Mutua Madrid Open Final Preview Novak Djokovic Versus Andy Murray
The Mutua Madrid Open final features an intriguing encounter between top seed Novak Djokovic and defending champion and second seed Andy Murray. The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winner.
The Madrid Open has a couple of unique features which set it apart from the other ATP 1000 clay events. First, Madrid’s high altitude (2,188 feet) means the balls fly faster through the air which rewards more aggressive and counter-punching styles of tennis. Secondly, it is the only ATP 1000 Clay event each member of the Big Four has managed to win.
Andy Murray was the last of his fellow Big Fourers to achieve that feat when he defeated Rafa Nadal in straight sets in last season’s final. The Scot defeated the Spaniard again in this year’s semi-finals, 7-5, 6-4, in a trickier encounter – the Scot could not serve out for either sets the first time of asking- which he did well to pull through.
That win has given Murray the chance to defend his title, and he will do so against Novak Djokovic who beat Kei Nishikori 6-3, 7-6 (4), and who also struggled at the business end of the match, squandering three match points when serving for a place in the final.
Playing Djokovic in the Madrid final gives Murray another chance, too- to get a rare win, for recent times anyway, over the Serb. Since beating Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final, Murray has scored just one win over the world No.1 in 11 attempts, a three set victory in last season’s Canadian Open final.
Montreal was a prime location for Murray to beat Djokovic- faster than most of the ATP tour’s hard courts and a time of the year Djokovic ‘struggles’. (It is hard to consider Djokovic, a two time US Open champ and three time Canadian Open champ struggling in the North American Summer Swing, but compared to the other season stretches, he does.)
Madrid is also a part of the season in which Djokovic has not put together his best results. The Serb has won it ‘only’ once (2011), did not enter in 2014 and 2015, lost early on the blue clay in 2012 (lost to Tipsarevic in the QF), and suffered both an upset at the hands of Grigor Dimitrov in 2013, and a fallout with the crowd.
The world No.1’s game is not as primed for faster conditions as it is for the slower ones which dominate the tour, but he can, if he plays the aggressive tennis needed, win on them, like he did in the year he won the Madrid title, beating Nadal in straights in the final.
Murray’s counter-punching game is more cut out for faster courts than Djokovic’s, and venues like Cincinnati, the Canadian Open, Wimbledon, Dubai and the US Open, medium-fast courts where he plays his best tennis, also bring out the more aggressive side of Murray, the side he needs to tap into to beat Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic will come out and be offensive, too, (he won 51 points under five shots of the 85 points he won versus Nishikori), which is what will make this match so interesting to watch- both players will have to come out of their comfort zones. For as much as Murray’s counter-punching skills flourish on fast courts, his athleticism and baseline skills come to the fore on the tour’s other surfaces far more often due to necessity more than anything else. As for Djokovic, he is be able to finish points quickly, and serve through the faster courts, no problem, but he can be outplayed by rivals who do it better- something which can rarely be said when it comes to Djokovic and the tour’s slower surfaces.
Prediction: In a match that will draw out the chameleon in both men, Djokovic should come through a colorful encounter.
The Serb has the mental edge over Murray- leading the head to head 22-9- and if this match comes down to a few points here and there, which it likely will, that advantage will work in his favor.
Murray, however, has a great chance here, and will be only too eager to grab it. A win in Madrid versus Djokovic would boost Murray’s confidence no end, and while it would, conditions wise, mean little for Roland Garros, it would mean the world where it really matters in Grand Slams- between the ears.
Watch Djokovic and Murray go head to head in their 2015 Roland Garros five set semi-final below:
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