Djokovic Saves 5 MPs Against Verdasco, Will Meet Murray In Doha Final; Who’s The Pick?
by Sean Randall | January 6th, 2017, 4:56 pm

We are not even a week into 2017 tennis season and already we are treated to a blockbuster final on the men’s tour! Once again, it’s Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, this time in the Doha final tomorrow.

But it almost didn’t happen. In fact, it probably shouldn’t have. But thank you Fernando Verdasco!

Djokovic took the court first today in the semifinals and after jumping out to a 4-2 lead in the first against Verdasco, it looked like the defending champion would be locked into the Saturday final. Wrong.

Djokovic’s lead fell apart, Verdasco got his claws back in and stole the opening set. He then led by a break in the second reeling off six straight games before giving that break back. Not anywhere near his best, Djokovic was misfiring off the backhand and making sloppy errors, and he gave Verdasco additional break chances during the 4-4 but the Spaniard couldn’t capitalize – foreshadowing? Yes!

So to a breaker we went. And it was Verdasco who seized control racing to a 6-2 lead with four match points. It was over, right? Wrong!

In typical Verdasco fashion, all four were erased, as was a later fifth. Djokovic won 6 of the last 7 points to force the third, and after an early break the match was over with the Serb escaping 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-3.

It was some ugly tennis from Novak at times and some clutch choking from Fernando.

“The match that looked very much in hands of Fernando tonight,” admitted Djokovic. “He was clearly a better player for two sets.

“I thought I started the match well, 4-2, and then just six games in a row lost the timing completely,” he added.

“Again, it was very windy. Obviously both of us, we were quite cautious with our play, especially at times myself, you know. In the end of the day, it was quite a thrilling experience for me to be able to go five match points down. I just received the information that it’s the third time in my career that I’ve done that.

“I’m obviously very pleased, because you need these kind of matches, these kind of confidence boosters, for whatever is coming up after that. Sometimes the player on the other side of the net is just better. He had three out of five match points with his serve, and three, four of the five match points he had a forehand to finish it off and he didn’t.”

Well, Novak, I’m not so sure you “need” these kinds of matches. I don’t think anyone does nor do I think players seek them you, especially not when you have to save five match points. But again, be thankful you were playing a Verdasco because most other players wouldn’t have let you off that hook.

As for Verdasco, he played well, but per his history he couldn’t finish the job.

“It’s tough to lose against someone so important like Novak having the match so close,” Verdasco said. “Honestly, thinking about how was the break points, how was the match points in the tiebreak, and honestly, I don’t think that I really played that bad or I didn’t play bad at all.

“I think that it just didn’t come my way. The three I had with my serve, I serve good. He just return deep. I tried to change the direction. Two of them, one I hit with the frame and the second one it went wide for a little bit, but it was a good play and how I think I should do, no?

“It’s just that sometimes doesn’t happen. It’s tough of course because then you lose that set and everything is very tough mentally.”

Meanwhile, Andy Murray had no such drama cruising past an ankle-hobbled Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-4 to lift his career-best win streak to 28.

So the dream final is set!

Andy Murray v Novak Djokovic
It’s the 36th meeting between Djokovic and Murray, and Novak is ahead 24-11. But recently it’s Murray who has the form and the momentum.

Not only is Murray on his win streak, he drilled Djokovic about 45 days ago in London. He’s also got Lendl, there’s no real turmoil in his camp while Djokovic still seems unsettled with things. And he’s struggling as we have seen this week.

That said, I think Murray’s streak has to end at some point (better here than Melbourne, right?) and I have to think Djokovic relishes this opportunity to get back on top of Murray and to atone in small way for not showing up for the London final.

Plus, perhaps this might be a preview of the Australian Open final in three weeks? Absolutely.

“It’s a great test tomorrow,” Murray said. “To start the year it’s great to play against one of the best in the world. Obviously ideally win the match, but I mean, I don’t know how much bearing a match tomorrow has on what happens in Australia. There is a lot of tennis to be played before we potentially play again there.

“I’m not putting loads of pressure on tomorrow’s match.”

