Bearing in mind his spectacular gold medal winning performance at the Olympics and clearly improved mental equilibrium on court, it now seems a formality that Andy Murray will eventually win that elusive Grand Slam final. After an occasionally turbulent but ultimately masterful progression to the final – combining the great and the gritty – Murray is surely primed to deliver the performance of his life tonight on the the biggest stage in tennis. The only problem – his opponent: the titanic Novak Djokovic.
While Djokovic is not quite the superhuman colossus that annihilated the opposition in 2011, he is still an immense competitor and possesses a couple of significant advantages over Murray. Djokovic can hit the inside-out forehand far more consistently than the Scot and Murray’s backhand will have to be firing in order to combat Djokovic’s attacks into this area of the court. Whether Murray can turn defence into attack as startlingly as Djokovic can, also remains to be seen. In addition, Djokovic is quite simply the greatest athlete to ever set foot on a tennis court; an unprecedented blur of pure speed and incredible agility.
The head-to-head record is actually fairly even with Djokovic leading 8-6. However, more instructively, it is 2-2 in 2012 – with Murray triumphing in Dubai and at the Olympics, and Djokovic dominating the Miami final and winning that epic at the Australian Open.
In order to win, Murray must swarm all over the baseline, attack Djokovic as early as is possible and hit his groundstrokes with power and authority. The drawback to this strategy is that Djokovic often appears at his most dangerous when forced into seemingly impossible positions. That the abiding memory from their previous Grand Slam final encounter in Melbourne is of Murray’s forehand repeatedly capitulating under heavy pressure from the Serbian remains a slight worry too.
Fortunately, Murray is a more resilient character now under the tutelage of Ivan Lendl and certainly has the weapons and defensive game to make Djokovic a touch apprehensive. This is probably a case of heart ruling head; but expect Murray to serve well, trade groundstrokes consistently with Djokovic and show up huge in the decisive moments. It’s going all the way – final set tiebreaker…
Murray in 5