It’s the 32nd – and not the last – time that Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will meet. But this is their first collision with the Madrid Masters title on the line and first final on clay.
They have played in Madrid before. The two childhood friends and rivals kicked-off their long rivalry right in Madrid nine-and-a-half years ago when it was played indoors in October. Djokovic came out ahead in that one and I think he wins their second meeting in the city, as well.
That said, Murray seems to really like these Madrid clay courts. He’s the defending champion with not one but two comprehensive wins over Nadal. Both in Spain and both in straight sets. I know Nadal isn’t what he was, but that’s still quite an achievement.
And maybe clay is Murray’s best surface? He only lost once match last year, that to Djokovic in a 5-set French Open semifinal, and once again he’s playing well (he’s 24-2 on clay since start of 2015).
“Andy has tremendously improved in the last couple of years on the clay courts,” Djokovic said. “[He's] already proved that he’s definitely one of the best players in the world in this surface as well. The rivalry continues. We have so many great finals, great matches, and I look forward to another one.”
Djokovic isn’t playing too badly either. He breezed early in the week and was in complete control against former Madrid finalist Kei Nishikori today before dropping serve for the first time after blowing four matchpoints while trying to serve it out.
Djokovic, though, hasn’t had the big success in Madrid as he’s had elsewhere. This is “just” his second final there after losing his last two matches at the event entering the week.
So some hope for Murray? Sure. But…
What gives me pause here is the head-to-head. Djokovic leads 22-9 but alarmingly has won 11 of the last 12 and he’s taken all three of their career clay meetings. Murray’s better on the surface, however, Novak has been so darn tough, especially against his top rivals. He’s won 14 straight matches against fellow Top 10 players, taking a jaw-dropping 30 of 31 sets during that stretch! And a record 29th Masters is in his crosshairs.
Murray will have to play aggressive and serve well to have any chance. And if he does win maybe he becomes a real threat to take Paris. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Madrid helps Murray get a set, but Djokovic gets the win.
The pick: Djokovic in three
Tennis Channel will have live coverage of the final starting at 12:30pm ET.
SUNDAY MADRID SCHEDULE
MANOLO SANTANA start 3:30 pm
DOUBLES FINAL –  J. Rojer (NED) / H. Tecau (ROU) vs  R. Bopanna (IND) / F. Mergea (ROU)
Not Before 6:30 pm
SINGLES FINAL –  N. Djokovic (SRB) vs  A. Murray (GBR)
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