Djokovic v Murray For the Australian Open Title, Will It Be Hat-Trick Or History?
by Sean Randall | January 25th, 2013, 11:03 pm

After 13 days of fast and furious play, it’s no real surprise that the last two men standing are the two very best hardcourt players on the planet at the moment. Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will resume their rivalry Sunday night for a second time with the Australian Open title on the line.

But there’s more than that. For Djokovic a victory give him a record breaking third straight crown in Melbourne, a feat unmatched in the Open Era. At stake for Murray, a piece of history as the Scot tries to become the first man since 1967 to win his first two Slam in consecutive events.

Before I handicap the match, a quick redux on what transpired last night when Murray landed his final berth by beating Roger Federer.

First, Murray was the better player. In fact, he is the better player. But that’s no shock. Murray is 25 and in that prime sweetspot 24-26 age range. Federer is 31 and off his peak best, how far off is debatable.

Still, I thought when push came to shove Federer would get the better of Murray mentally on the key points, and for the most part he did. Except in that fifth set when Federer could no longer hold off Murray’s force.

Watching the match, I sensed Federer was never really comfortable. Murray was jerking him all around the court leaving Roger in a far too defensive position most times. And even though Roger excels at defense, you can only keep it up for so long before it cracks. Eventually, that defense just wore down in the end.

And I said going in Federer’s that serve would be the tell because Murray holds the decided edge in the rallies. Unfortunately for the Swiss it wasn’t his best serving night. Roger struggled to get free points early on and through the first two sets he had just two total aces. A product of Murray’s return, the cool air, the wind, fatigue? Who knows. But Murray kept the pressure on with his own serve. And that’s what I didn’t expect.

In one of his best serving performances of his career, Andy hammered down 21 aces and was only was broken twice through five sets. Roger was hardly making any headway in the Murray service games and that freed up Andy to be that much more aggressive in the returns.

Then in the fifth, just when Federer had seized momentum and the crowd, Murray had every reason in the world to shrivel up and go away, but to his credit he didn’t. Perhaps with his renewed confidence as a Slam champion, he didn’t get down after dropping that fourth set breaker and proceeded to break down a weary Federer in the final set – in similar fashion to how he beat Djokovic at the US Open. By the end it was a mismatch. Federer left punch drunk after absorbing too many body blows.

So, as Roger said, Murray was just too good on the day. I felt Federer would be able to tough out that fifth, but it was Murray instead who showed the toughness.

As for Federer, this is the reality. At 31, with each passing month it’s going to be that much more difficult for him to win – his last hardcourt Slam final was three years ago. Playing in his first back-to-back five set match, Federer maybe was fatiguing in the last set, I don’t know, but at his age and with the number of matches he’s played that’s almost to be expected.

That said, when you consider the age gap and freshness level, it’s a marvel Federer can still compete and beat guys like Murray, Djokovic and Tsonga. And he’s still a factor late in Slams. Amazing.

Now on to tomorrow.

Clearly this is the new rivalry in men’s tennis. While we may never see another Federer-Rafael Nadal Grand Slam final again, we are going to see many more Djokovic-Murray’s. And it’s not bad thing. The two have a history dating back to juniors, they are born within a week of each other (they are 25), they have the same size, similar build and both can and do play with a lot of variety. So it often makes for some breathless tennis to watch.

Djokovic leads this rivalry 10-7, and they’ll meet again at the Australian Open for a third straight year. Almost unbelievably they played seven times last year with Novak coming out ahead by one, 4-3. But Murray got him in that mind-bending US Open final before Novak gained revenge in two three sets wins to close out the year.

“I think so much of it comes down to how you play on the day, to be honest,” Murray said of playing Novak. “I think I started to play better tennis and played my optimum level more in the big matches over the last year or so, which hadn’t always been the case. So I think that’s kind of what’s changed for me. I mean, two years ago he didn’t lose a match for the first six months. It’s tough to know whether you can actually improve from that. But he’s still playing well, he’s No. 1 in the world. He was in the US Open final, French Open final, Wimbledon semis, and he’s in the final here. So he’s playing extremely well.”

From a distance Djokovic should be the clear pick here. He’s the top seed, he’s won 20 straight matches in Melbourne and he’s beaten Murray in both previous Australian Open meetings. Plus, he played some of his best tennis of the week in his last match and he has to be back to 100% health after getting two (really four if you disregard Ferrer as a match and more of a practice session) full days of rest.

