Andy Murray v Yuri Bhambri : Cave-man tactics and their limitations in sport and maybe in business

January 19, 2015

Caveman

When a qualifier meets a top seeded tennis player, sometimes caveman tactics result. We review Andy Murray’s march with Yuri Bhambri, and consider the implications of all-out aggression in other sports and in business

The start of the Australian Open, the first major of the season. Somewhat against my better judgment, I get up in the small hours in the UK to see how Andy Murray is doing. His opponent, Yuki Bhambri, is a qualifier and ranked 317 in the world.

1st set

Half an hour into the match. Bhambri’s aggression is impressive. Murray breaks Bhambri’s serve but failed to capitalise, being broken himself, ringing the first set to a tense four games all. Murray then breaks and holds to take the set 6-4.

Both players are making excellent winners, but both are rather prone to unforced errors..

2nd set

Bhambri serves first and holds. A discordant but enthusiastic chant rises up from tee-shirted Murray supporters. In the next game, good defense from the Indian draws errors from Murray, but the Scot’s resolve helps him survive; 1-1.

Bhambri continues with his aggressive style of play and wins service after more winners and errors. Murray replies with a love game bringing it to 2-2. Bhambri is still the aggressor and seems to be benefiting from winning though three rounds of qualifiers Murray breaks, then holds, making it 5-3.

Take out the errors…

Minus a few errors from each game, the quality of the match is more suited to be a second week tie. An edited film would be misleading. The commentators suggest Bhambri is playing like a top fifty player.

Defend Rally Attack

Murray continues to plays rather defensively with flashes of brilliance. I remember the coaching maxim: Defend Rally Attack. Murray too inclined to defend and Rally; Bhambri too inclined to go from defend to attack. This is evident again as Murray moves to 40-15. In returning, the all out attack opens up court, higher risk [one attacking return forces Murray to attack not rally, and he hits winner down the line. Murray wins serve reasonably easily and takes the set.

0nce the pattern is seen, it becomes clearer. Bhambri does not rally enough. I think of chess. All-out attack is the weaker player’s weapon which too often accelerates defeat, although the infrequent wins reinforces the pattern of ‘cave man’ play. [which suggests another idea: the infrequent upsets against seeds more obvious in first rounds, more chances for the cave man play to succeed.

Third set

A good example in first game of third set, when Bhambri grabs an ad point then a net point for him wins game and a break. Murray continues to rally and wait for errors. The pattern for me seems to persist but Bhambri wins and extends lead to 4-1. Murray wins own serve. 4-2. Pattern persists, and Murray breaks back. 4-4 and eventually into tie break.

Prediction for tie break

My prediction is that failure to Defend Rally Attack more dangerous in the tie break Murray goes to 5-2 then 6-2 and 6-3 but two then Murray closes it out as Bahmrhi ballons out a return.

Murray’s verdict

Opponent is a junior world champion, but injury explains his low ranking.

Notes

Caveman chess was a popular term among British chess players to refer to violent attacks often unsound but always unsettling.

Rather than show an image of one ‘caveman’ chess player I had in mind, I choose the image from Wikipedia Commons.

Also thanks to Conor for helping in the editing process.


Why I’m not a tennis commentator: Murray v Federer

January 26, 2013

Australian Open Tennis Semi-Final 2013. After five games of the match, two commentators declared that Federer could not win unless something significant changed. What had they ‘read’ that was not obvious to a non- professional observer?

Tudor Rickards

As a tennis addict I watch a lot of matches. I even offer opinions on a game I have never played at competitive level. Why not? There are plenty examples of less gifted players who make impressive commentators. With the notable exception of John McInroe, former top players do not seem particularly insightful. [I hesitate to comment on female commentators, as I don’t watch or listen enough to have a view on them or the game.]

Australian Open Tennis Semi-Final 2013 [25th January]. Views were expressed by former grand slam winners Pat Cash and Goran Ivanisowitch, after only five games. Both though Murray was completely in charge. Why?

