Can Novak Djokovic keep the roll going today, and beat Andy Murray for the Miami Sony Ericsson Open Maters title? He can, but he won’t. I’m sticking with my pre-tournament pick, Murray, to get the job done, and get it done probably in straight sets.
Yes, Djokovic has somewhat turned the corner. After losing six straight combined to Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Murray, Novak got off that snide Friday with his triumphant win over Federer. Yes, if you will, he took the garbage out that is now Federer. I said it. Novak also vanquished his nemesis Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a man he had lost his last four to, by comfortably defeating the Frenchman Wednesday and in the quarterfinals routed Tomas Berdych.
But even though his confidence has to be high after some good tennis this week, I don’t think right now his “A” game is better than Murray’s. It’s just not. The Scot just has too much variety, too many weapons and too much speed that if he’s playing near his best level he’ll get by Novak. Djokovic does hold the head-to-head edge here 4-2 including a 6-1, 6-0 drubbing at 2007 Miami, but Murray has won the last two and at the moment Andy’s arguably the best hardcourt player in the game.
Murray, though, is known to have mental lapses and does have trouble finishing matches, then again so does Djokovic in some ways, so that will be something to keep an eye on.
For Murray, a win here is a huge leap toward moving closer to Nadal in the rankings. He’s still far out, but I really think that he’ll be ranked No. 2 by the end of Wimbledon if not sooner. And I think the next player to rank No. 1 after Nadal will be Murray, and that may very well happen in the next 12 months if Nadal doesn’t hone his game.
Win or lose today, Djokovic has to look at Miami as a positive with the players he has beaten this week, especially in the last two rounds. And with Federer decaying, there’s no reason the Serb cannot finish Top 3 at year-end.
And if Rafa’s No. 1, Murray No. 2 and Djokovic No. 3, where’s Federer in the rankings? Well, unfortunately for the Swiss, things don’t look very promising. Unless he can pick up a venerable coach or he can take inspiration from his newborn this summer, he’s going to find it difficult to stay in the Top 5. That’s right, Top 5 because Juan Martin Del Potro, Tsonga and even Andy Roddick are on their game.
But tennis is a funny sport. Just two months ago Federer looked incredibly sharp and in rhythm on his way to the Australian Open final, yet now after watching him crumble to Djokovic this Fed looks like a completely different player. And the only real change in his game between now and Australia is his confidence.
So maybe as he said he can turn the page and start a new chapter on clay, and somehow regain that winning form on dirt of all surfaces (thank God for clay, Federer now says!). Maybe a coach would get his mind straight or some other outside influence can shock him out of this funk. There are a lot of variables that’s for sure, but as usual time will tell.
A quick word on the women’s tour which once again played second fiddle to the men this week. In a surprise, Victoria Azarenka stunned Serena Williams for the women’s title yesterday 6-3, 6-1. Injury or no injury to Serena, it’s the biggest win of Azarenka’s impressive young career, and for me, it shows just how wide open the WTA really is right now. Anyone want to wager who’ll win the French Open? Forget it!
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