Djokovic v Murray:
Murray stands on the brink of creating history today. He came close last year and then a couple of weeks later showed that he could have won it by beating the same player on the same court in the Olympic Final. Obviously that was a substantial consolation prize and he deserved it but once you look beyond the gold medal and national pride as far as Wimbledon is concerned what that win did was to pile even more pressure on for this year.
The Wimbledon crowd is a unique animal among tennis crowds. The British don’t give a toss about tennis which is mainly due to going so long with few serious contenders. Their interest is poked with a stick once a year and people who normally wouldn’t even consider watching a tennis match suddenly start to include tennis references into their conversations in the beer garden. I was actually able to discuss the final this morning with my wife whose eyes normally glaze over within 2 seconds at any other time of year.
Before this year the nation felt that Murray had a chance of winning Wimbledon. He fell at the last fence in 2012 but the Olympics win means that they now assume he will win this year. Given that they don’t follow tennis they don’t know what Djokovic has achieved. Many of them won’t even know who Djokovic is. Most of the top players could walk down a street in England without being recognised. When Murray went a set down against Verdasco the English negativity reared its head. When he went 2 sets down Murray instantly became Scottish rather than British and “here we go again”. If there is a player that will ignite the doubters in the crowd today it is Novak Djokovic. They will keep cheering for Andy but their desperation could affect him a little if he goes behind.
In 6 of their last 7 matches Murray has taken the opening set. Djokovic won 4 of those 7 matches and has won their last 3.
Both players have had 5 setters. Djokovic was the latest player to face the bombs that Del Potro has been sending down despite the pain of his injuries. It took Djokovic 2 service games to start to put pressure on the Del Potro serve and is he had taken more than just 3 of the 15 break points he created their match wouldn’t have gone beyond 4 sets (if that).
Murray survived being 2 sets down against Verdasco who has really found some form and was serving superbly but he is known for being mentally weak and Lendl’s galvanised version of Murray is pretty much the finished article when it comes to the mental side of the game.
Janowicz pulled what turned out to be a mini-Lisicki and his serve fell apart but that was not just down to nerves and the occasion. He had one of the world’s best returners on the other side of the net who was forcing him to push for more on those second serves.
So who wins this one? I have always been a strong advocate of stats but stats only show trends over an extended period. On individual matches they aren’t always of much use and this is perhaps one of those situations.
I think a lot will depend on who gets the opening set. Djokovic takes it and he breaks the trend which tips things in his favour. It would also crank the crowd to defcon 3. Their desperation will change the atmosphere on Centre Court. Murray is used to having his mother in the crowd. Mum’s cheer their kids even if they don’t think they can win. Murray has a few thousand “mums” on his side today. The trouble is that after a while the kids can tell that mum isn’t a believer ( I certainly could! ).
If Murray can take the first set the atmosphere will be completely different and I feel this is his best chance. You never know, if he can win the title he might even get second place in the Sports Personality of the Year although the public may just shrug their shoulders and say, ” well we expected him to win anyway”.
Without seeing the start of the match it’s virtually impossible to pick a winner with any certainty. My gut feeling is that Djokovic spoils the party. The stats/trends are in his favour but there are no stats for a Djokovic/Murray Wimbledon final. My gut feeling yesterday was wrong as I went for a player who nearly spilled hers in front of millions.
Djokovic in 4 or 5.