Monday, 6 June 2016

Novak Slam !

Novak Djokovic continues to rewrite history books and insert new pages in them.  He added a few more with his emphatic victory in the 2016 French Open at Roland Garros.

Djokovic opened perfectly, breaking Andy Murray's serve to love, before being brought back to earth with a mighty thud.  Murray broke back and then held serve for the rest of Set One.  The key to a Scot winning the title lay very much in the consistency of serve, and apart from the blip in game one, Andy had his delivery on song, rendering even the masterful returning of the top seed incapable of breaking down enough of the second seed's wall.

With Andy serving first in the match and gaining the one game lead at 2-1, pressure returned to the Serb serve, and a couple of Novak unforced errors, together with a winning Murray forehand produced a second successive break.   Murray led 3-1.
As mentioned already Novak could not penetrate his opponent's serve sufficiently to force a break, and so holding his own for the rest of the set was nice enough in one sense, but the scoreboard displayed 6-3 for Andy, and the ghosts from 2012, 2014 and 2015 had started to gather in case they were required.

Not for awhile they weren't as a new Djokovic appeared for second set action, much as you would have a racquet replaced if the current one wasn't doing its job.  The newer version jumped out to a 3-0 lead, leaving Murray to wonder.  Most wondering is done in silence, but Andy vocalises, often in language preferably used after the kids have gone to bed.  With the replacement Djokovic playing more recognisable tennis aka brilliant shots, the crowd entered the contest, clearly favouring Novak - their twenty third choice as player to love, now that Roger, Rafa and all the French players were gone.

Andy didn't like the crowd noise, didn't like much at all with the environment, and he would have liked the scoreboard least of all, as it continually increased the number next to Novak's name.  The serving reliability of Set One had deserted him, quite possibly because his concentration was on other things, and second serves were being punished.  First serves were also being given the famous Djokovic returns which often put Murray on the back foot in rallies.

Once more the second seed was broken, and the set was taken gleefully by Novak 6-1.

At 1–1 in the third set, Djokovic, with a forehand winner and errors from Andy, garnered two break points.  The break arrived with the second of those, on the back of a Murray volleying error. 2-1 to the world number one, which soon became 3-1.
Backhand and forehand winners were the backbone of a second break of the Murray serve for the set, and at 4-1 hopes of a British win were slipping.

Djokovic saved four break points in the sixth game, one with a backhand winner, another with a volley winner and the third with an ace.  Murray was generous and one of his mounting errors saved the fourth.

Finally holding his serve enabled Andy to double his game score for the third set which Djokovic won 6-2.

Although he was feeling down and out, in real terms Murray was only trailing by a set.  However after three unforced errors he was trailing by a set and a break.  Djokovic led 1-0.  Three more self made mistakes and Novak was the recipient of a gift 2-0 advantage, the aroma of the roses ever stronger.

Andy saved a break point in the fifth game to make it 2-3, but serving at 2-4 it all fell apart.  He lost his serve to love and at 5-2 all that Novak needed to do was hold serve to win.

He subsequently played his worst game since the early stages of set one.  Murray had more spring in his step and held serve.  Suddenly it was 5-4 and fortunately Djokovic had the insurance break.  He served better to reach 40-15.  
Then a double fault and a careless shot brought it to deuce.  No panic though, and a clean forehand winner brought him a third championship point.  Murray netted a backhand and it was over.

Novak Djokovic won 3-6 6-1 6-2 6-4

He is now holding all 4 Grand Slam titles at the one time - only the third male player to achieve this, the first since Rod Laver in 1969.  The only one to do it over two calendar years.

Andy Murray has now lost eight of his ten Grand Slam final appearances, but his consolation will be that this is his best Roland Garros achievement, and he has made the finals of every major.

Novak Djokovic has won 12 majors, half of them coming in the last eight Grand Slam tournaments held.  Domination of men's tennis at the highest level not seen since Roger Federer in the 2003-2010 period.  What Novak is doing is dominating at both Grand Slam and Masters level.

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