Monday, 2 April 2012

Djokovic wins Miami

A superb performance from Novak Djokovic oversaw stolid resistance from Andy Murray in the Sony Ericsson Open to secure a third Miami title for the world no.1. Murray defeated Djokovic recently in Dubai and convincingly, and having benefited from two walkovers most would have expected him to have the physical edge over the Serb. But Djokovic quickly established a level of play that Murray struggled to keep up with and took the first set with ease at 6-1, coming through a 10 minute plus fourth game to break the Scot and take control of the match. The second set was much, much tighter and on display was brilliant re-direction of pace from both players, astounding defence and some punishing rallies in the Miami heat. Murray and Djokovic are very similar players, but the fine line which distinguishes one from the other was visible yesterday throughout the match, and that was ultimately the difference in the second set tiebreaker. After having recovered a mini break after going down 2-0 in the breaker, Murray gave the initiative straight back by double faulting to go 3-1 down. A Djokovic victory seemed inevitable after that point, and he comfortably saw the match out. Murray is still slightly lacking in mental fortitude when he needs it the most, and should he have held his nerve in the tiebreaker, he would have given himself a good chance to clinch the third set. Of course, it is all very well to suggest that it is a weakness to lack nerves of steel at the right moments, but Murray sometimes needs to hold his focus longer so he doesn't throw those moments away, as he did in the tiebreaker - another example was at the Australian Open where he led Djokovic by two sets to one. Djokovic comparatively held his nerve at those pressure points in the match, ensuring he was watertight when he needed to be, playing with controlled aggression, and notably he served uncannily when Murray started knocking on the door during his service games. Djokovic has to be pleased with his form right now going into the clay court season. He hasn't exerted himself unduly by getting into any marathons with Rafael Nadal (that is likely to be scheduled in Monte Carlo) and he has so far defended the points he accrued from last year, dropping little ground to his chasers, Nadal and Federer. The prospect of an early clay showdown between Nadal and Djokovic in Monte Carlo could set the tone for the rest of the clay court season and it will be fascinating to see how it shapes the road to Roland Garros.

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