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Andy Murray v Gael Monfils: The Analysis

With it being a Grand Slam, there are more statistics and graphics for these matches than you would find in the average ATP or WTA match. As a result, it seemed like it might be an interesting exercise to see whether they could be used to try to break down a match by set and pin-point the key themes that drive the outcome of sets.

It is obvious difficult to explain why some of these themes happen from set to set. However, we can try and understand how these themes influence the final outcome of the set for now, although the why will be put to one side for now, possibly to be revisited at a later time.

The match that I have chosen to look at is the seemingly inexplicable Andy Murray against Gael Monfils quarter-final match. At two sets to love ahead and *30-40 on the Monfils serve in the first game of the third set, it looked set to be an easy straight sets win for the Brit. However, the momentum would swing dramatically in the favour of the Frenchman, before almost inexplicably swinging back in a rather anti-climatic final set.

Set 1

The first set saw both players testing each other out. The rally hit point chart shows plenty of balls being played from deep on the backhand side, but it is particularly noticeable that Andy Murray gave Gael Monfils very few balls down the centre of the court to attack and very few opportunities to step inside the baseline.

As is often the case early on, there were plenty of lengthy exchanges as both players tried to find the weaknesses in their opponent’s game – it was Murray that came out on top in these long rallies. When the rally went beyond five shots, Murray won almost 70% of the points, culminating in winning a 34-shot rally to clinch the first set.

It was interesting to see that Andy Murray did not appear to be targeting the lines with his first serve early on in this match. Often criticised for not making enough first serves, he focus on getting the first serve into play to avoid giving Gael Monfils too many opportunities to attack the weak second serve. Over the course of the match, Murray’s first serve averaged 126.8mph compared to 128.0mph for Monfils, but his second serve was far below Monfils’ 95.5mph at just 83.1mph. The first serve is critical for Murray, which might explain the relatively safe positioning of his serves in the first set.

The statistics showed this to be a tight set, but the difference was the way that Murray was able to attack the Monfils second serve. Although Monfils had a high first serve percentage, he won just one point behind his second serve in the set.

Set 2

After losing a tight first set, the wheels started to come off for Monfils. 17 unforced errors in the second set compared to just five winners was the obvious reason for the ease in which Murray won the second set. There were also plenty of opportunities for Murray to step inside the baseline and go on the attack and it was no surprise that this set saw his highest total of winners – 12.

There also seemed to be a growing confidence in the Murray serve. After a conservative first set, we see his serve placement start to become more adventurous in this set, targeting the corners and the lines far more than in the first set. With 66% of those first serves going in-play, he did not face a break point until the dying moments of the set.

The combination of the Monfils errors and Murray playing more aggressively, both on serve and within the rallies, saw the length of points dramatically fall in this set. Now almost 88% of shots were less than 10 points and Murray won over half of his points in this set in five shots or less. Many of these came after a big serve, then putting away the second ball.

Set 3

Andy Murray should really have tied up this match in the third set. The key moment was during the first game of the set, when Monfils was break point down. He hit a poor drop shot, starting walking for his chair before seeing the ball clip the net and dribble over. That gave him some inspiration and started the comeback.

The Murray serve was still targeting the lines, but was becoming more predictable. Particularly on the deuce side, he was going to the Monfils forehand with the vast majority of first serves and Monfils was standing very deep to ensure that he was returning a decent ball into play.

Monfils also started finding more depth on his shots, forcing Murray to play a lot more defensively and from behind the baseline. Looking at the rally hit point chart, we can see that there were not many times that Murray was able to step forward and attack from inside the court, in contrast to the previous sets.

As well as playing with more depth, Monfils concentrated on keeping the ball in play far more in this set, as shown by the extended rallies compared to the second set. This time, over half of the points were over 5 shots with almost 20% of points having more than 10 shots. Now, as Murray started to fatigue, Monfils was starting to dominate these long points. Over 60% of points over 5 shots were won by Monfils, with Murray looking to finish points quickly.

Set 4

Set four was all about Gael Monfils as Murray continued to fatigue. Monfils had hit a hot streak and Murray appeared to be struggling with an injury, although he may possibly have been conserving energy once the set drifted away from him.

In this fourth set, 66% of rallies ended within five shots with Murray winning just three points when the rally extended over five shots. However, much of this was to do with Monfils going for big winners and hitting them regularly. 13 winners and just 6 unforced errors were by far his best statistics for any set. This was certainly helped by a deterioration in Murray’s serve – his first serve percentage fell and the direction was no longer there.

With the confidence that was coming from the winners and the support of the crowd, Monfils started to play much more aggressively. He was moving inside the baseline far more regularly and Murray was struggling to find consistent depth against the quality of shots that were coming from the racquet of the Frenchman.

Set 5

At the end of the fourth set, Murray was virtually begging with the tournament referee to take them off court, but in vain. All the momentum appeared to be with the Frenchman, but there was a stunning chance in the course of the match. The Monfils serve that had been so effective in the previous set and a half seemed to desert him. One of the key deteriorations on the serve appeared to be the direction, or more, the lack of it.

We can see that Monfils serve was rarely in the corners, or even close to the lines. Despite missing just two first serves, he was just throwing them into the middle of the service box, meaning that Murray was either able to dictate terms off the return or to get the ball back in play and get himself into a good defensive position.

By this time, both players were showing signs of fatigue and the points were being kept very short. Murray was being forced to do very little to win points, with almost a third coming through unforced errors from Monfils. Given the condition and the struggles that Murray appeared to be going through in the previous set, it seemed that Monfils gifted Murray far too many cheap and quick points in this final set. Indeed, over half of the points that Murray won came in five shots or fewer.

The major difference here was that the winners that had been flying in for Monfils in the previous sets were now hitting the net or drifting out of the court. Whether it was fatigue or a loss of concentration, it was difficult to tell, but the worrying thing for the Frenchman is that there seemed to be no attempt to change his tactics when it became clear that his hot run was over.

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