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Tactics Thursday: Tulips and Waffles (For Everyone!)

Tactics Tuesdays Thursday! returns a little later this week and we’re looking at two matches from the Rotterdam and Antwerp from fairly different perspectives.

“One rally doesn’t make a match…Right?”

Andy Murray d. Vasek Pospisil 6-3, 7-5 (Rotterdam 2R)

It hadn’t been too long since Vasek Pospisil and Andy Murray first met in the second round of Vienna. The former World No. 2 prevailed in a relatively close two-set encounter last fall, going on to win the tournament. Fast forward four months and the Australian Open runner-up and Canadian No. 2 were slated to play again, this time in Rotterdam, on an indoor hard court.

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Neither Murray nor Pospisil had the easiest of seasons in 2014. The 24-year-old from British Columbia played through a back injury for the first half of the year, and failed to pick up a win between Australian Open and the grass season. Murray also struggled, though his issues stemmed from a difficult recovery from back surgery he had in 2013.

But since last fall, both men have been on an upward trajectory. The Canadian is winning more matches, putting himself in good stead to climb back up the rankings, while Murray reached his first Grand Slam final in over 18 months.

Through much of the early stages, the match was on fairly equal footing. The Canadian tried to impose his forehand as often as pospisil possible, but ran around his backhand a little too often and too ambitiously.

The decisive factor in the first set proved to be the second serve or, rather, the second serve return. Murray went after his shots when the opportunity arose, where Pospisil seemed hesitant to exploit the Scot’s second serve. One loose service game from the No. 59 at the tail-end of the set was enough for Murray to secure the opener.

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The second set ended up being a much more hard-fought affair. In the opening game the top seed looked as if he might have pulled something while chasing a backhand out-wide, bending over between points. As his level of concentration began to drop, so did the quality of the match. Nevertheless, Murray was able to go up another early break.

After surrendering his serve, Pospisil managed to gather his focus a little better and level the score. The Canadian went one further as he became most aggressive off the return and broke again, putting him one game from a final set at 5-3.

This is where the real drama truly began.

Holding set point at 40-30, both men got engaged in a grueling 30-shot rally, eventually won by the top seed. Pospisil, struggling to catch his breath, took a long time to recover. Murray shot umpire Cedric Mourier a look, and it didn’t take long before Pospisil received his second time violation, stripping the Canadian off of his first serve at deuce.

The unseeded Canadian went on to surrender, not only the next two points, but also the final four games of the match.

It has been said that a match is never decided by one point alone – but that one long rally on set point played a crucial role in the outcome of the set. Pospisil was not only physically deflated but also mentally battered. After losing serve, the Canadian berated the French chair umpire and never managed to snap out of it.

Murray might have not played his very best today but in the closing stages of the second set, it was his superior fitness that saw him through some tight moments, proving just how much he has improved his stamina and match toughness over the past few months.

It’s a hard knock (Ump)lyfe

Marija Cicak: Antwerp 2R, Barbora Zahlavova-Stycova vs Alizé Cornet

It was a beautiful February morning in Belgium when Marija Cicak woke up in her hotel in Antwerp. The veteran umpire from Croatia probably found herself anticipating another day filled with fun, waffles and close calls at the Diamond Games.

But Cicak ended up with one of the less desirable court assignment: third match on Court 1.

Or, “Alizé Cornet vs Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, no Hawkeye.”

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Cicak was forced to use her own eyesight immediately, overruling Cornet on the very first point of the match, when a second serve of the French No. 1 seemingly fell long, leaving the the Nice-born No. 19 agog. It was clear that the umpire of the 2014 Wimbledon women’s singles final was going to be assertive early on to maintain order. Aside from the odd scream to the sky, the encounter went along relatively smoothly.

But as the first set progressed, Zahlavova-Strycova wasn’t happy with the calls from the line judges or the lack of overrules from Cicak, culminating in a burst of anger from the crafty Czech player late in the first set (as documented via various tweets):

The experienced umpire did not exactly mince her words when it came to what she thought of Zahlavova Strycova’s complaints and made sure to stamp down her authority when it mattered most.

After losing the first set, a tearful Cornet sobbed into the towel at the change of ends, but it didn’t sway the gold badge chair umpire’s attention. The second set would go smoother than the first and last year’s Wimbledon quarterfinalist wrapped up her first win over the enigmatic Frenchwoman – after no less than five successive losses.

In the thick of it all, it was Cicak who remained level-headed and controlled; there was never any doubt who had the final say on the dimly-lit side court.

What did you make of the tactics employed on Thursday? Sound off in the comments!

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About René Denfeld (202 Articles)
Weather is my business. Tennis is my playground. Born in the year of the Golden Slam. Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have.

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