How Murray Lost The Power Game But Beat Wawrinka
World No. 1 will face Milos Raonic on Saturday
Murray won 16 more points (67-51) than his Swiss rival, but when you examine the velocity of the groundstrokes, it appears to be in direct conflict with the final score.
Murray and Wawrinka were not shy trading forehands and backhands from the back of the court, but the more powerful groundstrokes in this encounter were clearly struck by the player who won’t end up playing this weekend.
Wawrinka’s average forehand speed was 77 mph, well ahead of Murray’s 73 mph, with the Swiss hitting 16 forehand winners to just five for the World No. 1. It’s tough to comprehend that the match loser consistently hit the ball harder and crushed more than three times as many forehand winners but only won a third of the games played.
On the backhand side, Wawrinka averaged 68 mph to Murray’s 64 mph, but that jumped to 75 mph to 71 mph once backhand slices were taken out of the data set. Both players managed to hit five backhand winners for the match, showing the evenness of the one-hander versus the two-hander. Wawrinka overall rallied from superior court position, making contact with the ball 22 percent of the time inside the baseline, compared to Murray’s 17 per cent.
So if Murray did not hit the ball as hard or hit as many groundstroke winners or play closer to the baseline, how did he win the match?
He won the new metrics of our sport, not the old ones. Below is a breakdown of where Murray found his superiority, including the “Serve +1” strategy of hitting a forehand as the first shot after his serve. Murray hit a serve and a groundstroke 17 times, with 16 of the groundstrokes being a forehand. He won 15/16 of those points, and the only time he started the point behind a first serve with a backhand, he lost the point.
Murray First Serves
94% “Serve +1” Forehands (won 94%)
6% “Serve +1” Backhands (won 0%)
Murray Second Serves
76% “Serve +1” Forehands (won 62%)
24% “Serve +1” Backhands (won 50%)
Wawrinka also adopted the tactic of looking for a forehand immediately after his serve, and he also had a superior winning percentage when he was able to execute the strategy.
Wawrinka First Serves
77% “Serve +1” Forehands (won 64%)
23% “Serve +1” Backhands (won 43%)
Wawrinka Second Serves
64% “Serve +1” Forehands (won 56%)
36% “Serve +1” Backhands (won 40%)
We are all in awe of Wawrinka’s raking one-handed backhand, but that shot was exactly where Murray attacked first with his return of serve. Murray returned 46 per cent of all returns to the outer third of the ad court, directly at Wawrinka’s backhand wing; 40 per cent right back down the middle; and just 14 per cent to Wawrinka’s more potent forehand wing in the outer third of the deuce court.
Murray dominated rallies that lasted between zero and four shots, winning 56 per cent of them (30/54). He also won more mid-length rallies (between five and nine shots) and extended rallies (10 shots or longer) than Wawrinka.
Murray now moves through to the semi-finals at The O2, where he will play Milos Raonic. The Canadian will hit the ball harder than Murray, but the Scot will put more balls in play. Both will have a thirst for a forehand after a serve. A point here. A point there. Greatness chased everywhere.