However, I am going to discount the David Ferrer semifinal. David, bless his heart, was lucky to have reached that stage and Djokovic did just what Nicolas Almagro was doing, punishing David’s short balls. Except mentally Djokovic knows how to finish, Almagro does not.

What I do look at is Djokovic’s marathon match with Wawrinka. Murray is better than Stan in just about every department, and he can be just as offensive if he wants to be. If Andy plays defense – Lendl won’t let him – it’ll be a long night against Novak. But if serves like he did against Roger and dictates a good percentage of the points just like Stan did, he stands a good chance of pulling the upset and lifting a second straight Slam trophy.

The concern I have, though, with Murray is his freshness. Murray hadn’t played a tough match in two months until Friday night. How will he recover after that four hour emotional win over Federer? It’s one thing to beat Federer, it’s another to deal with the inevitable aftershock! I don’t know and neither does he.

“I’m sure I’ll be tired tomorrow and stiff and sore, so I need to make sure I sleep as long as possible tonight, do all of the recovery stuff,” Murray said. “I’ll hit very little tomorrow, I would have thought. Yeah, just try your best to be in the best possible condition for Sunday. You know, realistically you’re probably not going to feel perfect because of how the match went tonight, but it’s not to say you can’t recover well enough to play your best tennis.”

But even if Murray is fit and ready to battle five sets, Novak has just been so super-human on that Rod Laver Court. Offense, defense, serve, there just aren’t many places to attack with Novak, unless he’s off his game. Nadal couldn’t do it. Federer’s failed. Murray, though, has added that Lendl in-your-face attitude we saw last night, and that will help, but will it be enough? I don’t think so. Not agains Superman.
The pick: Djokovic in five

Match time is 3:30am ET Saturday morning. ESPN has full coverage. Enjoy!

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72 Comments for Djokovic v Murray For the Australian Open Title, Will It Be Hat-Trick Or History?

van orten Says:

very good peace. true words about roger!!! he is still there!!!

the DA Says:

”The pick: Djokovic in five”

Whew, what a relief! Thanks Sean ,)

Huh Says:

thanx for pickin djokovic dear sean! ;)

Huh Says:

i know its tough to bet on anybody, but i think murray’ll win this one. i go for murray both in mind n at heart.

c’mon murray! beat the superman!

Margot Says:

Hi Huh!
Good to see you back and cheering for our lovely Muzza :)
Phew, thanx Sean ;)

roy Says:

federer didn’t fade in the last set because he’s older. he didn’t even fade.
the delusion federer fans exist in is truly frightening.
even during the match, when murray had been dominating for half the match, only a small minority of viewers believed he would win via the coverage survey. they still believed federer had momentum.

because nobody seems to face reality, they just want to worship their fed god.

the reality is that federer was outplayed for the vast majority of that match. and it only got to a fifth set because he sneaked two tiebreaks.
it was a completely lopsided match in truth, especially for one that went ”the distance”.

murray won 177points to federer’s 151 or some such. this is not close.

federer didn’t fade. murray just picked up where he left off after getting nervous in the fourth.

the problem for federer is that murray and novak are nolonger early 20s. their games no longer have gaping holes he can capitalise on.
murray’s weaknesses were essentially the forehand and 1st serve % + weak second serve. still, he had a better backhand, better defence, equal net game, significantly better return.
but federer’s superior serve and forehand gave him the edge.

now murray has a big forehand and a slightly improved serve. federer still has the better serve and the better forehand, but it’s not enough anymore to make up for the inferiority in return game and backhand particularly.

murray’s overall package is better now.

young novak had similar problems with weak forehand and serve[though first serve in this case]. again he was better than federer in return,backhand and defence, though poorer in netgame. federer’s serve and forehand again were enough to give him the edge.
but when novak improved his serve and forehand, guess what? suddenly his package was better than feds also.

murray and novak are now 25. there is absolutely no way federer would have won 17 slams if these two were born around the same time, if roger had to face these two, in their mid 20s, in the period he cleaned up. add nadal. and you’re looking at a 6-7 slam federer at best.

GOAT? not for the perceptive. he will finish with losing records against the other top 3. people will look back and realise the period now was much stronger than federer’s golden years, and that somebody got pretty lucky, frankly.

they’ll also notice something else. the great sportsmanship on display whenever roger happens to be losing. rude, petulant, uncalled for remarks to umpires, shouting at players across the net. once again on display last night. then they’ll watch that embarrassing breakdown against nadal, where the guy on tour with the most grand slams cried like baby because he couldn’t get his record.
and people will look back and realise roger was the most graceless loser of his generation.

just kidding. the fools will still be worshipping him. he’ll have a statue built in swiss land. and you’ll all go on pilgrimages wearing pretentious wimbledon blazers, to kiss his feet and make offerings of ”genius at work” banners and knockoff rolexes.

tina Says:

roy ha ha spot on observations but you are right the fedfans and media will carry on the fed love fest for ever and a day. really hope Murray and novak service up a sepecial final….

