Queen’s 2015: Andy Murray into 50th final after two-day campaign over Troicki
Andy Murray beats Viktor Troicki to reach the final of the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club
Andy Murray may have entered the Aegon Championships this year as the top seed and ranked No3 in the world, may have won the title three times, may be second only to Roger Federer among active players for his winning performance on grass, and may have scored more wins on the tour this year than anyone except the world’s best man Novak Djokovic—39 wins to the Serb’s 41—but he had found it far from plain sailing in his pursuit of a fourth title at the famous Queen’s Club.
He arrived in some of his best form since his Wimbledon-winning run in 2013, certainly with his best clay-court performance: two titles on the red stuff in Madrid and Munich, plus the final of the Australian Open and Miami, and the semis at Roland Garros and Indian Wells.
But even without facing a seed—defending champion Grigor Dimitrov and 2012 champion Marin Cilic were scheduled—he had played a couple of tough straight-sets wins over No65 ranked Yen-Hsun Lu and the big-hitting No42 ranked Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco. Come the even bigger No48 ranked left-hander from Luxembourg, Gilles Muller, Murray found himself a set adrift before coming back to win, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4.
Murray, like several other players in the draw, had found the pace of the big servers on this dry and fast grass almost too hot to handle—Muller ended his run here with 64 aces to his name—but his grass class came through, helped not a little by the greater attack he has injected into his game, and he made it to fourth semi-final at one of his favourite tournaments.
Again, he faced an unseeded man but one who was making his way back up the rankings at a rate of knots. Already Viktor Troicki had reached a grass final last week in Stuttgart, losing out to Rafael Nadal, and now he was aiming for a second. He it was who had beaten Cilic here, and then outperformed the tall, big-serving John Isner in straight sets.
The former top-12 player had plummeted outside the top 600 after a 12-month suspension for an anti-doping violation during 2013, but was already back to 29 this week, and he, too, had been pounding down the aces, 43 so far.
It’s probably fair to say, too, that there was not much love lost between the two: Murray had been quite open in his disapproval of Troicki’s missed blood-test, regardless of any extenuating circumstances, and that would perhaps give him a touch more ‘edge’ from the get-go—though he had, in any case, won all six of their previous matches.
Murray’s tournament would continue to be anything but plain sailing yet again, as his semi fell victim to the first serious rain of the week. The two men began in front of a hugely enthusiastic crowd late on Saturday afternoon, but there was incident aplenty in just the first half hour.
Murray had Troicki on the ropes with six break points, and it was on the last of those that the Serb fell heavily, rolled over and clutched his left shoulder in pain. The medic was called, but after a few minutes, they took to court only for the rain to start and play to be halted. After one false dawn, the match was called off until 11am the next day.
It meant the winner would have to play two matches within a couple of hours of each other: the final against a rested Kevin Anderson was scheduled for 2.25pm.
Murray clearly returned in no mood to extend this match longer than necessary. He faced a gutsy ace on the opening break point but a drop shot and then a lob did the necessary damage and Murray had the break. A love hold, another winning drop shot, and one more even finer drop from a backhand slice, and Murray broke again as Troicki double faulted. Eight minutes, three games, two breaks and Murray led, 6-3. He had dropped only three points on serve.
He dropped more than that in the opening game of the second set, as a regrouped Troicki took Murray to break point, but the former champion resisted the threat and then hit back with a couple of outstanding backhand winners to pressure Troicki. From 0-30, the Serb pulled back to deuce and survived three more before holding for 1-1.
Murray came under heavy pressure again in the fifth game, going down 0-40, closing to deuce but then facing another break point. He netted a backhand and Troicki took the lead. A hold later and he led 4-2. But it did not last long. Murray made a swift love hold, went on the offensive and broke back as a Troicki serve and volley went astray.
Some big serves from both men, and they headed to a tie-break, and although Troicki got the first point against a serve to lead 2-0, Murray regained the lead and sealed the match with a typically athletic point—chasing down a drop shot, chasing back for a lob, and making a lob reply to draw a last error.
Murray roared and the Queen’s crowd roared with him as he grabbed the win, 7-6(4), after just over an hour on court.
The top seed, then, takes his place in the final, a physical challenge against the big and in-form Anderson barely two hours later.
Murray was, naturally, keen to get off court—“just to and see my physio, get straightened out, get some food down me, and shower.”
But he relished his tilt at a fourth title: “I enjoy playing big servers. It’s always a challenge. The return has always been the strongest part of my game. I will need to return well later if I want to have a chance at winning and I look forward to it.”
And after a long lunch, the London faithful would look forward to it, as well.