Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

When It Comes to Clay, Murray Needs More Moulding to Be Finished Article

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

When It Comes to Clay, Murray Needs More Moulding to Be Finished Article

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew Norman

WHENEVER we allow shards of optimism to pierce the cynical defences, the death of a British sporting fantasy is never far behind. So it was in Paris yesterday as Andy Murray, without ever quite raising the white flag, was effectively crushed by an inspired Fernando Gonzales.

Murray could never consistently find his first serve, his forehand, his backhand, his balance, his movement, his touch, his radar or his fighting heart. Apart from that, he was immaculate.

The inconvenient truth illuminated here is that, however quickly he has improved on it, clay is not Murray's bag and perhaps never will be. His technical problem was thoughtfully highlighted by Gonzales, whose greatest weapon is the one absentee in Murray's formidable armoury -- the ability to consistently generate the pace and power required to hit winners on this slowest of surfaces.

Gonzales's forehand often misfires, but when it works it is one of the glories of tennis. This week, as on his run to the 2007 Australian Open final, it has made him impossible to contain.

Until yesterday, when his drop shots were as impressive as the swinging forehand Exocets, the Chilean had yet to drop a set in the tournament. The tiny consolation for Murray is that he ended that run with literally flawless tennis in the second set during which, remarkably if not uniquely, he made not a single unforced error. Alas, anyone who interpreted this as a decisive momentum shift was swiftly disabused as the Scot disintegrated in a fashion I'm reluctantly obliged to call Henmaniacal. Five years ago on this court, in the semi-final, Tim led Guillermo Coria, by a set and a break when suddenly it struck him that he was heading for his first Grand Slam final. He went to pieces, sad to recall, losing 11 consecutive games.

Perhaps something similar happened to Murray, albeit a round earlier, because he was inexplicably shocking in the third set, winning only seven points and no games. …

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