Huh Says:

u welcom mrs margot! frankly, nobody right now plays tennis more skilfully n less brutishly than fed n muzza! muzza shots r just terrific n his belief fantastic! love the guy n would cheer for him next only to fed but i was not tilted much towards eithr fed/muzz in semis coz i knew these 2 r my fave n both r highest class tennis players n r capabl of playin most beautiful game of the whol pack! n u know, i lov aesthetic tennis of talented guys, so no wonder n no confusion that i gona cheer al the way for muzz here! go muzza!

prepare! attack! n DESTROY! B-)

Huh Says:

thos who can do nothin about their hatred n jealousy of fed do the dirty work of criticising him inanely whil the whol world cant hav enough of admiring him! world must b suckin for fed haters, glad m not one of them!

Giles Says:

roy. Very entertaining post. Lol

Nirmal Kumar Says:

What we have for tomorrow is the best matchup in tennis today on HC’s. It could extend to other courts too depending on Andy’s improvements on clay. But the advantage on this matchup may still be with Novak. He is a more aggressive and has better BH DTL than Murray. Also CC FH of Novak is better than Andy at this stage.

Murray was able to hurt Novak with his BH slices. But Novak has improved much on that short now. He bends his knees much better to take the low balls.

Andy still has the problem of making some stupid UFE on the key points. He is still not as compact as Novak or Rafa when it comes to match play. That could hurt him tomorrow. If he can turn that part around and stay with the kind of serve he did against Roger, it could be one of the most enthralling finals.

Maybe it’s time for these to provide a high quality finals now after having matured rather than a long tennis match which they have been providing so far.

Huh Says:

“the problem for federer is that murray and novak are nolonger early 20s. their games no longer have gaping holes he can capitalise on”

just as much as the problem for federer is that he himself is no longer early/mid 20s peak, so his game has every bit of the gaping holes, that comes automtically in form of gradual declin n age aftr dominatin the tour for a decade that the much youngr n peak muzz n nole can capitalise on! so difficult to undrstand for som, lol! ;)

Huh Says:

if it werent for fed suddenly fallin from perch via mono accomapnied with vanishin of that ‘element’, which all great top pros enjoy whil in their prime, may be even nadal would’ve not risen lik he did, let alone the rest! add to that the full fledged homogenisation of courts n their pathetic slowin down, fed was toast aftr he crossd 26! otherwise fed’ll still b sittin at the top of ranking n wins n there’d have been no debate even about anybody posin as much as a whisker of challenge to him! hehehe.

Huh Says:

the fans of fed’s rivals like rafa, djoker should thank their stars a million times that the courts evolved to fed’s disadvantage n their advantage, otherwise their fave players might’ve probably retired earlier, frustrated n unable to make any dent in fed’s resume!

Huh Says:

like murray said, if the courts were like they were in past, fed’d still be no.1! but hey, despite all things goin against him, hee’s still no.2! not good for the haters’ health, hehe. ;)

nadalista Says:

Muzza’s other favourite sport: boxing, baby! And boy’s a brawler now, yay!

Heart sez Muzza, head sez Djoker………

Thomas Says:

As long as Novak serves well, he should win in no more than 4 sets. As for Federer and his decline: It’s quite obvious that his game has dropped off. It’s natural. I am fairly certainly that Nadal, Djokovic and Murray won’t be playing at their present day levels when they are 31…

Thomas Says:

Btw, I read on an astrology site that the planets favour Andy tomorrow. I am not the biggest believer in astrology but you never know…

Huh Says:

a few mor!~s dont realise that murray n djoker has a better package just now. if those mor#@s r not blind enough, then they may as well consider their colored glasses off their eye n watch the level of completeness, strength n speed of the peak fed. only then they will stop believin in the crap they write. all the package was not good enough for the nadals, noles n murrays to stop fed from snatchin 5 slams in their peak period! the guy won 5 slams after coming off his peak tennis years n kept handin the butts to these young package holders from time to time! for all their improvement, they cant see off fed easily/regularly despite him closin in or crossin the 30 mark! one who’s new to tennis as a fan, would think FO 11 or WIM 12 never happened, readin some of the mor#%ic posts!

