In a rematch of their 2009 finale, Novak Djokovic meets Andy Murray for the Miami Tennis Masters title. Three years ago it was Murray winning 6-2, 7-5 but this time around Djokovic is a different player and the clear favorite for this April Fool’s final.
Novak is now a solid No. 1 in the world, full on confidence and charisma, and he’s seeking a successful title defense, third overall, after winning Miami in 2011.
Murray also brings a different look. Under the tutelage of new coach Ivan Lendl, the Scot has been more aggressive and more offensive, a new mindset that was on full display during a pulse-pounding 5-set epic loss to Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinals.
Both players should be rested and in form. Djokovic was scratchy for the most part during this month-long U.S. swing. But in his last two matches Novak’s really turned it on, playing not unlike the man who dominated most of last season.
Meanwhile, Murray has benefited (or not?) from two withdrawals. In the third round he got a pass from Milos Raonic who turned an ankle a day earlier. And Friday Rafael Nadal’s knee was not up to par allowing Murray to reach the final without hitting a ball since Wednesday.
“You never know how you’re gonna play on the day,” said Murray of the time off. “Obviously you don’t play a match for three or four days, it’s different than if you played one, you know, one or two days ago. But then the positives are that you’re going to be fresh and physically feeling fine. So who knows. Wait and see on the day. It’s never happened to me before. So I don’t really know how I’m gonna feel for the final, but I’ll definitely be fresh.”
So Murray’s won three matches, received two walkovers plus a bye and will have enjoyed three full days off. Is that enough tennis? And the matches he did play – wins over Novak’s countryman Janko Tipsarevic, Gilles Simon and Alejandro Falla – won’t prepare him from the onslaught Djokovic can bring to the table.
Head-to-head, Djokovic leads 7-5 but they’ve split their last six. Murray beat Novak in Dubai last month, however Djokovic won that incredible 5-setter in Australia.
In Masters finals, though, Murray holds the edge 3-0 winning all three in straight sets and he does seem to play his best tennis often at these level of tournaments when the pressure is not as great. So Murray, who trains in Miami, will have the confidence and comfort of having those wins under his belt and the conditions won’t hurt him.
For Novak since the start of 2011 when Djokovic’s began this run, he’s 11-1 in tournament finals, losing only to Murray in Cincinnati where he retired because of his shoulder. There shouldn’t be any shoulder issues Sunday!
If Djokovic serves well that should lift the rest of his game to victory. Unless Novak is completely falling apart, Murray will have to do a lot of things well, and be committed to offense.
In 2009 I picked Murray (and he won), but I’m taking Djokovic in this one. While Murray has clearly made progress in his game thanks to Lendl, I still don’t think it will be enough to beat Djokovic if the Serb is playing like he did in the last two rounds.
Djokovic just has far too many weapons right now and when he’s firing there are very few guys on the circuit that can match him, and Murray isn’t one of them. Not yet, at least.
“Andy is a top player,” Djokovic said. “He deserves to be up there. He’s very consistent with his results. Over the years he’s been top 4 and playing a couple of Grand Slam finals and winning many tournaments and major tournaments.
“So we all know his talent, his potential, and quality. He’s dangerous on any surface. Obviously here we played finals in 2009. I lost in straight sets. He likes the conditions. He likes to play in the heat, as well, and has a good serve. So we kind of play similar, as well. You know, we grew up together. We know each other really well. We have been rivals since and good friends off the court.”
Then again, except for some flashes here and there, Djokovic hasn’t been that same player from a year ago. So Murray does have a chance in this. Regardless, with the defense and variety both guys have it should be a very entertaining matchup.
And a congrats to Agnieszka Radwanska who collected her biggest career title defeating Maria Sharapova 7-5, 6-4 in the women’s final today. The steady Radwanska, who didn’t lose a set in Miami, outplayed and outhit her Russian counterpart to continue her impressive 2012 run during which only No. 1 Victoria Azarenka has beaten her.
CBS will have live coverage of the best-of-3 men’s final at 1pm ET.
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