But this time, Murray’s the favorite, so there’s that pressure.

“I’m he hoping I can play on a high level and we can compete as we always did against each other,” Djokovic said. “We have always very physical battles, long rallies, entertaining matches. Between 1 and 2 in the world, it’s a perfect matchup for the final. Let’s see what happens.”

What’s going to happen is I think Murray’s just a little bit more in form right now and in best-of-3, I think he wins.
The Pick: Murray in 3

I know Murray says he’s not putting much on the match, but I am. If he can beat Djokovic again on a hardcourt, that helps him psychologically for Australia.

If Djokovic wins, that helps Novak because it helps erase that bad taste in his mouth from London and gets him back on track as the Australian favorite.

So unlike Andy, I do put importance on this one. But I just don’t like how Djokovic is playing right now, so I give the very slight edge to Andy.

You Might Like:
Serena Williams v. Justine Henin in Australian Open Final, Who’s the Pick?
Murray Wins 27th Straight, Will Meet Berdych In Doha SF; Djokovic Rolls
Murray, Verdasco To Meet In Dubai Final
Roger Federer v Novak Djokovic In The 2015 Dubai Final, Who’s The Pick? Azarenka Beats Venus In Doha
Poll: Who’s Your Early Favorite To Win The 2017 Australian Open?

Don't miss any tennis action, stay connected with Tennis-X

Get the FREE TX daily newsletter

79 Comments for Djokovic Saves 5 MPs Against Verdasco, Will Meet Murray In Doha Final; Who’s The Pick?

jane Says:

as long as novak shows fire; i loathe when he’s passive and unemotional on court (like i thought he was at WTFs). hope it’s a good match, and with good conditions – it’s been quite windy and cold (!) in doha – who knew?

AndyMira Says:

Oh!This is going to be mouthwatering!All the flavour will be served for all of us to taste it…Can’t wait!!Hurry up guys!

Pick?…Andy in three…C’MON ANDY!LET’S GO!!..GOOD LUCK NOLE!!

skeezer Says:

“… clutch choking..”
ROFL….haven’t heard that one before….choking that was “clutch”.

Van Persie Says:

If it will be windy today, Andy will be favorited, plus I have to agree, Andy showed a bit better form than Novak did.

Merry Christmas to the ones, which are celebrating it today!

Zeke Says:

These Eurosport commentators are insufferable. They have their heads up Murray’s ass.

Wog Boy Says:


Thanks, I couldn’t have better Christmas, I had surprise guests from Finland, Russians and Finnish people, we had a blast at my house, they just left and it is 2:20 am.

Andy in two, easy two sets, Nole will come out hugging ball boys and girls, line judges, chair umpire and Sir Andy Murray and he will throw the match same as he did at WTF.

Giles Says:

Boo faker, booooo!!

BBB Says:

This is a great match.

Justin Gimelstob is making the odd useful comment. I guess anything’s possible.

Margot Says:

Nole playing really well. Andy playing c**p if I’m honest. Two miles behind the baseline won’t cut it against Nole.
Congrats on the win Nole. See you in OZ…..:)

Joshua Says:

Go Nole!!!

BBB Says:

Margot, I’ve always defended Andy’s right to chirp, but for the first time I’m wondering if it really does hurt him. He lost the first set out of nowhere.

RZ Says:

When top players save match points and then win that match, they often go on to win the tournament. So no surprise that Novak is winning the final in Doha. I think that Verdasco match is going to pay dividends for his confidence.

Daniel Says:

One of these days Murray will have to beat Djoko after losing first set, which so far never happen. Already lost first set today, seems Djoko will rule Doha once more. And win a title after so long (for his standards). Making him the favorite once more for AO

BBB Says:

RZ – I don’t know if he’s going to win the match, but I otherwise agree with you about the benefits of winning a match you should have lost.

And once again, Murray being a real mensch out there when Djokovic hit his head.

BBB Says:

Elaborating on that RZ…. I can’t remember if you’re US-based or not, but you see it so often in the college basketball tournament. Teams that have tough matches along the way usually end up winning, and teams that are on cruise control end up with an unexpected loss.

