For the 21st time in a span of 8 years, the Serbian sensation and the British paragon will go head to head in a clash featuring two former US Open champions. Djokovic leads the head to head 12-8. This is their second meeting at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Andy Murray having won the first face-off in the finals of 2012 to lift his maiden Grand Slam silverware. The match went the distance as Murray prevailed 7-6 7-5 2-6 3-6 6-2. It was a classic between two players considered to be the best returners in the game, with their dynamic backhands, consistent baseline grinding and relatively underrated serves. The quality of shot-making reached unforeseen levels as the packed house was treated with some top drawer stuff on the court, including a record breaking 22 point tiebreak and a rally that included 54 exchanges. Another 30 shot rally saw Djokovic on his knees and brought the crowd on their feet. As tennis fanatics await another high voltage match, let us take a look at how the numbers play out going into this much anticipated clash.
If one allows Murray’s current dip in form to pass unnoticed, then there is very little that separates the two in question. Djokovic and Murray have split the two set five setters they have had, Novak winning in Australia and Murray winning in US. They have met twice before at the Quarter Finals of a tournament, and again they are tied at one a piece, with the Serbian winning in Miami 2014 while the Scott crossed the line in Toronto 2008, each winning in straight sets. Their last meeting at the US open was the longest match between them. to add to the accolades, it was also the longest Men’s Singles Final in the US decoturf, tied with the 1988 final between Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl. Although Murray trails the head to head, but he is the one who leads 5-4 in the nine tour-level finals the duo have been a part of. Djokovic leads 3-2 in the five Grand Slam matches they have played and they are tied 2-2 in Grand Slam finals. Interestingly Djokovic leads 10-6 on the hard courts but he is yet to beat Murray on the decoturf as the Scot leads 4-0, having won in straight sets in Toronto, Cincinnati (twice) and of course the epic 5 setter in the US Open.
As far as this match is concerned, the first set is crucial to both the players, more so for Murray as he has not been playing his best tennis of late. Also Murray is yet to beat Djokovic after dropping the first set in any of their matches. In 16 of their 20 head to heads, the man with the first set has gone on to win the bargain, and this list includes 4 of the 5 matches they have played at the Grand Slams. Andy Murray however leads in the tie break department winning 6 times out of the 10 on offer. Tomorrow, it will be absolutely mandatory for Murray to keep the winners to unforced errors ratio in the balance throughout the match. His first serve needs to deliver big time enabling him to extract as many free points out of it as possible. Of course the Achilles’ heel, that is the second delivery will be put to stern test against Novak’s returns. Djokovic on the other hand will be looking to keep things as simple as possible, grinding Murray down, slowly but surely. Going by the progress in the tournament itself, Djokovic of course stands out as the favourite by some distance. He has probably been the best player in the men’s half so far this tournament. Murray on the other hand has not been all that convincing and has had difficulties in maintaining his level of concentration against the lesser players, having dropped two sets in four matches. However the straight sets demolition of Jo Wilfried Tsonga (winner in Toronto), in the fourth round, should do Murray’s confidence a world of good.
Novak Djokovic is under a certain degree of pressure coming into this match as he may fall behind Federer in the ATP race to London if he loses against Murray and Roger goes on to lift his sixth US Open crown. This might work against Novak tomorrow in crunch situations. There is however, little pressure on Britain’s favourite son and in all likelihood he will come to court with a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude. Although the numbers and current form makes Djokovic the firm favourite, it would indeed be wrong to write off the former world number 2. On his day, Murray may take down anyone on the other side of the net