Huh Says:

nice post @thomas re:fed’s present game.

Brando Says:

Thank you very much sean for picking novak! :-)

Brando Says:


Huh Says:


and i would add F*^@!!! ;)

c’mon andy!

Huh Says:

or as u say dear brando: GO MUZZA!!! :D

Skeezer Says:

Roy’s fantasy tennis world goes on always trying finding ways to undermine Fed’s greatness.. Wow after reading you made Fed out to be an old man who has been lucky ( this is the fed haters most cherished word for the man ), GOAT will fade away because from now on he’ll lose to other players ( ahhh the other fed hater standard …h2h ).

Fed said he felt he was chasing Murray the whole match. No surprise there. Yea the stats were crunching for Murray, he probably should beatdown the Maestro in 3 sets. But he didn’t. Why is that? It went the distance. Oh thats right, he is lucky, again.

Next time you judge Fed, read his wiki first before you write, and look through the glass of what other players accomplishments are compared to Fed( there really nothing to compare ), and then maybe you’ll sleep better at night. Yeah, right, Fed as had 17 lucky Slams, a consecutive all time record semi’s appearance. It never matters who you are playing in the end, everyone has a fair chance of getting there, only 1 gets it. And Fed has for the most, by far.

Fed worshipper? Nah, those are your words. You just have a hard time swallowing the facts of the greatest olayer ever.

Skeezer Says:


Skeezer Says:


One ofmyour best write ups. Think Muzza has a real shot here if he can maintain his play from Fed. If he serves anywhere near 21 aces again he’ll have a shot.

van orten Says:

well said skeezer !!!!!!

Giles Says:

Nole is not invincible, Andy is a good match up for him and can beat him! GO MUZZAAAAA!!

Martin Gomez Says:

Murray beat Djokovic at the U.S. open because it was a windy day. The wind helped Murray because Djokovic had to be more careful in his attack. The cat-and-mouse style of tennis favors Murray.
Today, there will be no wind.
Djokovic is the fresher of the two, moves just as well as murray, has a better second serve than Murray, and hits harder than Murray. Murray’s only chance is to serve incredibly well, but I still think Djokovic in 3 sets, 4 sets at the most.

Brando Says:



Brando Says:

Re Muzza v Nole:

A fantastic read here of what the great of the game think about the final.

Most pick Novak (7 for him, 3 for Muzza, 1 undecided)

From what i have read here, elsewhere and have thought for myself i think a few points can be agreed upon:

1- Muzza has a genuine chance to win. He PROBABLY is the best player out there to beat Novak at the AO. IMHO, Andy has the best game here to beat nole more than rafa or fed right now.

He can win for sure.

2- It’s going to be close. The margin of difference between these to is small close to very little at all.

They match up very against one another and almost cancel each other out.

Hence, no surprise why virtually ALL agree it shall be a close match with many predicting a 5 set encounter.

3- Nole is the favorite: Has to be really. World no.1, 3 time winner, 2 time defending champ, 20 match unbeaten streak here, won both matches v Muzza here, 2 days rest etc etc.

The pluses are pretty match on his side.

HOWEVER: due to the nature of the match up, the great change in Andy as a player in the last 6 months and previous winners who have won with less rest (rafa on 09′ post Verdasco encounter, nole last year post Muzza match) it pretty much means that there really isn’t CERTAIN FAVORITE or better put: it counts for little in this one.


I think it’s too close to call.

I believe that nole will be ready and shall perform for sure.

Muzza needs the first set more than him, and IF he wins it, then i reckon all out war will break out on court since i do not see one guy just outplaying the other. Too damn close to call.


patzin Says:

I would love to see a Hat-Trick for Andy; but must agree – Djoko is so strong right now and he likes Oz center court. Should be a tug of war; matches v Djoko tend to be a war. Both are warriors, should be good.

MMT Says:

I think it’s Djokovic in 4 sets – they split the first two and Djokovic finishes him off – I don’t see this one going 5 hours. I think Federer was far below his best in the semi-final if Murray had it all together he would have won in straight sets, and should never have let it go to 5, that will cost him against Djokovic, and Djokovic won’t cave like Federer did in the 5th.

Brando Says:

@giles: thanks for that. I love the calmness muzza seems to exude prior to a big final. Wish him all the best for the final! GO MUZZA!

Giles Says:

Brando. Cheers. Yup, GO MUZZA!

steve-o Says:

Murray did have it all together in the semi–we have been seeing “peak Murray,” this whole tournament, and B-level Federer can still take him to five. Djokovic is as strong as Murray, he can run as long, and his more physical game won’t fade like Federer’s did.

