It has never been easy to separate Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. They were born a week apart in 1987 and their professional lives have been intertwined ever since their first meeting at a junior event in France when they were 13 years old. Each player’s development has been matched by the other and tonight, they will bring to the Rod Laver Arena games of differing styles but equal potency.
As MC Hammer once said, let’s break it down…
Djokovic knows what it feels like to lift not just a grand slam trophy but the Australian Open in particular, while Murray has come through two previous major finals without so much as a set to show for it. The Serbian will try to gain as much leverage from that as he possibly can but Murray played far better against Roger Federer in last year’s final than he did in his grand slam final debut against the same player in the 2008 US Open final, which suggests that he is learning with every occasion. Has he learned enough?
According to most pundits, Djokovic is marginal favourite, thanks largely to his blistering win over Federer in the semifinals and the air of certainty and security he has carried, for the most part at least, during this fortnight. Djokovic’s status as a former champion, playing a man who has only ever been the bridesmaid on other people’s big days, means that his own expectations will be high. Murray, for his part, has the sizeable burden of his country’s 75-year wait for a male grand slam singles champion to carry. That and the creeping thought that another grand slam final loss will confirm him in many minds as tennis’s nearly-man could be enough to tighten those right-arm muscles up at just the wrong times.
Much depends on whether the ferocious heat forecast for Sunday lingers into the evening. Both look in top-notch condition but Djokovic has a history of breathing problems, notably in high temperatures, and has retired through injury or illness from grand slam matches on no less than six occasions. Reports suggest a more rigorous training schedule for Djokovic during the off-season training block (albeit a training block shortened by his Davis Cup duties in December) which may have helped him put the laminated sick note away for good. Murray is known for his brutal training regime, much of which is completed in Miami in hot, humid conditions not dissimilar to those he will experience this evening. The Scot, though, has had one day’s less rest after finishing his semifinal on Friday night. Hmmmm.
The Two Games
Djokovic wins this one. It’s a significant weapon and much improved this year. Murray can counter with confusing changes of pace which may draw errors though
Murray can find sudden surges of power, which adds unpredictability to power and penetration but he will only be in a position to do that if he, rather than Djokovic, is pulling the strings
Both serve well. This will be a battle of who delivers the biggest and best serves at the key moments
Murray has silky skills at the net but needs to be brave and attack in order to bring them into play. He will pay for any lapses into passivity
Djokovic’s speed of foot enables him to get into position early to pass and he is particularly dangerous down-the-line off both wings
Return of Serve:
Murray edges this one, by virtue of his uncanny anticipation and quick hands but it’s a close-run thing
Both men cover the court well but Djokovic’s excellent lateral movement gives him the nod here.
Too close to call… Really?
By Eleanor Preston