The finalists at the Mutua Madrelena Masters Madrid were Frenchman Gilles Simon ranked 16th and Brit Andy Murray ranked fourth. Murray trumped Simon 6-4, 7-6 to obtain his second career masters’ shield.
Although Simon was a first time participant at a Masters’ series event final, he had won 5 out of 6 career finals and showed no signs of jitters. Aided by various unforced errors from his opponent, Simon held serve without difficulty his first two times out 2-1. For his part, Murray had no problems on his service games. Content with hitting from the baseline, the Brit kept the ball in play and tried to exploit the Frenchman’s forehand weakness. Thus, the rallies were usually exhaustive and decided by errors. Finally, Simon blinked in the fifth game, committing three consecutive forehand unforced errors to give Murray triple break point. After saving the second break point with a backhand crosscourt winner in a 33 stroke rally, Simon mistimed a backhand to hand Murray the break 2-3. Thereafter, Murray’s serve was the deciding factor. With excellent placement and speed, Murray never faced a break point, wrapping up the first set with an ace.
After a tough hold to start the second set where he erased a break point, Simon became more aggressive on Murray’s second serve with partial success. Up 3-2 with Murray serving, Simon saw a sliver of daylight after making a backhand volley winner for 15-30. Yet, with a couple of aces, Murray pulled off the game 3-3. Play after play, Murray had Simon running sideline to sideline, but the Frenchman stayed firm. Fittingly, the set was settled by a tiebreak. With a deep service return producing an error from Murray, Simon took a 2-0 lead. However, with a backhand down the line winner, Murray soon wiped out the advantage. Enamored with the dropshot, Murray had kept it in check throughout the match. But, with the score tied 4-4, Andy pulled out the dropshot which Gilles tracked down for a winner. Then with a crosscourt forehand winner, Simon arrived at double set point 6-4. Unfortunately, with two forehand miscues, Simon failed to capitalize on these opportunities 6-6. A backhand crosscourt winner gave Murray championship point. Once more, Murray resorted to the dropshot. Despite getting to the ball, Simon was unable to convert the volley.
Although Murray defeated second seed Roger Federer in the semifinals, Gilles was the giant killer this week. Close to being ousted in the first and third rounds, Simon survived tiebreaks against Igor Andreev and Robby Ginepri respectively to move on. Moreover, in the quarterfinals, the diminutive Frenchman returned Ivo Karlovic’s gargantuan serves adroitly to win 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, a task at which his predecessor Novak Djokovic had failed. Yet, the week’s marquee match was Simon’s semifinal against world number one, Rafael Nadal. After being bludgeon in the first set, Simon retooled his game to twice break Nadal in the second set and force a third. Then after being down 2-4, Simon pushed the set to a tiebreak and prevailed after Nadal had a minibreak 3-6, 7-5, 7-6. In addition to improving his ranking, Simon has positioned himself as a contender for a spot at the year end championship.