching two men, both of whom are making a run at history.

For Roger Federer, age 30, tomorrow’s final is old news. He’s won Wimbledon six times, including five times straight from 2003-2007. Across his career, he boasts an 82% match win percentage, he’s won 74 career titles, and has raked in more than $71 million in winnings. Add to that lucrative endorsements from the likes of Rolex, Nike, and Gillette. Federer’s résumé could not be more flush. He is the Tom Brady of the tennis world.

So why should anyone cheer for Tom Brady to win another Super Bowl? Because many would argue this Tom Brady has since hit his peak. Since 2009, he’s won just one Grand Slam final – the 2010 Australian Open. Though his streak of consecutive quarterfinal appearances is intact (and now a world record), Federer has slowed down. The stretch of absolute dominance that began in 2003 ended, and the last major final that included an “R. Federer” was the 2011 French Open. In a sport where contemplating retirement by age 30 is more than normal, it’s not unreasonable to ask if this could be Federer’s last chance for one more Slam title. Federer also hopes to cement his name in the history books by achieving a seventh Wimbledon championship – placing him atop the all-time leader board with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw, tennis legends both who share the record.

While Roger Federer is looking for a comeback, and more accolades – Andy Murray is fighting for his country’s very reputation. It’s well known in the tennis community that the U.K. hasn’t had a Wimbledon winner since 1936, and hasn’t even had a representative in a final match since 1938. Murray already has broken that 74-year “curse” by just getting to the finals, but now his country demands a championship. The English media has hyped this chance at a title to no end – if you don’t believe me, just check today’s papers.

Murray is a very good tennis player, but he’s no Roger Federer, either. He “only” has 22 titles to his name, and his highest worldwide ranking was again, “only” two. And while he’s seen a great deal of success at tournaments like the Australian Open, Murray is also viewed as somewhat of a serial semifinalist, at least at larger venues (like Wimbledon). Not only is Murray chasing history for his country, but a win over Federer tomorrow would solidify him as one of the world’s best players.

So I find myself with a tennis match tomorrow morning in which I have no idea who to support. Both men have good claims, and great story lines if they win. All I can ask for is a five-set thriller, and that the non-tennis watching world wakes up and pays attention. It’s not often a final this compelling comes along, with such compelling players.  Who knows when one will come our way again?

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