RZ Says:

@BBB – U.S. based but not a follower college basketball generally, but I could totally see that. Thinking of last year’s tennis matches, Angie Kerber faced match points early in the Australian Open and went on to win the tournament. And Stan was down match point in the US Open 4th round to Dan Evans and went on to win the tournament. There was a smaller tournament a couple years ago where Fed was down match points in his first-round match and went on to win the tournament.

Nits Says:

Murray saves three match points

Jenny Shekersavva Says:

come on Murray l hope you win all the best

Truth Says:

Clap your injured hands, nole. What a piece of work.
Sycophant at work when someone needs his “help”.
He should build a charity foundation for “endless help”.
Must be so prideful and “playing for his country”! Oops.

Margot Says:

Wow! Didn’t see that coming. 1 set each.
Nole very tetchy….needs his guru….;)
Much happier about 2017 now, whatever the outcome. Lucky neutrals on here lol

Truth Says:

Murray thinks he’s more talented than you ‘cuz you’re a puppet.
Novak, Kiss his butt, “the crying olympic flag waver”.

J-Kath Says:


Jeepers – my hands are hurting – was clutching a bowl full of crystals and shouting at the top of my voice – and golly gee Andy was epic there!!.

Hope he continues with his level of grit – but at least he has not gone down this time after losing 1st set.

Margot Says:

BBB had to look up “mensch”- N. American slang, but cheers for that and he always is.

Margot Says:

Agree Kath- Andy Murray mark 2 epic!

Truth Says:

Bitter, huggy Novak? Where the guru at?

Oh right. He broke his racket to hand murray the last game.

Van Persie Says:


Glad you had fun :)
Nole disagrees with you. He took 1 set. Did fear for the worst today.

Truth Says:

My expert Gimelstob will write a book about winning without feeling guilty.

Nole plays “so well”. It was his objective to hug verdasco and hope he’d convert a match point. $200 million salary pays for hugs!
Hug the Anti-Nole fans. Emotional intelligence of a fruit fly.

Daniel Says:

Djoko unleashing some DTL FH, 0-40 on Murrays game

Nits Says:

Can Andy make another comeback here???

Truth Says:

Nole got emotional except in the “I don’t care much, break racket to lose” way.
To rescue defeat in his new pathetic, career killing style

lakie Says:

The Djok fans have set up this fake story. If Djok wins, he is the best or back to getting there. If he loses, he threw the match, he is a crazy hugger. I wonder how they explain the fact that he won Toronto, made the final of uso, wtf and now Doha. Why is he not giving away the match to his first round opponent out of love and a wish to hug everybody?

Daniel Says:

Novak serving for the match again, and already 0-30 down

Margot Says:

As I said about 20 hours ago…..well played Nole see you at the AO :)

Daniel Says:

Congrats Djoko, starting the season with the right foot and recovering twice, yesterday against Verdasco and today against Murray in mid match mini slump.

Now the favorite for AO once more. #13 looming, and battle for #1 will stay on.

Van Persie Says:


Am sceptical about Nole’s form. What will he do in best of 5?

Am happy, he won today….have still a bitter taste from YEC final. Not because he lost than, but about the way, he did it. Today he showed, he still cares about winning titles. Good sign from his attitude.

Van Persie Says:

Andy is the favorite for the AO.

Willow Says:

Looks like the old Novak is back, still the favorite for the AO, but not necasarily the the outright favorite this year, im hoping for a new champion this year ….

Truth Says:

Honestly, he is a mental midget after he said “I thought he’d pay back” after the 3 match points. He practically threw away the 2nd second when he was penalized for breaking the racket at 6-5.

Slow applause. Even thinking too much about nothing.

sisay Says:

Another sean jinx…murray always have no chance when nole is interested…i hope he is interested in ao…i am not braging but no one will have a chance…u all know it…even wawa…

J-Kath Says:

Nits: Andy couldn’t make the comeback complete today – it’s in his “Must Do” Diary for Aussie!!!!!

