Andy Murray scores first clay title in Munich, plus lederhosen and BMWi8!
Andy Murray beats Philipp Kohlschreiber in the Munich Open final to win his first career clay title
Andy Murray opted for a completely different start to his clay season in 2015, and for very good reason: His highly-publicised marriage to Kim Sears on the weekend that Europe’s glamorous clay season, encapsulated by the prestigious Monte-Carlo Masters, hit the big time.
So he picked the lower profile Munich 250 to begin his clay campaign, which gave him time to practise in Barcelona alongside the tournament’s hot competition without the pressure of hitting the ground in match-ready condition.
But another reason to opt into one of the oldest clay court tournaments on the tour this week was perhaps influenced by one burden that has weighed more heavily with each year in Murray’s decade on the professional tour.
Since playing his first main-tour clay match in Barcelona in 2005—which he lost—he had not so much as reached a final on the red stuff let alone won a title. And there was no doubting he would like his 32nd career title to halt that run.
“I’ve never played the [clay-court] 250 events in my whole career, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to come and hopefully have a good run here… A lot of the times when I have played well on clay, I’ve lost to Rafa and to Novak, so I’m hoping I can have a good run.”
But make no mistake: the absence of a clay final among Murray’s 47 should not be misread. Before that first Barcelona match 10 years ago, Murray had three clay Futures titles to his name. Two semi runs in Monte-Carlo in 2009 and 2011 were halted by Rafael Nadal, in the latter case in three sets. In Rome, his semi run in 2011 was ended, in one of the matches of the tournament, by Novak Djokovic, and his quarter run there last year was again lost, 5-7 in third, to Nadal.
As for the French Open? Both his semis—in a tally of four quarter-final runs—were also against Nadal.
However in the early days of Munich, it looked as though good fortune was on Murray’s side. The in-form No2 seed Gael Monfils, who beat Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov on his way to the Monte-Carlo semis, pulled out at the last minute with knee injury, and the defending champion Martin Klizan also withdrew injured.
Murray’s first match—after a first-round bye—was against the 653-ranked qualifier, Mischa Zverev, which took him to the quarters after 75 minutes of play.
Then things got tricky, not in the draw but in the weather. A wash-out Friday meant all the quarter-finalists had to play on Saturday, with the four winners playing their semis a few hours later.
First Murray had to beat Lukas Rosol, in an edgy two-hour match, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, and then he took on No3 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, 6-4, 6-4. That notched up one milestone, his first clay final.
“It was a tough, long day. The first match was tough and in the second one there were some long rallies but I managed to serve quite well. Winning matches helps on any surface in building confidence, and this was my first week of play [on clay] since [Roland Garros] last year.
“Tomorrow will be a tough one. Hopefully we can both recover well and play a good match.”
For the 31-year-old German No5 seed, Philipp Kohlschreiber, it had been an even tougher weekend, though. Twice he was forced to come back from a set down against Gerald Melzer and David Goffin. But after a slow start to the year, Kohlschreiber was starting to find some good form: a quarter-final run in Barcelona last week and now into a fifth and final match in Munich. And he was twice a champion from three previous finals in this tournament.
Based on previous encounters, it certainly promised much. Their last match, in Indian Wells, went to three sets, and their only clay match, last year at Roland Garros, went to Murray, 12-10 in the fifth set.
But for both men, things would be tougher than expected, as yet again torrential rain delayed the start and, once they did take to court, they managed just five games before it was called off: They would have to return Monday. But what tennis they would produce for the dedicated fans who also returned.
Both played clay tennis of the highest order, mixing wide angles from the baseline, deft drop shots, fine lob winners, plentiful aces—17 from Murray, 11 from Kohlschreiber—and great backhand exchanges between one of the best two-handers on the tour and one of the most elegant single-handers.
Neither came close to a break as the first set went to a tie-break, where still the winners flowed, but Murray got the edge, 7-6(4) after almost an hour. They had won 36 points each.
In contrast, the second set saw game after game of deuces, each one tightly contested. Both were forced to save break points—Kohlschreiber two, and five deuces, in the second game—but the quality remained remarkably high. The German broke in the fourth game with a forehand winner down the line but Murray broke straight back. Kohlschreiber saved three break points in the eighth and then broke again to go 6-5 up. He served out in style, with angled drops, and a backhand winner, 7-5.
After two hours and 20 minutes, they were split by just one point.
Murray made the only double fault of the match in the fifth game of the third set, but apart from that, both continued to play creative and near-flawless tennis to another tie-break. And once again, Murray produced his most ruthless tennis, including one drop-shot winner to wrench the first advantage, and with the clock past three hours, he sealed his first clay title, 7-6(4). Kohlschreiber had won one more point, but not the last point.
Murray was delighted: “It means a lot. It’s my first final, too. To come out and play a match like that, I was very pleased. [Philipp] served unbelievable. He’s a fantastic competitor, right to the end… We might even play in Madrid on Wednesday as well!”
Murray referred to the draw for the Madrid Masters, which is already under way, where he will, after the withdrawal of Novak Djokovic, be the No2 seed. And the good news is that No3 seed Nadal is drawn in top-seed Federer’s half.
It is Kohlschreiber who may be Murray’s first opponent if the German beats qualifier Alejandro Falla. But for the unseeded Kohlschreiber, with less than a day’s rest after playing three matches over four straight days—and after such an intense, long final as today’s—it will take superhuman fitness, both physical and mental, to find his best so quickly, especially against a Murray who has played one fewer match in Munich and will enjoy a first-round bye in Madrid.
Perhaps Murray will drive to the Spanish Masters in one of his prizes, a white BMWi8. Even if he does not, we may safely assume he will get more use from the car than the other traditional gift given to the title-winner in Munich, a pair of lederhosen.
Murray sportingly changed into them on court—“Do I have to? I’d probably rather not!”—but he clearly enjoyed his spin around the court in his BMW a whole lot more.