For just the third time in their career, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic will face off in a Grand Slam Final. If we’re to judge and predict the outcome of this one based on their Grand Slam encounters (0-2 to Djokovic) and their ability in the 2012 US Open so far, this one should be another title for the Nole.
Andy Murray kept digging holes for himself. First it was in the third round, beating Feliciano Lopez in four sets, winning all of his via tiebreaks. Next was Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals. The Croat won the first set 6-3. Murray scraped away another tiebreak, and then Cilic simply imploded, losing 2-6, 0-6. Tomas Berdych was just as tough in the semifinal. Murray dropped the first set 5-7, but was clinical and untypcially aggressive the rest of the match, eventually winning in four sets.
Djokovic? Only one set dropped en route to his third consecutive US Open final. No need for historically great comebacks like he had against Roger Federer a year ago, while his Australian Open comeback against Murray from 7 months ago is probably still sitting nicely in both players’ heads. Djokovic made easy work out of Juan Martin Del Potro and dropped his only set in the semifinal, against David Ferrer, once again coming up short, losing the next three sets after winning the opener.
Keys to the match? Both are excellent returners, so the one who comes up with more ‘unreturnable serves’; the one who stays more mentally sharp and remain focused yet aggressive through (hopefully) the five set match, will come out as the victor. Nothing new, but the two players have met each other 14 times, with Djokovic holding an 8-6 edge.
There isn’t much to their games and style the counters one another, so it’ll be about shot-making and staying the path without implosions. While Djokovic isn’t playing that special brand of Tennis he was last year, the chances of him ‘losing it’ before Murray does are far smaller.
All in the head for Murray, who’s style and ability to dictate a point’s pace is something that can make Djokovic uncomfortable, loving the opportunity to change defense into offense in one quick, powerful shot. Murray is prepared for this, but the question is if he can remain aggressive and focused throughout the match, like he did at the Olympics, and like he didn’t in that Australian Open semifinal.
This match also predicts the future big rivalry of tennis. At some point, logic says, Roger Federer won’t be such a threat. He reached only one Grand Slam final this year, winning it, but for Murray it’s his second; For Djokovic his third. Nadal is only a year older than both of them, but he’s unlikely to play again in 2012, and who knows in what kind of shape he’ll be when 2013 arrives.
For Djokovic, it’s another chance to show that right now, despite not being nearly perfect as in 2011, he’s the best in the world, winning his second Grand Slam of the season, more than Federer and Nadal. For Murray, it’s a chance to finally win one, in a year that seems to signal some sort of change in his game and attitude, needing the final stamp of approval only a Grand Slam title can provide.
Prediction (because we must) – Murray has shown plenty of mental toughness in Queens over the last 14 days. This seems to be his time, his year, with the Olympics just being a start. Djokovic’s mental edge should be enough but this time, it won’t be.