Patrick Mouratoglou

Murray v Djokovic: The new classic encounter

Patrick Mouratoglou

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The classic Federer v Nadal final we all expected has been
replaced by what might become one of the future classics of Grand Slam final tennis:
Murray v Djokovic.

They're both 23 years old, they're both very ambitious, and they're
both among the players who never got discouraged by the outstanding domination
of Roger and Rafa.

Sure, sometimes it looked like it was getting to them. They've
suffered and even got depressed about it, as Murray did this time last year
when he lost a second Grand Slam final against Federer.

But they've been improving and improving again. They're still on
the rise. They know they've been able to get this far despite the presence of
the Swiss and the Spaniard.

But which of them will come
out on top?

This final is very open. If Murray wins, it would finally give him
his first major title. It's a victory that could set him free and help his
career into a new dimension.

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Photo 1 - Novak Djokovic Of Serbia (L) Returning In His AFP/Getty Images
The Scotsman is a unique
talent
, but he's been hampered by playing in the shadow of the two giants,
and the extra confidence that would come from winning a first Grand Slam would transform
his career.

The Serbian, meanwhile, has already
begun his journey to the very top
. The second half of 2010 saw him reach the
US Open final, beating Roger Federer along the way, and then following it up
with a nice indoor season that was capped off by a Davis Cup triumph in which Nole
was decisive.

It's incredible how much Djokovic and Murray have in common.

They're also friends, having known each other for many years and
regularly training together. Being the same age, they regularly faced each
other in the youth tournaments, like in the Petits As final in Tarbes. They
know each others' games backwards - and have done for years.

There's more to it than that, though. They're both counter-punchers,
really efficient on the longer points, but both able to bring a point to a head
when an opportunity arises.

Both have great serves and are among the best in the world when it
comes to returning. And both have built very high fitness levels and can defend
their ground like no one else.

With so much common ground, let's take a look at the areas where
one or other player should have the edge - then see the four things which will
decide the match.

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Photo 1 - Novak Djokovic Of Serbia Plays AFP/Getty Images
Advantage Djokovic

Djokovic has the edge over the Scotsman on several different
levels.

Physically, I think he's even fitter because his body is perfectly
suited for this sport. He's slender, explosive and very flexible.

If the match goes on and reaches five sets, I'll give an advantage
to the Serbian. I think he'll be able to stay fresher if it happens. Andy,
despite top-level training, is heavier and more muscular. We should get lots of
long rallies in this match and physical abilities will be crucial.

On top of that, Nole is playing the best tennis of his career.
He's fresh from that Davis Cup victory, which brought him an amazing
confidence. He feels very strong, maybe stronger than ever.

And I've always been struck by his determination. He believes in
his abilities, he's ready to fulfil his ambitions and is convinced nothing can withstand
him. I'm convinced that within a few years he will become the number one player
in the world. It'll happen as soon as the two great champions in front of him slow
down a bit and so leave him some space. His eagerness to bring that day forward
as quickly as possible will give him an edge.

His experience will also give him an advantage over Murray. Andy
has played two Grand Slams finals but has failed to convert them into victories,
whereas Nole has a win under his belt and won't feel the same pressure.

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Britain's Andy Murray makes a forehand return to Spain's David Ferrer during their semifinal match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melb
Advantage Murray

Undoubtedly, in my opinion, the Scotsman has the edge when it
comes to comparing the players' overall games.

Andy is amazingly gifted, able to pull off shots and movements that
are unique in the game. He can play some magical tennis, and that will give him
a huge advantage because he knows he has the ability to turn a match around. At
any given moment he knows he is capable of transforming a match with four
outstanding shots.

Furthermore, his game has more variety. He can hurt his opponent
at any time with a single shot, and he can speed up the game like no one else -
especially on his backhand.

Andy is also probably a better server than Novak - though the
Scotsman struggles sometimes with his timing. If he starts tossing too far
ahead he will see his first serve percentage falling, but if everything is
working as it should he can fall back on his serve. It's a crushing shot,
something that often gets him out of tough spots.

The four deciding factors

1. Aggressiveness will
be crucial. As I mentioned earlier, both players are counter-punchers: they
like to make the opponent expose himself before striking. But in this final,
the player who dictates the points will have the advantage of being able to
tire his opponent out.

Finals are usually won by the player who tried the hardest. You have
to avoid rushing, but you must try to dominate: avoid shyness and embrace ambition.
Both their natures often push them towards playing neutral tennis, but during
this final it will be out of question.

2. First serve
percentage will be critical. They're both great servers - but are both equally
good at returning the ball. It won't be easy to hold serve in this match, and whichever
of them can keep hammering the first serves in will have a chance to take a
breather, and give them the luxury of taking risks on the opponent's service
games. This is going to be one of the main things of this final.

3. Fitness could also
be a turning point. In a Grand Slam, players always have to be ready to go to five
sets, and given that we can expect a lot of long and intense rallies in this
final it could make for an epic.

Both players will have many chances to take the advantage, or get
back into things, and staying fresh enough to remain lucid and choose the right
shots on key points will be hugely important. If the match goes to five sets - a
distinct possibility - the ability to deal with that unique pressure could be
decisive.

4. Finally, there's the
mental game.
A final is often won in the head, with the space between the
ears determining the quality of performance. Mental strength will also help
them through the inevitable periods of suffering players face in a Grand Slam
final. And both will have to believe utterly in their ability to beat the other.

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Great Britain's Andy Murray out on the practice court
What we will see

Andy will be very focused on his serve. He knows he has to put a
lot of first serves in. Both players will try to turn around their backhand
after their first serve in order to win the point in two shots.

We should get a great backhands battle, this shot being a favourite
for both. But Novak shouldn't get into these exchanges too often, because I
think it's an area where Andy is better than him.

The Serbian will have to open up the game with his forehand, which
he can use to speed things up and end the points quicker.

Andy will have to be wary, because when Nole opens up the game the
Scotsman will have just one chance to strike. Djokovic will go for the
Scotsman's forehand, because Andy is sometimes not that comfortable on that
side.

Meanwhile, Murray will try to keep Novak pinned down on his
backhand in order to make the most of his famous backhand down the line.

If both players can hold their own serves, they'll go on the offensive
with each other's second serves, and use every chance they can get to put the
pressure on.

Guys - best of luck to both of you!

 

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