Follow the match live here: Djokovic vs Murray Live Australian Open 2013
It is the final that the majority of people expected. While Murray is still only number three in the rankings, it is difficult not to view this match as the meeting between the two best players in the men’s game right now.
The H2H currently stands at 10-7 in favour of the Serb, although they are locked at 6-6 on outdoor hard courts. Novak Djokovic won their last meeting on an outdoor hard court, saving five match points to lift the title in Shanghai, while Andy Murray won their last meeting at a Grand Slam in the US Open final. Djokovic is looking to win his third successive Australian Open final, while Murray has lifted the two recent big titles – the US Open and the Olympic gold medal. What I am really saying is that there is very little to separate these two players.
It is the second Grand Slam final in succession that has featured Djokovic v Murray, and it is likely to become a regular sight over the coming years. However, it is the first that sees them meet as Grand Slam champions. The weight of having failed to win a major title was finally lifted from Murray at Flushing Meadows.
Novak Djokovic was cruising through the draw until he came up against an inspired Stanislas Wawrinka. Just over five hours later, he had scraped through a five-set epic, winning 12-10 in the fifth set. However, any questions about his fitness were answered in a comfortable four set win over Tomas Berdych and any questions about his form were comprehensively answered as he put the fourth seed, Spaniard Ferrer, to the sword in the semi-final.
Whichever statistics you look at from that match, Djokovic was supreme. Six aces to Ferrer’s one and not a single double fault. 30 winners to just 16 unforced errors is a stunning ratio for any match, let alone a semi-final against one of the top five players on the planet. He won 91% of points behind his first serve and 79% behind his second serve. He won 55% of return points. However you look at it, it was a stunning performance.
Admittedly, Ferrer does not have the game to beat Novak Djokovic on a hard court. He does not even have the game to remotely trouble the world number one on a hard court. A comfortable straight sets win was expected, as I predicted, but it was the manner of the win that made people take notice. Only the injured Mikhail Kukushkin in his defeat to Jurgen Melzer in the first round won fewer games than David Ferrer did in this match. That is how one-sided the semi-final was.
The biggest mystery about Andy Murray’s semi-final was how on earth it went five sets. It is difficult to really argue that Murray should not have won all five sets. He was certainly the better player in every set, and if he hadn’t lapsed slightly in the two tie-breaks, he would have won this match in straight sets. Whether that extra hour or so on court comes back to haunt him in the final is to be seen.
The biggest factor in the semi-final was the serve of Andy Murray. It was one of the best serving displays that he has put on, especially in a big match. If he serves like that, it is very difficult to beat him. He hit 21 aces and zero double faults. He was winning 75% of points behind his first serve, and getting that first serve in 64% of the time. The other pleasing figure is the 63% of points won behind his second serve, especially when you saw how Federer was looking to attack that second serve.
Federer only had one break point in the first three sets, and it wasn’t until the fourth set that he was finally able to break the serve of the British number one. He was also struggling on his own serve. He was fine as long as he hit his first serve, but Murray was dominating the points when he failed to get that first serve in, as shown by the 58% of points he won returning the second serve.
It was also clear how dominant Murray was in the baseline rallies. He hit 62 winners to Federer’s 43, with just 47 unforced errors to Federer’s 60. He was far more aggressive than he has been in recent years, particularly on the forehand wing. He was ripping winners from all angles off that wing, and his backhand was as solid as ever.
We all know what to expect from the final. As Murray said, “I hope it’s a painful match. Because that means it will be a good one.” I simply cannot see this match going three sets. Each of their last three clashes have gone the distance.
The key for Murray will be his serve. In their last six matches, Murray’s first serve percentage has been over 60% three times, and under three times. He won all three of those encounters where it was over 60%, he lost all three of those encounters where it was under. Djokovic is virtually the only players on tour that Murray would not be expected to win the majority of rallies.
As such, he needs to get some free points on his serve. He currently stands third on the aces list for this tournament with 71 in his six matches. However, against Federer, he also picked up plenty of cheap points on the second shot, particularly off the slice serve wide on the deuce court. The two players are likely to split the rallies, so if Murray can serve well, he should be confident of holding serve on a regular basis.
Djokovic will be looking to take advantage of any second serves though. In that US Open final, Murray won just 48% behind his second serve. If his serve starts to desert him, Djokovic will take control of the rallies off the return and, as good as Murray’s defence is, it will be very tough to win those points.
However, the same can be said for Djokovic. While his first serve is not necessarily as destructive as Murray’s, it can still provide plenty of easy points. As with Murray though, if he misses first serves, Murray will attack the second serve, as he did against Federer, who possess one of the best second serves in the business.
Really, the winner will almost certainly be the player that can win the most cheap points behind serve. Once the rallies begin, it will turn into a war of attrition. We saw it at the US Open last year, and we saw it in their classic match at the Australian Open last year as well. That match went almost five hours, and it would be no surprise to see this match go close to that.
The nerves for Murray from never having won a Grand Slam will have gone. He knows that he can beat Djokovic in a Grand Slam final. This will be an all-out war, but I fancy Murray to sneak it deep into the fifth set.