Andy Murray takes on Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s Australian Open final aiming to banish the memories of 2010 and 2011 when his Melbourne dreams were firmly dashed by first Roger Federer and then Djokovic himself. But Murray is a new man these days, having finally acquired that inner steel which defines all great champions and most pundits are tipping him to become a serial major winner in the next few years.
Djokovic looked nigh invincible during Thursday’s demolition of David Ferrer, dropping just five games against the fourth seed and Murray’s former coach Brad Gilbert declared he’d never seen anyone hit the ball so well. But I believe Murray can end Djokovic’s Melbourne winning streak. Here’s why.
1. Variety: Djokovic’s metronomic ball-striking has seen him win three Australian Open titles but he’s a little one-dimensional compared to Murray who has literally every option available to him. These two move better than anyone else in the game right now (apart from maybe Gael Monfils) and winning points at the net will be vital to success. Murray is a better and more natural volleyer than Djokovic and that’s where he could have an edge.
2. Melbourne jinx: No one has ever managed to win the Australian Open three times in a row in the Open Era. Roger Federer and Andre Agassi have come closest but both men saw their hat-trick dreams dashed. Injury prevented Agassi from going for the treble in 2002 and in 2008, it was Djokovic who outplayed Federer (the 2006 and 2007 champion) in the semi-finals in straight sets.
3. Quality serving: Djokovic’s returning is top drawer and to beat him you have to serve out of your skin. Stanislas Wawrinka managed it for a set and a half in the fourth round but his 1st serve percentage toppled and that let Djokovic back into the match. Fortunately for Murray fans, I don’t think he’s ever served as well as in this tournament. He was landing with over 70% 1st serves for most of his five set battle with Federer and if he can earn a similar number of cheap points against Djokovic, it will help build the pressure on the Serb.
4. Increased aggression: Djokovic finished 2012 on a high, beating Murray in two tight three setters in the Shanghai Masters final and the group stages of the ATP World Tour Finals to earn some measure of revenge for that US Open final defeat. However during both those matches, Murray was still fairly passive, letting Djokovic dictate play more often than not. He spent most of the off season honing a much more lethal forehand with Ivan Lendl and against Federer, one of the best attacking players the game’s ever seen, he was controlling the majority of the rallies
5. Belief: Murray’s chances in the 2011 Australian Open final and last year’s semis (where he lost to Djokovic in 5 sets) were hindered by a combination of nerves and a lingering doubt that he was capable of seizing the moment. Now he’s got a Grand Slam and an Olympic gold medal under his belt, he’s far more relaxed than he’s ever been going into these big matches. He believes completely in his own ability and that can only boost his chances.
Article written by David Cox from Live-Tennis.com, an award-winning tennis, news and live stream website.