I know I had Roger Federer winning the semifinals, but in my original draw I, along with many others I’m sure, had Andy Murray reaching the finals against Novak Djokovic. And in the end that’s what’s happened.
Earlier today in two relatively easy wins, Murray continued his mastery over Federer taking down the Swiss 6-4, 6-4. Djokovic remain hot beating up on Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-4.
First to the Murray win. Since that Wimbledon loss, Murray has dominated Federer – he’s now 10-8 lifetime against Roger – crushing him in the Olympic gold medal match and really again today. In their last five sets, all won by Murray, Federer hasn’t even gotten to five games!
I thought with the urgency of the No. 1 race and maybe some Murray fatigue, a revenge-minded Federer would have gotten through. Save from a few points, the match was all Murray thanks in some part to a poor serving day from Fed.
“He didn’t serve that well for him tonight, so I was able to be very aggressive on his second serve,” said Murray. “He maybe slowed down his first serve a little bit, so I was able to take a few more chances. Obviously that helped. I went for it, like I did the past few times I played against him, and it worked tonight. When you’re beating the best player of all time probably, it’s obviously going to be special.”
Federer, who was playing his first tournament since the US Open and who had been under added security due to to a death threat, didn’t sound thrilled with his play in the Murray match or for the week.
“It was a bit up and down, too up and down for my taste,” said Federer who won just 66% of first serve points. “To probably beat him tonight, I played okay at times, but overall Andy was just the better player and he deserved to win at the end really.
“It’s been an OK week overall. I played all right. I didn’t play great. But I did come here and reach the 300 weeks. I guess I have to be happy with that. I wish I could have played better tonight against Andy and pushed him further, even though it was somewhat close. I know as well that it could have gone the other way as well, it could have been even more one sided. I tried hard, and that’s all I could do tonight.”
Right now between the two, Murray is simply the better player. There’s no debate.
In the first semifinal – the one I didn’t see – Djokovic cruised to a 10th win over Berdych setting up a US Open rematch with Murray.
“I don’t like the word ‘revenge.’ I never like revenge,” said Djokovic. “I just play tennis and I try to win every match that I play. He’s a bit more aggressive. It’s obvious on the court. He goes more for his forehand, which wasn’t his strength in the past. Now this year he’s improved that stroke and he’s more confident on the court, has more self belief. He’s got the results. He won a Grand Slam.”
As for my pick…
Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray
Murray’s obviously the hot player here. He’s won the gold, beat Djokovic for the US Open title and just dominated Federer again Saturday. And sure doesn’t hurt that he’s 12-0 in Shanghai winning titles there the last two years.
But Djokovic’s been a buzzsaw this month. He won Beijing and has looked impressive all week in Shanghai. And, like Federer, he too wants a piece of Murray.
In this series, it’s Djokovic leading 8-7 but Murray’s won the last two and certainly has the psychological edge. Novak was listless at the Olympics, on a grass surface that’s his worst. Then was troubled by the wind in New York.
“I’ve known him for 14, 15 years now,” Murray said of Novak. “We’ve obviously had some incredibly tough matches which can maybe test a friendship. But we’ve always been I think pretty respectful of each other.”
And now they bring their growing rivalry to the Far East.
For me, if Djokovic plays like he has been he’ll win. That means serving well, making few errors. If Djokovic is off his game, Murray can pounce. It’s the same storyline. Murray, though, has stepped up his aggression, but it’s just not his natural form. Against the bigger player I think he still needs help from his opponent. On Sunday, I don’t think Novak gives him any. Murray may have never lost in Shanghai, but with a chance to really sew up the No. 1 ranking Djokovic needs this win more.
The pick: Novak in two
Tennis Channel has live coverage of the final at 4:30am ET.
SUNDAY SHANGHAI SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 2:00 pm
 L Paes (IND) / R Stepanek (CZE) vs  M Bhupathi (IND) / R Bopanna (IND) – DOUBLES FINAL
Not Before 4:30 PM
 A Murray (GBR) vs  N Djokovic (SRB) – SINGLES FINAL
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