Watch out Nole fans – but in the meantime – to Nole fans – He Won Today – He Is Back – Guru or No Guru.

And thumbs up again to BBB – indeedie, indeed.

Truth Says:

He says his timing is off. He throws sets and matches away.
He sabotages matches. Who is he kidding?

If he is interested in this as much as the 20+ languages that he strives to learn, life would be so easier.

Joshua Says:

What an epic! Good luck to both Down Under!!!
Thanks, Nole!

lakie Says:

Djok always cares about winning titles. Sometimnes he is not that good, sometimes others are better as when Fedal were at their peak. Djok is by no means the best or invincible. The closest to that was Federer.
Anyway congrats to the Djok fans.
I predict that Andy will win AO if he faces Djok in the final. If he faces somebody else or if Djok faces somebody else, no predictions now.
This year Andy has no conflicting priorities. Last year he was making some crazy statements like he would leave AO midway if he received news that Kim was in labor. I guess that prioritization makes him a better human but a bad professional.

BBB Says:

Some really great tennis in the first tournament of the season, from two guys fighting each other for points and titles – yet they are willing to practice together too. Good stuff.

J-Kath, I hope you’re doing well today!

jane Says:

^ looking like Nolandy is rivalry to watch in 2017!

Travis Bickle Says:

As Randal said on another thread yesterday, Djokovic is the best player in the world ‘pound for pound’. He then went to predict Murray will finish 2017 as #1.

Basically what Sean was saying is the following:
Djoker is the best player on the planet and if he wants he could win every tournament. Problem is that his priorities have been different lately and if they continue being different in 2017, he may not want to win everything and Murray will use the opportunity to finish #1.

I fully agree with Sean. Djoker showed today who the best player on the planet is. Too bad his opponent in the final was not Federer or Nadal – it would have been a massacre out there. Even this way, against a really decent player (Sir Murray), Djoker could have had it in easy straight sets, but Murray fighting spirit was great. However, eventually quality prevails and better player wins when he wants to win – and this time Novak wanted to win.

Therefore, the Djoker haters and various vultures on internet forums (including this one) could only hope that Novak continues to be interested in other stuff more and more and put tennis on a back burner – because when he puts tennis first he is unbeatable and hater-brigade continues to suffer.

Not much can be done – Djoker is simply better than anyone out there. As Randal says: “pound for pound” the best player in the world!

Danica Says:


Thank you for Christmas well wishing and congratulations. About to break the bread and see who gets the coin :)


It will be interesting to see all those Nole fans who lost faith in him just because he was injured/had a drop in form (I guess, unheard in sports?!) and lost a few matches. You are absolutely right – winning Toronto, playing a Slam and WTF finals, playing a semis of another masters… I really don’t get how this is considered tragic??! But I assume, they would have performed better.

Thank you Nole for a nice Christmas gift. It was worth getting up early after only three hours of sleep.

Congrats to Andy for great match. Loved what transpired at the net.


Chrisford1 Says:

It may not (yet) be the quality rivalry of Novak-Fed, or the special rivalry of the two greatest warriors of their era, but Novak-Andy is ON!!
I just hope that Rafa is in a position to contend and we have a few more classic Rafa-Nole finals.

Doha is a warmup, but like Dubai, it is so well liked by the players and the Emirates being such awesome sponsors, that winning here and getting the gold falcon is resulting in players giving their best.

Can’t wait for the AO. Novak goes for Emerson’s record and 1 Slam closer to the most elite 5-6 Open Era players ever. Andy goes for another leg on the all-court career Slam he as a top all-court player is capable of it. If Andy played in less competitive times, he might have the Career Slam already, and lots more other wins..

Chrisford1 Says:

Travis…what are you saying? Novak is the Justine Henin of the men’s game??
Kilo per Kilo, pound for pound…
(PS, I think Justine juiced. I don’t think Novak was even tempted once in his life to juice.)

Hon Mention to Nickolay Davydenko, who in his heyday was still so skinny and sickly looking he looked like a poster boy for the “before” picture in muscle building ads.

