Predictably, Roger Federer dumped Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (11) in the Australian Open final to boost his tally of men’s majors to a record-extending 16. Murray’s drought continues, as does Great Britain’s (150,000 years if you believe the Fed).

With Tiger Woods’ rapid descent into oblivion the question to be posed is: after Mohammed Ali, is the Fed the greatest sportsman/person of them all? Maybe, just maybe, he’s even bigger and better than Ali?

If records are anything, then he is. If being a gentleman, great sportsman and an eminent student of all that is good in his chosen profession, then he is.

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[pic: The Age]

Tennis Blog lists five things we learned from the 2010 Australian Open men’s final:

1. Federer is no dummy

Federer was accused of sour grapes when he put down Murray’s defensive style. But he wasn’t wrong. If Federer attacks and is on his game, he’ll beat the Scot more often than not. The first two sets, Murray hit a combined 12 winners, compared to Federer’s 28. The aggressiveness Murray showed against Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals was nowhere to be seen until the third.

Now, it’s perhaps easier to play aggressive against Nadal than Federer, but getting the first big strike on the ball in a rally sends the Swiss backward. Unlike in the Nadal match, Murray rarely served and volleyed — once to be exact.

2. Murray’s serve is still off

Murray needed a good serving performance to keep Federer at bay, and guess what, that deserted him, too. Murray’s combined first-serve percentage was 57. And in the first two sets, he only hit two aces.Then in the tiebreaker, Murray connected on four of 12 first serves.

“I didn’t serve well the first set,” Murray told reporters, adding he thought he did better thereafter. On the other hand, Federer served at 66 percent for the match.

3. Fed has no hard feelings, we think

Federer’s verbal volleys toward Murray on Friday suggested he doesn’t like the 22-year-old all that much, but he at least paid him a bit of respect early. After Murray hit an astounding two-handed backhand down the line, from well out of position, Federer applauded — not something he normally does.

But Murray missed similar shots the entire evening, the kind he made in thrilling fashion against Nadal and Marin Cilic in the semis. Comfortable at the net, his volleys were off. Touch shots, such as drops, also went astray. Murray made 36 unforced errors, high for him (29 in four sets versus Cilic). Nerves.. big occasion..Federer pressure.

4. Murray isn’t discouraged

Barring a fabulous clay-court season, Murray won’t be one of the favorites at the French Open. And playing on grass takes some getting used to, even if he reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2009. So Murray’s only other real shot at a major this season might come at the U.S. Open, where he lost to Federer in the 2008 final.

“I worked really, really hard to try to do it and give myself the opportunity,” Murray said. “So far it hasn’t been good enough. But I’m sure one day it will be. When it comes, maybe because of the two losses, it will be even better.”

5. The umps love Hawk-Eye

Enric Molina, Sunday’s umpire, had a pretty quiet time in the chair, just the way he would have wanted. There was no swearing by Fed this time. But in the first set, Murray asked Molina about a ball that was called long. Molina, in a line often uttered by officials sitting on the fence, said it was “very close.”

Not really. It was astray by some distance, relatively speaking.

And, let’s not forget – anyone with South African connections likes to claim just a teensy-weeny bit of the Fed (his mother is South African).

 

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