Monday, 9 May 2016

Novak beats Andy in Madrid final

Novak Djokovic has won his fifth title of the year, defeating Andy Murray in the final of the Madrid Masters over three enthralling sets.
By winning his 33rd match of 2016 (an ATP high) Novak has extended his points lead in the rankings further than the already unprecedented 7500+, and now his tally is more than double the next player who statistically is somehow Roger Federer.  Yes Federer, who has barely played this year, has managed to miss tournaments in which he scored few points last year, but retains a stack of points from the second half of 2015 which his faltering body will need to defend before too long. 

Back to the Madrid final which featured the true two top players of the moment.  Djokovic stole the initial march on Murray in set one and made the Scots already difficult task that much higher and steeper of a mountain to scale.
The scoreline was 6-2 but could have been much closer - both players won an acceptable percentage of points if their first serves were in play (Novak marginally the better) but Djokovic was more devastating when returning the second seeds second serve, winning 15 of the 22 points available.  Not that Murray was returning poorly, just not as lethal as the top seed.

Even with all of that against him Murray still created more break points and this was the key area.  Djokovic converted four of the six break points on Andy's serve, while saving eight of the ten break points he faced on his own serve.

So Andy may have appeared well beaten on the scoreboard but he was far from out of the match on the actual court, and that's why his second set comeback raised few eyebrows and was actually expected rather than a surprise.

Set two was entertaining mainly due to its increased competitiveness which thankfully didn't detract from the high standard, with Murray serving better, not allowing the Djokovic return to dictate the terms of the match.  Both players served well, but Andy won the greater percentage of points on both his first and second deliveries, did not have to save a break point, and converted one of the two offered by Djokovic.  A most impressive set of tennis in its own right, but the 6-3 success for Andy was even better when considering the circumstance - a set down against the world number one.

Now with the final level at a set all this could have gone either way.  The smart money had to be on Djokovic though.  Since Murray won his second (and last) Grand Slam title, defeating Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final, the Serb had won 11 of their last 12 matches, 4 in finals, and 2 of the finals Australian Opens.

In many ways the deciding set mirrored the opening - close in most departments but Djokovic won six points when Murray was required to deliver a second serve, and that was on six occasions.  That was crucial, but once again Murray failed to take advantage of his break point opportunities, converting just the one from eight, whereas Djokovic only needed three chances from which to break the Scottish serve twice and win the set 6-3.

The 6-2 3-6 6-3 victory was the 29th Masters title for Djokovic, taking him once again to the top of that list, breaking out of the tie with Nadal.  

Post tournament thought:

Of the last 50 ATP Masters events, Djokovic has won 24 - the next best in that period is 10 from Nadal.  Interestingly, in that same period Djokovic has won 10 Grand Slam titles - the most by any male - while Nadal is next with 5.

On that basis - a fair measuring stick since Grand Slam and Masters tournaments are the highest rated events in men's tennis - Djokovic and Nadal are the clear number one and number two players of the past five years.  Federer may have racked up several ATP points, but his record at the highest level has featured a failure to capture the big titles at a rate that Nadal and especially Djokovic have done. (Eg since Aus Open 2010 just Wimbledon 2012 in the GS column)   So Roger is at best world number three over the past five years.

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