It took more than 2 years and 9 matches to do it, but Andy Murray finally got his first win against Novak Djokovic since THAT Wimbledon final in 2013. In doing so, he has put a minor dent in Djokovic’s stellar year and has given himself a major boost of confidence in his pursuit of a 3rd major title. Murray secured the No.2 ranking for his impressive efforts in the Canadian Open. Murray won the 3hour slugfest 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
Murray started with the match with the same strategy that had helped him make this rivalry quite competitive up until Wimbledon 2013. He was aggressive on serve, hitting his forehand with purpose and was controlling the tempo of the game. Murray jumped to a 4-1 lead in the first set and had 2 break points to go up a double break and for all purposes seal the first set.
The world No.1, as he has been doing for the best part of the last five years, stepped up to the plate when the chips were down and wrestled the advantage away from the second seed by wrapping up the game. The Serbian legend then proceeded to break Murray’s serve to bring things back on keel. One had a sense that an all too familiar script might be unfolding when the British No.1 was staring at a break point at 4-4. (A game Murray might have won had he challenged a call at 40-30)
At this pivotal point, Murray turned the recent script around and held his serve to force Djokovic to serve to stay in the all important first set. Murray then used the scoreboard pressure and his aggressive game plan to secure double set points. Djokovic was able to save the first but a backhand error from the 9 time major champion gave Murray the big advantage of winning the first set.
This was the first time Djokovic had lost the first set in the finals of a Masters 1000 this year. The response from the world No.1, to no one’s surprise, was spectacular. Djokovic reeled off the first 8 points and the first 2 games to deprive Murray from building on the momentum he had gained at the end of the first set.
Murray managed to level the second set by breaking Djokovic’s serve in the sixth game of the set, but Djokovic promptly broke back to ensure that he grabbed the lead once again in the set. Djokovic held onto the advantage and ensured no further slip ups as he closed out the second set 6-4.Given that Djokovic was on a monster run in deciding sets (he had won 28 out of 29 deciding sets, coming into the match), things were looking quite bleak for the 2012 US Open Champion.
As the match entered the final hour, Murray was looking more tired than the Serbian who has been able to physically outlast most of his opponents in marathon matches, in the past 5 years. The second seed started off shakily and found himself staring at a break point in the first game of the final set. Murray ensured that he won another critical battle as he saved the break point with a big first serve. Murray closed out the game and the pressure was now on his opponent to keep Murray at bay.
In what would prove to be a decisive and fatal break, Djokovic lost his serve under some consistent aggressive shot making from the Scot. Murray held his serve to go into first change-over of the final set with a commanding 3-0 lead. Djokovic started his fight back from 0-30 down in the 4th game and that set the stage for the epic 26 point 18 minute game that would prove to be the final battle before the match was decide.
Djokovic threw all he had – the kitchen sink, the bathroom and probably the pool house at Murray as the second seed held on to dear life saving 7 break points. The fifth game of the finals set was a statistician’s delight and had tennis historians looking back at other matches with marathon games. Murray’s lack of first serves and risky second serves made for some compelling drama to the otherwise routine slug fest that these two baseline players indulge in.
Murray finally wrestled the epic game – a 10-deuce game- with two big first serves and most people could sense that match had run through its final twist. Djokovic for his part held on to his serves, but was unable to mount any further challenges on Murray’s serve. Murray went to ride the one-break advantage to the finish to secure his third Canadian Masters.
This win helps Murray further extend his lead at the No.2 position in this year’s race and puts him in pole position to secure – what may prove to be a crictical – No.2 seeding in the final major of the year. It also means that Murray will be headed to the US Open like he did to the previous two majors – with a big warm up title under his belt. Djokovic will try to re-assert his advantage, next week, in Cincinnati – a place where he has never been in the winner’s circle. Djokovic and his fans will be hoping for a vast improvement on his 1-9 record in the finals of the next two big tournaments to follow.
–Prakash Potukuchi [ Prakash is the founder of Sportz Cosmos. He tweets here.]