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Southpaw survival, Murray style


Originally published on: 26/02/10 16:32

Whatever level of the game you play, facing a left-handed opponent offers a different set of challenges. For most players it means a tactical reshuffle and a stern test of their backhand, Even lefties generally hate playing lefties!

And then there’s Andy Murray. While many see matches against left-handers as a whole new ball game, for the world No.4, who faces Fernando Verdasco tomorrow, it’s a chance to add to his already impressive haul of 20 wins out of 25 against lefties – and those five defeats have all come against Rafael Nadal (who is naturally right-handed if you’re being picky).

So as Andy prepares to face his second southpaw in succession at the Aussie Open – Jurgen Melzer, who he beat in the fourth round, is a leftie – lets look at what problems left-handers can give a player, and how Murray beats them at their own game.

Lefties rely on a swinging serve and hook cross-court forehands played with height and topspin…

Being left-handed pits the strength of the forehand against the relative weakness of an opponent’s backhand. Lefties therefore rely on a swinging serve and hook cross-court angled forehands played with height and topspin, particularly in the ad-court. Both these shots take players out of court, leaving them exposed.

Murray has two key weapons to wipe out at southpaw’s advantage – excellent footwork and a great backhand. He moves fast, cutting down the angle, and is able to take the ball early for his cross-court backhand.

His speed allows him to hit their ball on the rise before it gets above his shoulder. He therefore can rally comfortably cross-court, and if they don’t get enough of an angle on their shot he can switch and go down the line, effectively turning the tables – applying their tactic against them, and negating their advantage.

This plays with their heads since he is about the only guy who can consistently apply this type of play, so it is the one match where the leftie is forced to change tactics. Add his ability to serve so well now and hold serve comfortably most the time and you can understand that there is unique pressure on lefties when they play Murray.


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.