Finally. Someone put an end to Novak Djokovic and gave hope that the Serb can be dethroned this season. The honors of course went to Andy Murray who whipped Djokovic 6-2, 7-5 in the semifinals earlier today in Dubai.
“It wasn’t an amazing standard,” Murray said. “I still think I could’ve played better as well. I’m sure Novak feels the same. So that’s actually a good sign for me that maybe not playing my best tennis I could still win against him.”
Murray had come oh so close last month in the Australian Open semifinals and today he got the job done, though in typical Murray fashion he made things far more dramatic then they needed to be late.
Murray raced out to a 6-2, 4-1 lead simply dominating a dispirited Djokovic. But when asked to serve out the match at 5-3, Murray, as he’s done before, all but gagged.
Fortunately for the Scot he was able recover nicely breaking Djokovic at 5-5 and then finally serve it out at 6-5.
“I’ve had a lot of tough losses in my career,” said Murray who is 14-1 on the year. “To come back from them hasn’t always been that easy. I think it’s big for me that after Australia this year I’ve come back and had a win like tonight.
“Hopefully that will set me up well for the year. Confidence in tennis and almost any individual sport is so important. A win like tonight will do that no harm; therefore, mentally I’m sure I’ll be stronger.”
Djokovic had won 18 straight matches in Dubai collecting the last three titles along the way. And overall Novak hadn’t lost a big outdoor hardcourt match in who knows how long – 2010 US Open final?
“Andy played a great match,” said Djokovic. “He was the better player today. He was serving really well. I made a lot of unforced errors when it was important. It’s been a great tournament here in Dubai. Look forward to Indian Wells, Miami, which are the next tournaments, next challenges. I think I have more than enough time to get ready for it.”
The loss gives more hope to players like Rafeal Nadal, Federer and others the next time they face Djokovic. The Serb is just not at that scary level he was a year ago. He’s looked strong in patches, but only patches. And I think this really sets up well for the rest of the season as it looks like Djokovic will not run away from the pack like he did a year ago.
Murray now moves on to face Roger Federer tomorrow in the final. Federer returned to a seventh Dubai final after a tough 7-6, 7-6 win over Juan Martin Del Potro.
The Swiss found himself in a world of trouble down 5-0 and then 6-2 and four setpoints to Delpo in the second set breaker. Proving again that Fed’s clearly in Delpo’s head, Roger roared back winning the last six points to take the breaker 8-6 and with it the match.
“It was a good comeback, especially on a quick court,” said Federer. “Obviously with his serve it’s not really in your control. [The] same thing almost happened to me in the first set breaker. I think I was up 6 2 as well, and he got back to 6 5. So it’s tough sometimes when it’s all about my serve, and then you get a bit unlucky. You clip the tape. He had a couple of chances to hit the ball harder and maybe doesn’t hit them as clean.
“It was a tough breaker for me. The first three points were difficult. I got down 0-3, and from then on he had the momentum. But I kind of felt like, hang in there and see what happens. I didn’t believe I was going to come back. Next thing I know, I had a great point at 6 all and I was able to come through.”
Federer increases his margin over Del Potro to 10-2 and he’s won nine straight sets over the Argentine since his return from wrist surgery.
“I think I made a good tournament, and I’m glad with my level at this moment,” said Del Potro. “Of course I’m sad to lose this kind of matches, because I feel like I can win. Even if I lost, I think I have improved since Rotterdam. [It] was closer than the final two weeks ago. I’m getting closer and I’m getting confidence with my level, so maybe the next time – if I play better in the important moments or the break points or in the tie-break – I could win.”
The good news is Del Potro’s is playing better. The bad news is he needs to stop playing Federer.
As for tomorrow, it should be a hell of a match with Federer and Murray colliding for the first time in the Ivan Lendl era (though Ivan won’t be there) and for the first time in over a year.
“I’m just excited playing against him again after such a long time,” said Federer.
“I’ve played really well the last few months,” Federer added. “I’ve hardly lost. It’s great that momentum is on my side. I’m really match tough right now, and I hope I can take it one step further tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes.”
Murray leads 8-6 in the this one and though Federer beat him in their last meeting at 2010 London, Murray has won the last two outdoor showdowns at Shanghai and Canada, both finals and both in 2010.
And I think Murray’s playing the better ball right now – you could make the case he’s been the best on the season. But Federer’s been super sharp this week, especially with his serve. Though his opposition thus far has been almost exclusively hand picked patsies: He owns Del Potro, Youhzny, Lopez and Llodra anyway.
Meanwhile, Murray had a poor record against Berdych and then he got over on the best player in the world.
I also think Federer was extremely lucky to have escaped Del Potro’s grip in that second breaker. While Murray really demolished Djokovic, something no one has been able to do for a long, long time.
So this is a really even match. Federer has played so well in his pseudo homebase of Dubai and he’s on a roll on these quick courts (did Roger assist in the surfacing?). Andy’s playing well himself. He’s clearly been more aggressive this year, he’s beaten Federer before in best-of-3 finals and most importantly, this is a lower-pressure, non-Grand Slam title match. So I’m picking Murray here. He’s got to build off that Djokovic win otherwise a loss to Federer would be a almost a setback here if he doesn’t finish this off with a title.
Tennis Channel will be live with the Dubai final starting at 10am ET.
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