I roused myself from beneath the warm morning blankets [UK time] and switch on TV. The first set went as the pundits predicted. To me, Murray seemed more comfortable on serve, although scattering enough errors to need a few big winners on big points. Federer seemed a shade more nervous than usual. The pattern or strategy of Murray was clearer. Strong hitting to the Federer backhand with powerful forehands to win points. Federer more being forced to respond.

Second set

A more even set. The TV commentators are more cautious than Pat and Goran, saying that Federer is never out of a close match. Now fully floodlit on the court. Are conditions changing? Is Federer giving up on points needing a big chase? My mind thinks tiebreak with edge to Murray. Tiebreak it is. Weak start by Murray. Murray misses a chance to win, misses, loses. One set all.

Third set

Murray seems in discomfort. Notice, Federer is hard to read. Physical and emotional state concealed. Federer has a weak service game, loses it, Murray holds. Wins set. 39 to 19 points won. Federer takes comfort break.

Fourth set

Murray’s concentration lapses and he drops serve. Fights back. At 4-4 no predictions. Murray stronger and breaks again to serve for match. Federer brilliance Wins to reach another tie break. And wins tie break.

Fifth set

The commentators have to make predictions. I’m glad I’m not one of those. BBC pundit just favors Murray. Who moves to 5-2. Then 6-2 to win match.

Learning

For me, realization that commentators are forced to resolve all anxieties for the rest of us. Maybe they “read” situations through better experience and tacit knowledge. Or maybe utter confidence in a belief is one of the charcateristics of a champion?


Momentum Studies: Murray v Harrison Australian Open 2012

January 17, 2012

Ryan Harrison

Andy Murray was expected to beat Ryan Harrison in the first round of the Australian tennis Open in January 2012. After Harrison won the first set Murray won the second and commentators began to talk of momentum swing.

Andy Murray v Ryan Harrison Australian Open Jan 2012. Round 1

Sets 1-2

Murray faces promising but somewhat erratic young American. Expected to win. Early start for watchers in UK . Awoke 5.30 am to learn Murray had lost first set. By time I’d settled to watch, Murray was moving ahead in second set. He seemed a bit tentative but won with fewer errors. One set all. First mention of momentum swing by the commentators.

Set 3

Murray breaks early. Still appears a bit tentative. ‘Retains advantage but still unconvincing. [The playing] level from both has dropped.’ Harrison seems a bit more prone to error,

Idea: Momentum more likely to sustain if stronger player/team seizes it.

First racquet-chucking by Harrison.

Idea: Murray’s ‘momentum’ not helped by low 1st service %. Although 4-2 up, talk is not of Momentum. Maybe negative momentum (Let’s call it ‘NegMo’) for Harrison. Murray has chances but fails to capitalize on them for second break of serve. Murray wins set. Commentators assess performance as steady. Imply no momentum (or not sustained). My assessment: Murray playing well enough to win match.

Set 4

Murray drops four points (from three game points at 40-0 to break point at Advantage against in second game of set) before squaring at one set all. Conserving energy?

Second racquet chuck from Harrison. Conditions continue to change (Shadows). Harrison drops service. Murray now leads 1-2 with serve to come. But seems a bit listless. Poor body language. Commentator picks up possible shoulder trouble for Murray. Set continues, with Murray playing with little urgency (apparently). Breaks again for 5-2. Wins in over three hours.

Momentum check:

The notes above suggest that the remark about momentum was not much more than a commentator’s knee-jerk assessment when the stronger player recovers after dropping the first set.

A Similar note was struck on sky text: “Murray seized initiative in second set [and] maintained momentum when he broke Harrison again in the opening game of the third set”.

To be continued…

Subscribers are invited to join in on this examination of momentum. It’s a phenomenon frequently mentioned in sporting and political contests.