I think it will be considerably shorter than their encounter last year, and Djokovic will probably win.

M Says:

A little more respect for Ferru, please — this is the second consecutive Slam semi in which the two of them have faced off.

And for those with short memories, he was winning their USO semi before we all got chased from the stadium b/c of the weather, and there are those who say that if the two of them had been on Armstrong at the same time Andy M. and Berdych were on Ashe, that it would have been Ferru in that final — he plays better than Nole in tricky weather.

The Great Davy Says:

Yes more respect for the Second best players to never reach a slam final please! I know is regrettable for it not even being against Federer in Semis but please, Ferrer is a good player… except against me… lol!

grendel Says:

M – that’s a reasonable point of view. I thought it was pretty desperate when they halted the Ferrer/Djokovic match. Certainly killed it stone dead.

subo Says:

the vermin in the press make me sick roger did not have his best stuff and it took the funny looking andy murray five sets federer will come back strong and for nadal he should be drug tested a lot he is still doping

jane Says:

“Hanging w/ champions @Andy_Murray @DjokerNole in the players room. Great guys, it will be an epic match tonight!”

jane Says:

^ Can anyone help me make that URL small? Sorry I don’t know how.

the DA Says:

jane – the best method (which I often use) is

the DA Says:

BTW, great photo.

jane Says:

Thanks DA! Unfortunately we have no edit button so hopefully a moderator will help out.

the DA Says:

haha…Judy just tweeted a poster for tomorrow’s final by the creator of Croccodile Dunblane:

Muzzman vs The Djoker


alison Says:

Thanks the DA great picture.

jane Says:

Cute, DA, although I prefer not to see Nole as the bad guy. ;)

jane Says:

^ Nice to see the match and building rivalry is generating excitement! :)

alison Says:

Although ive been left gutted emotionally with Rafa missing from the tour for so long,Andys always been my second favorite player anyway,so with him winning the USO and in the final of this AO,its really gone along way to taking away alot of that dissapointment,would love it if he were to create history tomorrow by winning his 2nd slam in a row,anyway hope its a great final,and good luck to them both.

Huh Says:

well MMT, whil i agree fed was belo his best, i gotta say muzz won the match due to his determination. the mental thing is most important. muzz has “manned up” now. moreovr, its not lik nole has ever beaten a A-Federer here either. but nole has won the AO still, no? so why not giv mor credit to muzza? he did what he was supposed to do.

its unfair to say that muzza won USO due to wind help or AO semi due to fed bad form. rather i see that its fair to say that muzza won both matches due to his determination. he’s hungry these days n willin to fight to the end. thus, given muzza’s unmatchabl talent n touch, i hav no reason to believe that he’ll lose tomoro. at the moment, he’s hungrier for slams than djoker! he’s in the stage that djoker was towards 2011 start imho! so i predict murray’ll win. thou nole n muzza r equaly capabl n have equal chances, for the abov reasons, muzza perhaps will win. i say muzza.

n i wont b surprised if muzza plays even better in final than he did vs fed, coz frankly he can!

nole for all his strength, may hav to face a great muzz tomoro, n i dont think nole’s as desperat for victory for win tomoro, considerin he already’s multipl slammer, so he may not mind not establishin a record 3 straight oz wins. thats not to say he wont fight hard, reveng must be in his mind for that uso loss. but muzz too is bayin for blood i suppose n he too must hav reveng on his mind for the 2 painfull AO losses to nole! we’re in for som stuff actualy! :D

alison Says:

Huh great post,and although i dont have much time for Jamies posts or the predictions,i have to say i do hope he gets it right about Murray been the winner.

Huh Says:

i dunno why some tennis experts r so apprehensiv about the imaginary emotional toll that the semi win against fed might take on andy! from the very first point, i saw a clear belief in andy against fed, n will too! he wasnt prepared to lose this time to fed. so no question of that match takin any emotional toll on muzza! only thos who win unexpectedly r overwhelmed, not thos who win expectedly. muzza since that olympic win doesnt expect to lose to anyone in big matches. his attitude has changed. he’s playin lik a man who wana win. in fact as soon as lendl startd coachin him, a wonderful thing happend! muzza for the first time lost lik a fighter in oz 12 to nole, unlik previos occasions when he’d just fold! then he gradualy improvd even more: first time in his life fought in a GS final i.e. at im 12, then mauled fed in olympics n finally grounded nole at USO! he’s used to win on big occasions now. so no, he wont b overwhelmd n he wont think about fed match whil playin nole! this is a new murray! this is new time! how cant they realise!

