You would have to go back to 2012 US Open in New York to find the last time Andy Murray beat Novak Djokovic on a hard court. Novak has an impressive 15 wins in their 23 head-to-head meetings. Can the Scotsman overcome the odds and turn the tables after four head-to-head losses in 2014 and claim the year’s first Grand Slam title? After a while, Novak Djokovic wears on you, just as Serena Williams wears on Maria Sharapova.
The Australian Open 2015 finals will be a high stakes showdown between the acknowledged finest hard court player on the planet and the best grass court player in the game. Murray has had an extra day to rest his dull left leg. Djokovic played brilliantly for stretches of time against the bulldog-like one-handed backhander Stanislaus Wawrinka but also looked sluggish at other times.
Although cruising through the fifth set, 6-0, Djoko certainly looked vulnerable at times. On the other and, Murray has overcome himself, always a battle, his mother, sometimes a problem, and the Australian crowd when they backed homegrown Nick Krygios and the rest of the challengers to reach this high ground. Kudos to both. No matter who is victorious, we will witness a terrific tennis match, and when all is said and done, that is the point.
By most counts, Djokovic has faced tougher opponents in his last two rounds, Raonic in three sets and Wawrinka in five but Murray has faced some pretty hot customers as well; Dimitrov (four sets), Krygios (straight sets) and Berdych (four sets). The Scot has been irrepressible at times and consistently shown to be the best returner in the game.
What Murray may concede on his forehand, he compensates for with his formidable backhand. Both players have all the shots and great serves. What makes this battle intriguing is not only the tennis, but the strong personalities and competitive drive of the combatants. These guys have been here before, have plenty of money (Djoko $72 million, Murray $34 million) and are fighting for guts and glory to prove they are the best in the game, a designation currently held by the Serb but desired by Murray.
Both men are 27 years of age. Djokovic gets high marks for his diet, fitness and commitment.
Sometimes, Murray has been enigmatic but he has started this campaign impressively and seems happy to be back on tour after ups, downs and injury last year. Getting our from under Lendl’s mentorship may have helped Andy find himself.
What we should expect is strategic play marked by exceptional court coverage. My guess is we will see points that not only dazzle us but leave us feeling a bit inadequate. These are the tour’s two best talents. They are fit and poised to do battle. You can build, a case to bet on either. The analysts say it will go five. If it does, Djokovic will win. If it ends in four, my guess is Murray will be triumphant. Murray lost his opening set to Berdych but was in total control afterwards. Djoko won his first against Wawrinka and then wavered at times. I think Djokovic has to win the first set to win the match and even if he does, there are no guarantees. I like Murray and think four sets will do it.