One of the more enthralling rivalries of modern tennis is set to write its latest chapter on Saturday afternoon, as world No. 1 Novak Djokovic meets Andy Murray for the 22nd time on the ATP World Tour. The Serb leads the head to head series comfortably 13-8, following a string of recent victories over the recovering Scot, yet Saturday’s encounter could produce a legitimate threat to Djokovic’s undefeated streak at the China Open.
Top seed Novak Djokovic maintained full control of his match against Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-final round. Apart from crushing a late comeback from “Baby Fed,” the Serb faced little resistance en route to finishing the match 6-2, 6-4 and picking up his 22nd consecutive win in Beijing.
“It was pretty slow conditions because of the weather,” said Djokovic. “It’s a bit cold today, which I think suited more to my style of the game. I was trying to mix up the pace, give him high balls to the backhand, serve efficiently. Everything worked well. The second set was up and down. But generally it was a good performance.”
Djokovic’s performance lasted just over an hour and a half and set up the latest match-up in an riveting rivalry against two-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray.
“Andy just won last week the [Shenzhen] tournament, [he’s on a] seven-match winning match streak,” said Djokovic. “I’ve seen a little bit of his matches this week. He’s hitting the ball very well. Every time I play him, it’s a huge challenge. It’s a very physical match. A lot of long rallies, exchanges. I do not expect anything less than that tomorrow.”
In one of his best performances of the season to date, Murray dispatched reigning US Open champion Marin Cilic 6-1, 6-4 to reach the semi-final round of the tournament. Murray won 71% of his first serve points, converted four break point opportunities and saved all five he faced on serve.
“It was a good win,” said Murray. “First set I didn’t make many errors. I played solid. I returned well. I moved well throughout the match. Second set, both of us had some opportunities. From my side anyway, there were a few more errors in the second set. But I stayed tough in the important moments and managed to get a good win.”
Murray will now look for his first win over Djokovic this year in three attempts. He lost to the Serb both at the Miami Masters and the US Open quarter-finals, yet appears to be closest to form this week in Beijing. It will be interesting to see if Murray can reproduce some of his magic against Cilic on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s always difficult against Novak,” said Murray. “His form here, he’s never lost, which is very impressive. I’m aware it’s going to be an extremely difficult match tomorrow. But it will be very good for me to get that match and see if I can make some improvements from the US Open. If I play like I did at the US Open, I’ll definitely give myself an opportunity in the match. It’s going to be a good test and I look forward to it.”
Prediction: Andy Murray in Three Sets