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Brain Game: Murray's Masterful Return

Discover how Andy Murray got the better of Milos Raonic in the Wimbledon final

The return of serve is the least practised shot in our sport. Andy Murray showed the world just how wrong that is, powering to a second Wimbledon title on the back of a masterful return performance against one of the biggest servers in the game.

Murray defeated Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(2), putting return after return back in play to ramp up pressure all over the court. It subsequently forced Raonic to press just a little too much in attempting to end the point early on his terms.

To the final, Raonic enjoyed not having to hit another shot after a serve more than having to hit one, with 51 per cent of all serves unreturned. In the final, against the suffocating defence of Murray, that number was basically chopped in half down to 26 per cent.

Free points dried up in the Sunday London sun, and rallies stretched out far longer than Raonic was comfortable with. The pressure of making returns created the amazing statistic that Raonic’s average rally length on serve actually ended up longer than Murray’s.

On Raonic’s service games to the final, his average rally length was around 2.5 shots, but that blew out to four shots in the final against Murray. The simple yet powerful effect of one more ball in play eventually took its toll.

Murray enjoyed shorter rallies than the Canadian when serving, at only 3.7 shots per point, which was also much shorter than his tournament average of 4.4 shots.

Murray seemed to thrive against the power of the Raonic serve in the final, winning a higher percentage of points against Raonic’s first serve at 33 per cent, than against the second at only 29 per cent.

Raonic’s favourite first serve patterns in both the Deuce and Ad courts was to serve out wide to open holes on the other side of the court to immediately attack.

In the Deuce court, Raonic made 17 first serves out wide, four at the body, and 15 down the middle T. In the Ad court, Raonic made 21 out wide, four at the body, and just 12 down the middle T.

Raonic made 64 per cent of his first serves in the final, which was one per cent higher than the entire tournament average of 63 per cent, but it also equalled his lowest total for the tournament.

Raonic did win a massive 71 per cent of his second serve points, which was tied equal-best with his quarter-final performance against Sam Querrey.

Raonic Serve & Volley

Raonic serve and volleyed on 45 per cent of his first serves, which was much higher the 30 per cent he employed to the final. Clearly, Raonic felt the pressure to end the point early at the front of the court much more than trying to go toe-to-toe with Murray from the back of the court. The other advantage of serve and volley was to capitalise on the constant flow of returns Murray was making, instantly attacking anything that was floating high back to his side of the court.

Raonic won 64 per cent (21/33) of his serve and volley points in the final, which was well below the 76 per cent he had won on the road to the final.

Second Fastest Serve in Tournament History

Raonic hit a 147 miles per hour bomb serving at 4-4, 30/30 in the second set - a point that Murray ultimately won. That delivery tied for the second-fastest serve hit in Wimbledon history, behind Taylor Dent’s 148 m.p.h. serve against Novak Djokovic in the 2010 second round. Raonic aimed the missile at the backhand jam location of Murray. Just like most serves, it came back in play. Raonic then hit a forehand approach to Murray’s backhand, but as Murray had done all day long, he rolled a delicate backhand passing shot cross-court for a winner, setting up break point.

Murray Baseline Control

Murray won 49 per cent (61/125) of his baseline points in the final, while Raonic struggled mightily from the back of the court, only winning 32 per cent (23/73). Too often, Raonic could not hurt Murray with his backhand slice or penetrate the Scot's defence well enough with his run-around forehand.

To illustrate just how tough it is to gain an advantage from the back of the court, Murray finished the tournament only winning 52 per cent (394/764) of his baseline points, while Raonic was a distant 63rd in this strategic category, winning just 44 per cent.

Andy Murray’s second Wimbledon title is a lesson for every junior and aspiring professional around the world. Our sport is going through a cycle where great returning trumps great serving, and if you get good enough at it, Wimbledon glory beckons.

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