A player with a more shots and a more complicated game usually takes longer to develop than someone who is say, mostly a backcourter. The final guys’ match today in Madrid was a perfect example of this. Del Potro vs Murray. Delpo has a pretty simple game – big groundies, big serve – and he basically plays the same on every surface, while Andy still hasn’t found his balance of aggression and patience on clay, preferring the constancy and sure footing of a hard court.
Maybe the rule of thumb is that a player with a lot of variety doesn’t want great variability from the surface because then there’s just too much variability all around. It’s easier to vary your game when the surface is predictable, and you can be cute without worrying about the surface out-cuting you.
Stefan Edberg had a pretty good record on clay; that was surprising, since he was the consummate s&v guy. But his technique was so good, he had such belief in his game, and he was uncomfortable rallying from the back anyway, so his game worked for him on any surface. He had a tricky kick serve, was in on any short ball, had great leaping ability, good reach and a great overhead. In other words, a simple and straightforward s&v guy. He was made to come in.
Federer’s game works well on clay against most guys – you must give him that; but he was into his 20s before he put his shots all together, whereas Nadal started pumping it out at about 18 with a backcourt game with extreme spin – it was pretty limited then but perfect for clay.
Now about Andy Murray. He did the same thing today that he did in his last tournament. He was so patient he got passive and massaged the ball so much he massaged himself out of the tournament. So many short balls. Delpo had a field day slamming them down Andy’s throat. Shades of Steffi vs Sabatini. Stef had a power game built around her FH. Gabbyrella liked to put a lot of junk into her shots; they often landed short, and Stef would make her eat them, over and over.