Some quick thoughts on what we just saw as Andy Murray hung on to beat Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-4 to win his first ATP Finals title and wrap-up the year-end No. 1 ranking.
First, congrats to Murray. He deserves the win and the ranking that came with it, finishing with the most match wins (78) and most overall titles (9). He put together a full season, from start to finish. Djokovic, who had more Slam titles, did not and he paid for it.
“It was obviously a big, big match against someone who I’ve played so many big matches against in my career, that would be my main rival really throughout my career,” said Murray.
“We’ve played in all of the Slam finals, Olympics, obviously here now, and a match to finish the year number one. It was a very important win for me.”
As for the match, the outcome was not a surprise when you look at the last few months of Murray domination. But it was given what happened yesterday with Murray having to win a marathon while Djokovic spending just an hour. That’s a huge disparity that I thought would prove the difference.
And to Murray’s credit, he never looked weary from Saturday. In fact, it was Djokovic who appeared a bit sluggish but not early.
Djokovic came out of the blocks focused and sharp, and he was really hitting the ball cleanly. Cruising on serve. Murray looked good, too, but early on the match was clearly in Djokovic’s favor.
Then, things changed. Djokovic serving 2-3 saved break points and had that bad overhead smash miss. He escaped, yes, but the crack was open.
Murray followed holding at 15 and then jumped on Djokovic in the very next game breaking the Serb by breaking him down.
As I said yesterday, the Murray may have been tired but he’s been tournament tough and tournament tested of late. Murray’s been winning, Djokovic hasn’t. And I think in that moment it showed.
With Djokovic seemingly unable to overpower Murray or break the Murray defense, Murray dug in and kept getting balls back and attacking when the opportunity came. Djokovic was also struggling for free points on his serve, and he was broken twice to start the second.
Murray was up 4-1 before Djokovic settled down and mounted a late charge.
Djokovic got one break back and put some pressure on Murray, but as he admitted afterward, it was too little too late.
Murray served out a nervy 5-4 game to win it on his third match point and complete arguably the best 2-match weekend of his career. Had Djokovic gotten back to even there, who knows?
“I don’t think that was one of Novak’s best matches. I think we have played better matches together,” Murray said.
“The end of the match was exciting and dramatic, but there were mistakes from both of us. I think I’ve probably played better matches.”
Again, high marks for Murray these last two days. He showed his grit and heart Saturday in that epic win over Milos Raonic saving a match point. Today, he showed his fitness, his desire and his power in the win over Djokovic. And he showed he was the better player. That simple.
Maybe his offensive posture – especially on his serve and forehand – was knowing his body wouldn’t hold up. I don’t know, but it worked and Murray would be well served to keep belting the ball like that.
“I was solid enough when I needed to be,” Murray added. “I didn’t make those mistakes. I think although I maybe made a few more mistakes than I would have liked, I think tactically I played a good match. It was obviously a good performance.
“You never beat a player as good as Novak if you don’t play well. I’m not suggesting I played a bad match. I just think the two of us have played better matches than that one.”
After reaching No. 1 just a few weeks ago, Murray becomes the 17th player in history to finish the year in the top spot. Now he has a few weeks to rest and recharge before 2017. He’s healthy and seemingly in his prime, and with Ivan Lendl by his side, he’s going to be the man to beat going forward. That win streak is now at 24, let’s see how high it goes.
As for Djokovic, the pop, the power and the emotion wasn’t there today. Once he got broken in that eighth game of the first set, he seemed resigned to second place. Like he knew he couldn’t win the fight. Just bizarre.
And after, he admitted as much.
“There was no serious chance for me to win today’s match,” Djokovic said. “From the very beginning we could see that. He was just a better player all in all. It just wasn’t my day.
“On the other hand, credit to Andy for being mentally tough and playing the right shots, making me play extra shots in every rally. He definitely deserved to win.”
No serious chance? Again, bizarre.
“I just played very poorly, made a lot of unforced errors from the backhand side. It just wasn’t my day,” added Djokovic.
“Every day you feel different. I guess this was one of these days where I didn’t feel the ball as well as I wanted it. That’s all I can say.”
So who would have believed it, especially back in June, Murray would finish 2016 as the true king of the tennis? What a year for Murray – second Wimbledon, second gold, a new baby girl and now his first ATP Finals title to give him No. 1. What a sport. Every time we think we’ve got this figured out, we really don’t. And that’s awesome.
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