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December 4, 2020

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Andy Murray disagreed with Boris Becker calling Roger Federer ‘disrespectful’

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Boris Becker described Roger Federer as ‘disrespectful’ for using the SABR (Picture: Getty/Metro)

Andy Murray dug up an old tennis row on Tuesday night when he refuted Boris Becker’s claim that Roger Federer’s SABR was ‘disrespectful’.

Murray, the former world No. 1 from Dunblane, admitted he doesn’t ‘understand’ why creative approaches to playing the game are criticised.

‘Sneak attack by Roger’ – better known as the SABR – was a routine where Federer would rush towards the service line when returning and look to pick up his opponent’s serve on the half-volley – often with great success.

Becker, coaching Federer’s great rival Novak Djokovic at the time, admitted he wasn’t a fan of the play.

‘It’s almost disrespecting the other guy’s serve. Everybody talks about that’s his new strategy – he comes in. It’s within the rules,’ Becker told Sky in 2015.

‘If he would have played a [John] McEnroe, [Jimmy] Connors, [Ivan] Lendl or even me, we would have said: “Roger, in all honesty I like you very much [but] I’ll go straight at you”. In my generation guys would not have accepted as it is now.’

Murray doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about (Picture: Getty)

Speaking to fellow tennis ace Gael Monfils, Murray admitted he never understood why it wound people up so much.

‘I remember a few years ago when Federer was standing really close to return the second serve and some people were saying that was disrespectful,’ said Murray.

‘I just don’t see it. I don’t understand why that was. I read an article maybe Boris Becker before he played Novak Djokovic at the US Open and he’d said it was disrespectful. I don’t get that.

‘I don’t understand why that’s disrespectful to do that. If you’re capable of doing it and it’s successful then why not.’

Murray holds a similar view towards the underarm serve, which has been criticised in some parts.

At the ATP Finals this week, Daniil Medvedev used the tactic against Alexander Zverev – and won the point – and Murray thinks it’s a viable strategy.

‘Always when that happens, you hear it the commentators they always start going, “Oh is it disrespectful to hit an underarm serve?” I don’t understand it,’ he added.

‘If players are going to stand six or seven metres behind the baseline to return the serve, I think it’s a completely legitimate play and as we’ve seen it has been at times pretty successful.

Medvedev pulled out the underarm serve this week (Picture: TPN/Getty)

‘It’s not like players are doing it to mess around. It’s used as a legitimate tactic when players are standing that far behind the baseline. I thought it was a smart play, I certainly wasn’t expecting it when I was watching the match and he [Medvedev] obviously won the point so it’s a good play.

‘I’d imagine if you miss it as well – I don’t remember ever doing it in a professional match – you’d probably feel quite silly. You feel like a bit of an idiot.

‘I would say, often when you see it a lot of the time you’re seeing the highlights and people like to put it there when it has worked. But I would say it’s a pretty successful tactic and it’s not like guys are only winning one out of every 10 points when they’re doing it. I’d think they’d be winning at least half.’

Murray won’t be remembered for bringing much flair to the court and he confessed he’d drummed a lot of the creativity out of his game when he became serious about winning the biggest titles.

‘When I was younger I would say I was a bit more creative and a bit more experimental with shots and then as the pressure for kind of winning and results grew, I started to lose that a little bit,’ he said.

‘I think I probably miss it a bit playing a little bit more that way but I think it’s great for tennis when players are experimental. I think the French tennis players, it feels like a lot of them play with quite a lot of flair. A lot of them have different techniques and different gamestyles and I like that.

‘It’s good for fans. It’s good for kids growing up and watching because all of them have different ways of playing. I think it’s great for tennis, I don’t like it when everyone is playing the same way.’

While Murray is a fan of underarm serves and SABRs, he does not think another attempt of tennis innovation – the shot clock – has paid off.

‘I don’t think it’s speeding up play like people were hoping. Sometimes someone like Rafa – and I would do it myself while I’m playing – you look to the clock to see how much time you have left.

The shot clock has not been a success, says Murray (Picture: Getty)

‘Sometimes the players are taking longer between the points when they don’t have to. They’re going through their routine and making sure they start bouncing the ball when there’s 10 or seven seconds left.

‘Sometimes although a match can be long, the amount of time that’s used between the points can also contribute to the length of the match. Roger, for example, who plays very quick between points, you know, it can still be physical and a tough match but all of those extra seconds between points add up during the course of a longer match and it can add to an extra 20, 30 minutes of play.

‘I don’t think the shot clock has worked as well as hoped in terms of speeding up the matches.’

While he’s a fan of players having to collect their own towels rather than ball kids, he thinks that has added another potential way for tennis to be horribly slowed down.

‘I don’t think there should be an expectation that the ball kids should help with the towels,’ he continued. ‘I’d be fine when things go back to normal that players are responsible for their towels.

‘With players now having to go and get their towels and being in a routine every point, because the towels are not brought to us we’re walking to the back of the court to towel down.

‘Sometimes the pace of play is a little bit slow. Tennis needs to try and start speeding up. The pace of play, the time before matches, the time in between matches and stuff.

‘It’s tough. I guess the shot clock was there for the right reasons but I don’t think it’s made things much quicker to be honest.’

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