Huh Says:

and one more thing: if nole wins, i’d not attribute it to havin any supposed advantage in the form of one more day extra rest. in all fairness, if nole wins, he’d only coz he would’ve done better on the day. muzz has almost 2 days to recover. that should b mor than enough considerin muzza’s age. if anything, i rather think havin one mor day extra rest may be disadvantage to djoker breakin his momentum, by som way affectin it. too much rest isnt always good befor a hunt, it may mak one feel a bit lethargic instead of pumpin him up for the kill!

Huh Says:


u most welcom. :)

n btw i miss rafa too. without him excitement isnt the same.

jane Says:

Huh: agree with your points about Andy’s semi win; he’s been coming on for a while now.

The thought of Nole perhaps having too much rest has crossed my mind too. I think (?) the people with the less rest have won a few of the last AOs (Nole last year, Rafa in 2009, ??).

And when Nole got a W/O at FO 11 and Fed got a W/O at USO 12 they both promptly lost the next round.

So definitely momentum and adrenalin can help drive a player to even greater heights.

Angel Says:

Roy you definitely don’t know s*** about tennis. The Federer from 2005-2006 would’ve have pounded this two guys on a hard court, in fact he would’ve have beaten them fare and square on any court. AND ONE MORE THING YOU DEFINITELY DON’T GET 17 SLAMS BY LUCK. GO TAKE A PILL AS*WHOLE.

Alok Says:

@Angel, well said. I’ll add, it’s only since Fed’s back and age began to bother him that the other two have been able to win so much. Serious Competition is needed in the top 4. Nadal being out has created opportunities for them to win because the field is not level. What would have happened if Nadal edplay? He would either have been playing against Djokovic or Fed at the SF, and Murray would have to either play Djoko or Fed. Whichever side Nadal fell on, would have made the SFs more competitive.

Fed’s draw was nasty,period. The others, as stated by P Mc were cakewalks and it’s not any surprise they both got to the SFs. Ferrer is a good player, but not top 4 IMO, and he does not have any weapons to beat them. He has only speed, which can’t surpass the others, and he’s over 30. Even against Almagro Daveed was having problems, until Nico choked, but it took 5 sets for Ferrer to get the win.By the time he met djokovic he was worn out, same as Fed for playing a 5 setter. Even thoug Fed had to play so many tough opponents prior to his SF, it still took 5 sets to beat him.

Dave Says:

“At stake for Murray, a piece of history as the Scot tries to become the first man since 1967 to win his first two Slam in consecutive events.”

This piece of history was originally revealed by me on Jon Wertheim’s blog (no news media had mentioned this fact before that). A few days later, Murray was asked about this piece of history for the first time in the Australian Open press conference (probably by someone who read what I had written) — Murray’s answer was he was unaware of this fact… and since then the media has been mentioning this piece of history over the past two weeks.

It’s actually more than just winning the first two Slams in consecutive events: In the Open Era between 1968 French Open to 2012 US Open, no first time grand slam winner reached the final of the next slam tournament. So it’s not just not winning the next slam, it’s even reaching the next slam final. In the entire open era, no player had done it before Murray.

Before the 2013 Australian Open, 48 different players (including Murray) won all the grand slam tournaments of the Open Era since the 1968 French Open. Before Andy Murray, all 47 slam winners over the past 45 years failed to reach the final of the next slam after their breakthrough slam (therefore they all failed to win the next slam after their first slam). In other words, no Open era player has reached the final or won the title of the next slam immediately after their first slam.

– The Open Era has 24 players who won only one slam (from Andres Gimeno to Andy Murray). All 23 one-slam winners before Murray failed to reach the final of the next slam after their breakthrough first slam. (Only Murray and Del Potro are active players who still have opportunities to break out of this One-Slam Wonder’s club).

– The Open Era has 24 multiple slam winners (from Jan Kodes to Novak Djokovic). All 24 multiple slam winners failed to reach the final of the next slam after their breakthrough slam.

Based on these stats, it was improbable that Murray would reach this Australian Open final and even more improbable that he would win it. Not impossible of course, but highly unlikely based on probability. Murray managed to reach the final with help from a draw of weak/exhausted opponents. A fresh Djokovic is another proposition.

However, Murray has beaten the odds and reached the final — in other words Murray has already made history just by reaching the final. Can he beat even greater odds to win the title? We’ll see.

Now on the Federer-Murray match.

