© Ella Ling

Miami 2012 - Novak 2

US Open: Five thoughts on Djokovic versus Murray

   
Five thoughts on the US Open men’s final: Novak Djokovic versus Andy Murray: 
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If Andy Murray is to avoid becoming the first man in the professional era to lose his first five grand slam finals, he must defeat the man whose movement on a hard court is better than anyone whose shoes have ever squeaked behind a baseline. While Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are more at home on the sport’s natural, more traditional surfaces – Federer on grass and Nadal on clay – Novak Djokovic prefers an ‘artificial’, man-made court: he is at his best when he is on cement, concrete or anything hard and unforgiving on your body. As Boris Becker watched Djokovic’s victory over David Ferrer – the Serbian has now won his last 27 hard-court matches at the slams – he voiced his concern about the world number two’s ankles: “Most other people would have been in hospital now.” So admire Djokovic’s athleticism; just don’t try any of these slides and lunges at home.
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So, this might be the first slam since the 2004 French Open when both Federer and Nadal didn’t feature in the semi-finals, but nothing comes easily in this era. Some of the British tennis public learnt that the hard way at last year’s Australian Open, getting ahead of themselves as for the first time Murray was to play someone other than Roger Federer in a slam final. Then Murray lost a lop-sided match, in straight sets, to Djokovic (though, as Ivan Lendl has pointed out, that heavy defeat doesn’t look quite so bad now when you consider how Djokovic played for much of last season)
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The received wisdom seems to be that, if the wind picks up for Monday’s final, that ought to favour Murray. But is the defending champion going to be so thrown by the weather again? Unlikely. Djokovic had been totally discombobulated in the swirl on Saturday against Ferrer – he trailed 2-5 when the match was suspended, and the stadium evacuated, because of an approaching tornado – but he was a different player when they resumed on a still, calm Sunday, and though he could do nothing about the opening set, he won the next three.
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Murray has a couple of advantages over Djokovic, who has reached the final for the third successive year. One is that he had a day off on Sunday, after completing his semi-final victory on Saturday (though Djokovic did his best to minimise Murray’s advantage by ripping through his match against Ferrer). The other is his memory of their last encounter – in the semi-finals of the Olympic tournament at Wimbledon – when he turned in arguably the most accomplished performance of his career. Play like that in New York City, and he will give himself every chance of becoming Britain’s first male grand slam singles champion since Fred Perry in 1936.
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Whatever happens in New York City on Monday, Federer will stay as the world number one. It might not be until after the season finale, the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, that we will know who will finish the year on top of the rankings.
   
  • Anonymous

    Djokovic plays at such a high level (tornadoes notwithstanding), and so rarely throws a set or even a solitary game away to sloppy errors, that he has to go into this final as favorite. If Murray’s to stand a chance, he’ll have to play at that same level, with that same intensity. He’s done it before on the big stage, at the Olympics. If he does it again tomorrow, we’ll have a great match and a hard time picking a winner. I can’t wait!