No. 1 Djokovic, No. 2 Murray building Slam rivalry
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are building their own Grand Slam
rivalry, one that perhaps someday will merit mention alongside
Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal, or Djokovic vs. Nadal.
When the No. 1-ranked Djokovic faces No. 2 Murray to determine
Wimbledon’s champion Sunday, it will be their fourth meeting in a
major final – and third in less than a year.
Djokovic beat Murray at the Australian Open in 2011. Murray beat
Djokovic at the U.S. Open last September. Djokovic beat Murray at
the Australian Open this January.
That’s not yet quite up to the lofty standard set by Federer and
Nadal, who played each other in eight Grand Slam title matches from
2006-11. Djokovic and Nadal have contested five major finals since
2010, including a stretch of four in a row.
While part of the appeal of the Federer-Nadal matchup lies in
their vastly contrasting games – all the way down to the most basic
level, righty vs. lefty – Djokovic-Murray features two guys who
employ rather similar styles.
They are improving servers and fantastic returners who managed
to silence big hitters in the semifinals Friday: Tough to decide
whether it was more surprising that Djokovic had a 22-4 edge in
aces during his 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (6), 6-3 victory over No. 8
Juan Martin del Potro, or that Murray had a 20-9 edge in aces
during his 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 24 Jerzy
They also are cover-every-inch hustlers who can switch from
defense to offense, quick as can be.
”There is some similarities there, in terms of if you look at
stats and stuff. I mean, both of us return well. That’s probably
the strongest part of our games. Both play predominantly from the
baseline,” said Murray, who is aiming to become the first British
man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.
”We both move well, but a different sort of movement,” Murray
continued. ”He’s extremely flexible and he slides into shots, even
on the courts here. He slides more. He’s quite a bit lighter than
me. So I’d say I probably move with more power, and he’s much more
flexible than me.”
In the women’s final Saturday, 15th-seeded Marion Bartoli of
France won her first Grand Slam title, beating 23rd-seeded Sabine
Lisicki of Germany 6-1, 6-4.
Djokovic, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, is seeking his seventh
Grand Slam title overall and will be playing in his 11th major
final. Murray is 1-5 in major finals. He has reached the
championship matches at each of the last four Grand Slam
tournament’s he entered; he skipped this year’s French Open because
of a bad back.
Murray didn’t need to expend too much energy to get past
Janowicz, but Djokovic’s win against del Potro was physically and
emotionally sapping. It lasted 4 hours, 43 minutes, a record for a
Wimbledon semifinal, and was filled with intense points.
”I did play a very long match, but I had situations before
where I had to recover even just in 24 hours for the match the next
day,” Djokovic said Saturday. ”I kind of got used to it and I
know my body. I have a great team of people around me that make
sure that we respect everything that we usually do. I’m confident
I’ll be ready for tomorrow.”
Del Potro’s take about how much Djokovic will have left for
Sunday: ”He will be OK.”
Djokovic and Murray have put up remarkably close numbers over
Djokovic has lost two sets, Murray three. Djokovic has dropped
80 games through six matches, Murray 82. Djokovic has won 95 of 101
service games, Murray 95 of 103. Djokovic has 76 aces and only
seven double-faults; Murray has 80 aces and 11 double-faults.
Born a week apart in May 1987, Djokovic and Murray first met as
”We know each other since we were 11 years old. On and off the
court, we have lots of respect for each other. Always very fair,
very honest relationship,” Djokovic said. ”Now we are big rivals
and it’s difficult. … So we don’t get together and have dinners
and parties, but we definitely always chat and remember the fun
days we had as juniors.”
The two men get along well enough that when both were at the
semifinal stage of last year’s U.S. Open, they sat in front of a
computer together and watched online while Murray’s Scotland and
Djokovic’s Serbia played to a 0-0 draw in a qualifying match for
soccer’s World Cup.
”We have a professional friendship, I think, now. When we were
younger, it was more friendly,” Murray said.
”We’ve spent a lot of time discussing various issues within
tennis and doing what I think sometimes what was best for the
sport. But I don’t think it goes more than that right now. I would
hope when we finish playing, it will be different,” Murray added.
”But it’s just hard, because playing in big, big matches with a
lot on the line, you can’t be best of friends when that’s
Djokovic leads the head-to-head series 11-7, including winning
their most recent three matches. While this is their first
Wimbledon encounter, they did play on the All England Club’s grass
in the semifinals of last year’s London Olympics, and Murray won
7-5, 7-5 on his way to a gold medal.
That’s part of year-plus stretch in which Murray has won 17
consecutive matches on grass, and 23 of 24.
His victory over Federer in the Olympic final, four weeks after
losing to the 17-time major title winner on the same court in the
Wimbledon final, gave Murray a real boost of confidence.
There’s a tremendous amount of pressure and expectations heaped
on Murray every year at this time, because of the considerable wait
for a British champion.
He knows that, of course.
So does Djokovic, who is aware there will not be many people
pulling for him in the stands Sunday.
”It’s normal to expect, in a way, that most of the crowd will
be on his side. He’s a local hero,” Djokovic said.
Murray says he thrives with the backing of 15,000 or so
flag-waving, top-of-their-lungs-yelling spectators every time he
plays on Centre Court.
”There’s that extra bit of pressure that probably Novak doesn’t
have,” said Murray’s older brother, Jamie, who won the 2007 mixed
doubles title at the All England Club. ”If (Andy) deals with that
well, then I’m sure he can perform in the final. Whether he wins or
not I don’t know, but they’re two evenly matched guys, and they’ve
had a lot of great matches in the past. Hopefully Sunday will be
Instead of another Federer vs. Nadal, No. 1 vs. No. 2, match on
the last Sunday, this time it’ll be Djokovic and Murray. In as
unpredictable a Wimbledon as anyone can recall, Nadal lost in the
first round, and Federer exited in the second, both against men
ranked outside the top 100.
Murray was asked how his mindset might be different in his
second Wimbledon final than it was in his first, 12 months ago.
”I’ll be probably in a better place mentally. I would hope so,
just because I’ve been there before. I won a Grand Slam. I would
hope I would be a little bit calmer going into Sunday,” Murray
said. ”But you don’t know. You don’t decide that. I might wake up
on Sunday and be unbelievably nervous, more nervous than I ever
have been before. But I wouldn’t expect to be.”
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