A lie in!!! First match isn’t until 6am. And what a first match it is!
Nadal v Murray – Final, Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships
This should be a belter! World number 2 against world number 4.
Murray has been playing some of the most aggressive, consistent tennis that we have seen from him. The big test is now right infront of him – Nadal in a final. Nadal leads the head to heads 13-4 and has won all 4 matches that they have played this season.
This week Nadal has played some solid tennis with only flashes of the brilliance we expect from him. His last 3 rounds have given first sets wins of 7-5, 7-6, 7-5. He has almost been playing safe in the first sets and then stepping up a gear in the second sets.
Murray had a scare against Baghdatis in the first round but that sparked him into life. He has looked confident and has been in control of every match since.
Murray is due another win against the Spaniard but if he is to achieve it he must continue with the style of play that has won him a place in this final. He has gone for the break of serve early and has delivered. I’d like to see more first serves in to give himself every chance of winning his second title in 2 weeks.
If Nadal continues with his tactics this week then he could easily find himself having to come back from a set down. Its easy to think, oh its Nadal he must win, but he has only looked like a great player when he is a set up. I still don’t feel he has regained all of the confidence that Djokovic has taken from him. Fish had chances to take the opening set but wasn’t able to take them. Nadal can’t afford to give those same chances to Murray.
These types of finals are always hard to predict but I think Murray takes this. As I said though he must keep to the same tactics and not respect Nadal so much that he starts being too passive. His aggressive game can control a match with the Nadal that I saw against Mardy Fish in the semi final.
Update: Wow!! As often happens Murray needed to be in trouble on his own serve to get him to tune in properly to the match. He faced 2 break points in his first service game and only then did he really start to play. Unfortunately the damage was done and whilst he saved the first of them Nadal won the second break point.
Murray was much more competitive but was unable to get the break back and Nadal took the set.
In the second set Murray had several break points early and seemed to have wasted the chances but finally managed to get the break for 3-1. He was then 0-40 down in the next game but found 3 aces to get out of trouble. Another break point in that game was saved and he held for 4-1. Another break secured the set and also gave him the first serve in the third set.
I have never seen anyone dominate Nadal the way Murray did in the third set. Murray was hitting winners from everywhere and Nadal looked shell shocked. Nadal managed to win just 4 points in the entire set as Murray took the set 6-0. Absolutely fantastic performance from the Scot.
Murray won 3-6, 6-2, 6-0.
Berdych v Cilic – Final, China Open
Berdych leads the head to heads 2-1 and they are 1-1 on hard courts. They last played in February this year and it was Cilic who won in straight sets.
Berdych has been going through a mini slump in form and the last thing he needed was having to retire from his third round US Open match. However it seems to have actually done him some good as he has come back this week with renewed energy and his confidence grew after his straight sets win over Melzer in the first round. Since then he has bagelled Verdasco and Kohlschreiber and blew Tsonga away in the third set of their semi final 6-1.
Cilic is another player enjoying a return to the sort of form that we know he is capable of but that he has shown so rarely lately. He has started each match so far as favourite including against Ljubicic but in the final he starts as definite underdog. Losing a set against Fognini was less than impressive and demostrates the gulf between these two finalists this week.
Berdych starts as favourite at 1.43 . This will be a match dominated by serve but Berdych has also been returning exceptionally well. He is my pick to lift the trophy.For me, one third stake on at the start as there is a realistic chance we will get a higher price in the opening few games. I’m looking for 1.80 or higher.
Update: very poor start from Berdych saw me laying Cilic at 1.70 . Cilic took an early break and hung on to take the set. In the second set it was Berdych’s turn to take an early break and he was playing more like his semi final form. However towards the end of the set Cilic broke back. At 4-5 Cilic served a poor game and Berdych won the break and the set with a superb backhand winner down the line.
Third set and Cilic’s challenge had faded. Screaming in frustration the Croat was broken and it was a one sided set after that.
Berdych won 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.