The top two seeds Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will meet for the thirty second time in their career they face off in the final of the ATP Madrid Masters final at the Caja Majica on Sunday. Both recorded straight sets wins, two time champion Murray defeated the four time champion Rafael Nadal, while the 2011 champion Novak Djokovic beat the 2014 finalist Kei Nishikori.
In the first semifinal the defending champion Andy Murray saved 11 of the 13 break points he faced to end the 13 match winning streak of Nadal. In the first set players traded service breaks before Murray broke again to love in the twelfth game to claim the first set 7-5.
In what was a repeat of last years final, the second seeded Scott broke at 3-2 in the second set. Nadal had two break point chances in the seventh game but Murray got himself out of trouble and took a 5-2 lead. Nadal saved a match point in the ninth game and converted on the ninth break point chance to get the set back on serve at 5-4.
Just when it looked like the Dunblane native would choke on the verge of victory, he displayed his new found confidence on his least favoured surface and broke right away in the very next game to seal the 7-5, 6-4 win in 2 hours and 11 minutes.
Murray will be aiming for his 12th Masters series title of his career and needs to win the final in order to ensure his number two ranking is not usurped by the Swiss Roger Federer. Murray still trails 7-17 in career meetings between the two but became the first player ever to beat the Spaniard at the same clay court event in back to back years.
In the second semi final, the sixth seeded Nishikori failed to convert on three break point chances in the opening game of the first set. Nishikori registered the first ten winners of the match, claiming 14 of the first 19 baseline points. Djokovic finally broke serve in the eighth game and then served out the set to 6-3 in 40 minutes.
Nishikori failed to capitalise in the fourth game on Djokovic’s serve despite opening up a 0-30 advantage. Djokovic converted on his third break point opportunity in the next game. Nishikori fought back from a 0-40 deficit while Djokovic was serving for the match at 5-4. He saved another match point before finally leveling at 5-5 when Djokovic missed a tricky backhand overhead.
It was the first time this week that Djokovic dropped serve as Nishikori reeled off 13 of 18 points to surge ahead 6-5. Djokovic then held serve to force a tie-break and would convert on his fifth match point to seal the 6-3,7-6(4) win in one hour and fifty nine minutes.
Djokovic will be aiming for a record breaking 29th Masters series title of his career, both he and Rafael Nadal are tied at 28 apiece at this level. His lone win in the Spanish Capital came in 2011 when he was in the midst of a 41-0 start to the season which was finally halted by Federer in the semi final at Roland Garros.
Djokovic leads the rivalry 22-9 including the pairs only meeting of the year in the final of the Australian Open in Melbourne in January. Djokovic, on that occasion, would go on to capture his sixth crown down under in straight sets.
Murray though has played his best tennis on clay since 2015 when he won back to back titles in Munich and Madrid. He also rallied from a two set deficit at Roland Garros to the Serb before finally surrendering tamely in the fifth set. He certainly has not much to lose and could spring a surprise like he did last year in the final of the Montreal Masters.
Novak Djokovic is 32-2 for the year while Andy Murray is 17-4 in 2016. Djokovic is looking for his fifth title of the year, having won in Doha, Melbourne, Indian Wells and Miami. Murray’s best showing has been a runner up finish in Melbourne.
Prediction : Murray in three tight sets.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]