Sunday, 9 September 2012

US Open 2012 Final Preview: Andy Murray vs Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns a shot against Paolo Lorenzi of Italy  during their men's single first round match on Day Two of the 2012 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 28, 2012 in the Flushing neigborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
So the final has been set. After weathering a great start by David Ferrer and some gruelling, lengthy rallies, Djokovic secured his place in the final to reignite a rivalry which is developing into what could be one of the great rivalries of modern tennis. The clash tomorrow in NYC will be their latest in a Grand Slam since their 5 hour thriller at the Australian Open this year, where the opportunity for Murray's first Grand Slam is once again at stake. The Australian Open was the first tournament Murray played under the tutelage of Ivan Lendl, and since then Murray seems to have moved forward and developed as a player, accomplishing his greatest achievement in becoming the Olympic champion. It seems ripe time for him to win his premiere slam. We have of course heard this many times before, but with his masterful performance at the Olympics, he should have a hugely positive experience to draw upon when he faces the most formidable man on a hard court for the past two years, who is chasing his fourth hard court major in a row. The past two matches have been a showcase for Djokovic's staggering defensive capabilities as the mighty hitting del Potro was unable to batter through the Serbian stronghold and nor was the dogged David Ferrer. Dubbed the 'elastic man', his ability to redirect powerful drives and retrieve normally unreturnable serves has been more daunting than his aggressive game. It's almost impossible to hit through him. But Murray has several more weapons to trouble him, and a backhand that can match Djokovic's pound for pound.

A possible key to the match is how well Murray serves - if he keeps his percentages high and plays with enough variation to keep Djokovic off balance he'll be able to take earlier strikes and not trade too much from the baseline. The more capable volleyer, Murray has to be looking to shorten the points and finish at the net when possible, because getting into protracted rallies with Djokovic does not bode well when the Serb is defending the way he is currently. He has to move Djokovic side to side and try to draw him into the forecourt where he is less comfortable coming forward. Expect plenty of sublime passing shots from both tomorrow. For Djokovic, he is the man to beat, realistically speaking. If he executes the way he has been doing he's going to be almost insurmountable on this surface, particularly if he combines his phenomenal defence with an aggressive mindset. Murray will play plenty of touch shots, and Djokovic needs to be ready to take those types of shots on and play as close to the baseline as possible.

It's a tantalising prospect and a superb way to end the year of Grand Slams. My prediction:

A 5 set classic, Murray the victor. 

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