Willow Says:

Merry Christmas Danica, hope you have a lovely day ;-) ….

Chris Ford 1 yeah right pull the other one ….

bojana Says:

Bravo Nole and thank You. Hope You are going to play better and better just for haters to make them more miserable.

Bravo Andy for the fight.

courbon Says:

Hi everybody.Firstly, Happy New Year to all and Merry Christmas to all Ortodox on this site.

Regarding the match-happy Novak won-he need it to build his shaken confidence.Still, Andy is favorite for AO-Novak serve still not great… and overhead smashes?I gave up-he will never learn that…
And I would like to congartulate Pepe Imaz-well, he is always blamed for Novak loses, surely he should be congartulated when Novak wins, right? ( maybe Novak was hugging wrong trees? ( Oak-good, Poplar-no good!)but they get the right now…(-:)

Willow Says:

Hi Courbon nothing wrong with tree hugging, works for me ;-) ….

Willow Says:

^And a Merry Christmas to you thats if your also celebrating it today ;-) ….

Tom Says:

Oh Travis, still thinking Roger and Rafa are in 2007-10 mode. Wake up. Novak will have a lot to say about who’s number 1 at the Aussie. Feds and Rafa have a lot to prove that they can even be in the discussion right now. Still clinging to the past…

J-Kath Says:

BBB: Not too bad thank you. Yesterday not so. January – a month with 3 more significant dates. No “markers” after that. Will positively move forward. Much appreciate your post.

Truth Says:

Fitness and focus are the most important. Nole is the best, in contrast to what the Fed freaks think. I saw another embarrassing forum which had fedalray tards in agony because Newsweek mag said Novak was better than Murray.
Novak won again, fair and square with no painful injury this time.
That shut them up.
Aussie Open, indian wells, Miami, Madrid (neutral clay) and French Open (the most difficult Slam for older guys), 2015 year end title and 4 consecutive Slams.
Fed fans would be bragging that Fed destroyed Nadal, after the French Open results. Since it’s novak, he wasn’t that great…

Murray would’ve had all 4 slams with novak’s results.
Only the injury, disastrous relationship with Becker, his bizarre family and guru made 2016 very disappointing for Novak.

courbon Says:

Hi Willow, thank you.Having a dinner, can not talk now-speak to you soon.

Chrisford1 Says:

Novak has his favorite tree in Australia already pre-selected and pre-hugged, Courbon. A huge strangler fig in Melbourne Park.

Tom – Much more than Fed, I think Rafa is capable of a Slam if the stars align right. I lean against it, but I would not be surprised if Rafa has yet another career enhancing comeback run in him.. And I don’t want the brilliant, close Novak-Nadal rivalry to be done and over with. Not yet…

Willow Says:

Rafa is not the same player, so why wouldnt Novak fans love to see more Novak / Rafa matches, especially when ones favorite is the superior player, i mean why wouldnt they, stands to reason they have nothing to lose, it only would enhance Novaks legacy furthur, lets call a spade a spade, its nothing at all to do with it being a great rivalry, it hasnt been that for a long time now ? ….

lakie Says:

Willow @ 5:16 pm: yes, you are right. The Djok Nadal rivalry is dead as Nadalis no longer at the prime level.

BBB Says:

J-Kath, here’s to getting past those milestones. I haven’t experienced what you’ve experienced, but from what I have experienced, the first ones are the hardest.

Courbon – curious why you think the serve was subpar. His stats were really good in that department (at least in the first set). He’s had a problem choking when serving for it for a few years, so that seemed like more of the same to me.

sinha71 Says:

Fedal could possibly meet as soon as third round in Melbourne this year.

How times change.

Truth Says:

4-2 record over murray, yet the fedalray fans say Nole didn’t do much because winning the calendar Slam matters only when HE plays.
If murray had won aussie open & french open, he would’ve had 4 different slams.
According to most tennis forums like tennis/mtf, nole’s too old and inferior to Murray.

fedal didn’t really have a rivalry and they didn’t win 4 consecutive Slams. they went away before age 29.