Ask yourself: would Murray have beaten Federer if the conditions were reversed: (a) Murray had played a five setter in his quarterfinal against a Del Potro or Tsonga while Federer came in fresh and (b) Murray had to play a tough draw of first six players with an average ranking of No. 25 while Federer played a puffball draw?

And yet, despite the advantages Andy Murray (easy draw, warm up tournament in Brisbane), the Scott in his prime and playing his ‘A Game’ was still stretched to a fifth set by the aging Federer playing mostly his ‘B Game’. If Federer had the legs in that fifth set, it’s possible the outcome might have been different. Peter Bodo was right: “The Swiss star never ran out of heart, he just ran out of steam… (in the fifth set) Federer was spent, probably mentally as much a physically, and Murray coasted across the finish line.”

Federer’s first six opponents had an average ranking of No. 25 [No. 46 Paire, No. 40 Davydenko (former No. 3), No. 43 Tomic, No. 15 Raonic, No. 7 Tsonga (former finalist), No. 3 Murray]. On the other hand, Murray faced a succession of weak/exhausted opponents with an average ranking of No. 53 [No. 53 Haase, No. 100 Sousa, No. 110 Berankis, No. 16 Simon, No. 36 Chardy, No. 2 Federer]. Furthermore, Murray benefited from the early loss of Del Potro as well as the exhaustion of the two highest ranked players he faced (Gilles Simon, Federer). On the other hand, every dangerman in Federer’s draw survived to play Federer.

In the last three years, Djokovic, Nadal, Murray never won any slam against first six opponents ranked No. 25. The only player who did it was Federer in 2010 Australian Open. Yet this year’s older Federer came within a set of reaching this year’s Australian Open final against similarly ranked opponents.

Here is the average ranking of the first six opponents of each grand slam winner in the last three years:

– 2012 US Open: Murray’s first six opponents ranked No. 43

– 2012 Wimbledon: Federer’s first six opponents ranked No. 42

– 2012 French Open: Nadal’s first six opponents ranked No. 63

– 2012 Australian Open: Djokovic’s first six opponents ranked No. 73

– 2011 US Open: Djokovic’s first six opponents ranked No. 59

– 2011 Wimbledon: Djokovic’s first six opponents ranked No. 55

– 2011 French Open: Nadal’s first six opponents ranked No. 60

– 2011 Australian Open: Djokovic’s first six opponents ranked No. 28

– 2010 US Open: Nadal’s first six opponents ranked No. 37

– 2010 Wimbledon: Nadal’s first six opponents ranked No. 76

– 2010 French Open: Nadal’s first six opponents ranked No. 135

– 2010 Australian Open: Federer’s first six opponents ranked No. 25

This applies to 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 — no grand slam winner faced first six players with an average rank No. 25, except Federer in 2010 AO (I haven’t checked before 2003).

Thus, once the draw of this Australian Open came out, the odds were always against Federer winning the title.

This is understandable: the relentless pressure of playing a tough draw of higher-ranked players does take its toll on even players the caliber of Djokovic, Nadal and Murray — otherwise they would have won more slams when faced with such a tough draw. Every slam champion in the last 10 years has needed at least one or two rounds of weaker opponents.

So the odds were that Federer would lose at some point during this tournament. and he did. Big deal.

We can attribute the result partly to Federer’s tough draw. It is Federer who had to play round after round after round of tough opponents. He had no round to relax mentally and physically. Furthermore Murray should partly thank Tsonga for his win over Federer (just as Murray should partly thank del Potro for his win over Federer at the Olympic final). Tsonga wore down Federer for Murray to mop up (just like Delpo did in the Olympics). Of course Murray also made it happen — and he needed his ‘A Game’ and his best serving day to win a five setter against a relatively lethargic Federer. This was the most aces Murray ever hit against Federer in their 20 matches (Murray served more than 10 aces against Fed in only 3 matches) — what was amazing was that Federer had already faced three great servers: Tsonga, Raonic, Tomic, so Roger should have been primed on returns.

Federer played excellent overall in his first four rounds to deal with that part of his tough draw, then he threw it away by being subpar against Tsonga — a player he had beaten in their previous six matches (including two south america exhibitions last month). The consequences of the Tsonga five setter affected his match against Murray. Federer’s questionable tactics, over-conservative play and poor serving against both Tsonga and Murray allowed them to implement their game plan of taking it to Federer. Federer was aggressive only when his back was against the wall. (The more aggresive Federer who beat Murray at the 2012 World Tour Finals two months ago would have stood a better chance).

