Rome Final Andy Murray Defeats Novak Djokovic on Final Stretch to Roland Garros Five Points
Andy Murray’s 6-3, 6-3 defeat of Novak Djokovic in the Rome final earned the second seed his first title of the year. The Tennis Review looks back at the Scot’s best career performance on slow European clay courts, one that sees him go into Roland Garros as one of the favorites.
Murray scored his first Clay court win over Djokovic.
Djokovic had beaten Murray in all four of their previous matches on clay going back to the Monte Carlo ’08 last sixteen all the way to the recent Madrid final which the world No.1 won in three sets.
The Serb had also dominated Murray since Miami 2014, losing just once in 13 matches, in the 2015 Montreal final.
The head to head now stands at 23-10 in Djokovic’s favor.
Murray won his first slow clay court ATP 1000 title.
The Scot now has 12 ATP 1000 titles, putting him fifth on the all-time list, and this is his second one on Clay after Madrid 2015.
This is his first ATP 1000 on slow European clay though (Madrid plays faster due to the high altitude). Rome is more of a traditional clay court speed wise and, arguably, the most similar to Roland Garros.
Djokovic skipped his morning practice and had his ankle strapped.
The news Djokovic had skipped his morning practice and the sight of his strapped ankle certainly boosted Murray’s chances. As did Djokovic’s much tougher draw, defeating Nadal and Nishikori in hard fought matches, and the fact he had played the second semi-final late into the previous evening.
If those factors were not damaging enough to Djokovic’s chances, the rainy damp conditions, which caused the world No.1 to slip several times, left Djokovic less than happy out on court, and he made no secret about it, requesting the match to be stopped, and having his request denied.
Injuries, long previous matches, an off-day- Djokovic has managed to overcome all those hindrances and grab victory in the past so full credit has to go to Murray for not allowing the Serb to find his way back into the match, and doing exactly the right things to take advantage of the situation.
Murray delivered his best ever Clay performance.
Aggressive tennis was needed to overwhelm Djokovic, and that is exactly what Murray produced. The Scot was aggressive, especially on the forehand, hitting 11 winners, had a positive winner-unforced error count of 24-19, and won 13/17 points at the net.
Against the game’s best returner, Murray needed to be strong on serve, and he did not let himself down. The Second seed was impressive on his first serve, winning 31 of 38 first serve points, and saved all three break points against him.
The Scot converted 3 of his 6 break points, too, one of them on match point. The Scot defended brilliantly as Djokovic moved up to the net, and when the world No. 1 struck an angled backhand inside the service box to Murray’s backhand side, Murray ran outside of the doubles line, got his racket on the ball and hit it back into the court for a winner.
That match point highlighted Murray’s positive attitude throughout the match, the most crucial factor in his win. There was the odd negative outburst, but he never let it get in the way of his impressive play. This time it was Murray who proved the mentally tougher of the two, and what better timing that just before Roland Garros.
Murray now goes into Roland Garros as a genuine favorite for the first time in his career.
The world No.2 has talked about his hopes of winning Roland Garros, but with this win over Djokovic in Rome, where the Serb is a four time champion, those hopes could conceivably become a reality.
While Murray had Munich and Madrid on his resume, he was missing a prestigious ATP 1000 slow clay title, and a win over Djokovic on the surface. Now, he has both.
Whatever the draw, Djokovic’s ankle, or the conditions, Murray proved the better of the two on the day, and the confidence that very important fact should give him will do wonders for his chances in Paris.
The Second seed would avoid Djokovic until the final, and would have a mental edge over all the field bar Nadal and Wawrinka. Should he meet either of those two, those could be stumbling blocks, but if Murray has proved anything in his career, it is that he is well versed at eventually clearing such blocks quite elegantly.
Should Murray make the final and face Djokovic, if he can once again tap into Djokovic’s weaknesses on the day, namely his mind which is at its most vulnerable at the business end of Roland Garros, then the rival Djokovic has been so brutally dominating of late could end up being the world No.1 ‘s unlikely undoing.
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