It’s not Nadal or Nole’s inconvenience to see Nadal lose to him.
Nole has no issue with aging. Fedal had plenty of chances to win slams in 2008-2014.
Novak was harassed at the 2008 US Open because precious hero Fed was the only one that was important to nobodies.
Strangely, Nadal needed Nole to melt down or get sick to eke out 2 French Open titles.
Fedal had many chances to win when Novak “wasn’t very good” and
useless turkeys, especially Roddick made it easy to win most their titles.

jane Says:

for Nole fans (preemptive warning to keep scrolling for others 😊)

it’s interesting but i think you could argue that novak has had ALL of the other big 4s as his key rival at one point:

rafa 2011-13
fed 2014-15
muzz 2016-17 (?)

he’s also played all of them more than they have each other
35 vs Andy
49 vs Rafa
45 vs Fed


and for all of the other big 4, they have played their most matches against only one guy – Novak.

Travis Bickle Says:


I think your post clearly proves Novak’s permanently “lucky draws” as the troll and Novak-hater called lakie keeps repeating on this site…

jane Says:

that one ignores evidence. ;)

Willow Says:

Lakie thanks, so its plain to see why they would lick their chops at the prospect ….

Daniel Says:

Dimitrov just won Brisbane whereas Fed was runner up last year. Dimi will move to #16 and Fed drop to 17, which means any of the top players could have Fed in third round, R32 in AO, not just Fedal

Margot Says:

Could Fedal have Fedal Daniel, or is that not possible?

Wog Boy Says:

Daniel, Roger dropped to #17 the moment he decided not to play Brisbane, Dimitrov didn’t have to hit the ball this week and he would still end up #16! That is why I couldn’t understand Roger’s decision to play Perth and willingly end up in the worst possible drow combinations being #17 than being #16.

I don’t believe rumors why he didn’t / couldn’t play Brisbane, they are just that unfounded rumors.

Wog Boy Says:

^^^ draw

Emilia Says:


Yesterday, Nole’s victory and your best wishes made my Christmas day! Thanks. Nolandy didn’t play the best of tennis in the manner of Federer’s hay days, but still it was fun to watch. I think Nole and Andy are more or less at the same level now.


Hristos se rodi -Mir Boziji!!

Daniel Says:


Wasn’t Dimi defending a few points from last year as well? Didn’t enter the Ato site, just the app. Because Roger lost 150 from finals in Brisbane whoch would place him behind Dimi as you said, but if Dimi lost some points he could still be #16. Starnge indeed

Well, if anynof the other top 16 withdraw he gets a push. Don’t know how Monfils is health wiseand Pouile also retired this week.

But I think Fed doesn’t have any high hopes for this AO. Think he will just go, check the draws and try to go as far as he can.

No way he is beating Djoko nor Murray with the way they played yesterday (chasing some incredible balls as usual). Nadal, still seems mentally shaken.

He probably is targeting be at his peak from June to early September, that is a 3 months and 1 week span where he can have his last urrah, if he has it in him still.

Slow HC and clay will be just practice for him, hope he avoids top players during this phase

jane Says:

oh so dimi won. well, good for him; he was 0-3 vs kei going into the final so i wasn’t sure what would happen but was leaning towards picking kei for the win. it’s been 11 months since kei won a title, but not sure how long for grigor.

Truth Says:

Why does Kyrgios call dimi the baby Fed? Dimi has his own tennis. No wonder he was worried about looking balletic and took almost 2 years to win an event.
Fed worshippers need to get over themselves.

Wog Boy Says:

Daniel, I checked live ATP scores somwhere around Brisbane second round and Grigor was already #16 and Roger #17, so if Grigor had some points to defend they were very few points. Pretty strange decision by Roger, particularly considering what was on the table, but maybe he wanted Hopman cup, one of the rare tournaments that he hasn’t won, though he hasn’t played it either, only once fifteen years ago with wife to be Mirka.

Wog Boy Says:

^^^^ “live ATP rankings”

Top story: 12 Things I Think I Thought About Rafael Nadal And The French Open