Don’t jump to conclusions on the rest of this season based on Federer’s loss to Murray. Federer is well-positioned to do some damage this year. Federer leaves this Australian Open with a more solid ground game than he had at last year’s AO (his serve will surely come back and he just needs to pull the trigger or put more pressure earlier during points). Unlike last year, he will not waste his energies playing Davis cup on clay next week. So he’s going to be fresh in Rotterdam, and his form should only get better by Dubai and Indian Wells. At the end of Indian Wells, we should have a better idea of what Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal are likely to do this season. Tsonga may be a factor again. We’ll see who else.

RZ Says:

Go Andy go!!! I hope 2013 will be another golden year for the Scot.

jimmy Says:

Murray was lucky to win the US Open last year, reality is about to return. Djokovic in 4.

Colin Says:

Enough with the stats already!
As politicians well know, statistics can be interpreted in such a way as to mean whatever you want them to mean.

Someone (forget who)says superman Nole won’t fade in a fifth set as Federer did. Oh, really? What was the score in the last set in Melbourne? 6-2 to Murray. What was the score in the last set in New York? 6-2 to Murray.

Jimmy, you might as well say Fed was “lucky” to win Wimbledon last year, because of the closing of the roof. Rather than implying the USO final proved only that Murray can play in the wind,why not say it proved Nole CAN’T? Or is it just a case of knock-Andy-whatever-happens?

jimmy Says:

Andy also had a lot of extra rest in New York.

Nikola Says:

– 2012 US Open: Murray’s first six opponents ranked No. 43

– 2012 Wimbledon: Federer’s first six opponents ranked No. 42

– 2012 French Open: Nadal’s first six opponents ranked No. 63

– 2012 Australian Open: Djokovic’s first six opponents ranked No. 73

– 2011 US Open: Djokovic’s first six opponents ranked No. 59

– 2011 Wimbledon: Djokovic’s first six opponents ranked No. 55

– 2011 French Open: Nadal’s first six opponents ranked No. 60

– 2011 Australian Open: Djokovic’s first six opponents ranked No. 28

– 2010 US Open: Nadal’s first six opponents ranked No. 37

– 2010 Wimbledon: Nadal’s first six opponents ranked No. 76

– 2010 French Open: Nadal’s first six opponents ranked No. 135

– 2010 Australian Open: Federer’s first six opponents ranked No. 25

– 2013 Australian Open: Ddjokovic’s first six opponents ranked No.26
– 2013 Murray’s first six opponents ranked No.52

Novak in 3.

Dave Says:

Nikola: Djokovic’s first six opponents have an average ranking of 30.6 (184 divided by 6), not 26.

Dave Says:

It makes no sense to claim that Fed was lucky to win last year’s Wimbledon because the roof was closed. As we can see from the link: both Federer and Murray are among the top ten players in winning percentage in indoor matches – in entire ATP history over the last 40 years. Among active players, Murray has the second best indoor winning percentage and second most number of indoor titles. In other words, Murray is arguably the second best indoor player based on those stats. Furthermore, Murray first played under the Wimbledon roof in 2009, so he has had three years to prepare for another indoor match there. I believe 2012 Wimbledon was Federer’s first Wimbledon match under the roof. In any case, indoors is not Federer’s best results in terms of winning percentage and titles won.

As I’ve shown manay, many times, facts matter. So do stats.

But you have to understand your stats and facts first before yapping about them. When I first revealed to the world that no first-time slam winner had won or reached the final of the next slam… a few days later many newspapers started parroting this fact. One such newspaper was Britain’s Independent, which published the story “Murray’s on mission improbable” (see link) – but its chief tennis writer still got it wrong, claiming “research by the Sporting Intelligence website” said it has been 57 years since Lew Hoad was the last player to win his first two slams consecutively. And so I had to clarify that John Newcombe in 1967 (just before the Open era) was the last guy to achieve this feat. And this fact too was parroted by the news media. It’s incredible: these are professional tennis writers and they don’t even know their basic facts of tennis history.

So don’t say things like “enough with the stats already” if you don’t understand or like stats. Let others decide for themselves. If a person is not a politician, he would not know what politicians know – and thus cannot claim to know that politicians know that statistics can be interpreted to mean whatever they want it to mean.

jane Says:

Sean, you seem to have some kind of reverse situation going on with Nole; every time you pick him, he wins! O_O :)

MMT Says:

Huh – my point was only that Murray is not at his best, because if he were he would have dealt with a sub par Federer far more expeditiously.

Huh Says:


i agree.

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