Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Andy beats Novak to deserve #1 spot

The final big showdown in men's tennis for 2016 was potentially newly crowned world number one Andy Murray against the man he replaced - Novak Djokovic.  The ATP World Tour Finals was the tournament and London provided the venue.

Many, including yours truly, believed that Murray was merely a statistical number one, as he had not actually played Djokovic (let alone beaten him) since losing the Roland Garros final in June.  Here was the chance to play that return match, and silence any doubters.

In the preliminary round robin matches, the top two swept through their respective pools.  Djokovic, after losing his opening set in his opening contest against Dominic Thiem, cruised for sets two and three.
He found it tougher against Milos Raonic, requiring two tie breaks to claim victory.  His third and final pool clash was against David Goffin, a replacement for injured Gael Monfils.  Goffin was put away without any fuss.

Murray thrashed Marin Cilic, struggled to a three set win against Kei Nishikori, before giving US Open champ Stan Wawrinka a hiding.  Nishikori won through to the semi finals, with only one win, thanks to a better percentage of sets won than Cilic or Wawrinka.

Raonic finished second to Djokovic in the other group with two wins and earned the fourth semi final spot.

The semi finals were decided in vastly different style.  Andy Murray lost the first set to Raonic and despite losing the second in a tie break, the Canadian held a match point in the third.  Murray saved that and scraped though, taking home another tie break 11 points to 9.

Novak Djokovic destroyed Nishikori, setting the trend with the first four games going his way in a flash.  The straight sets win in a little over an hour must have filled the Serb with great confidence for the final.

Andy Murray has had problems maintaining the quality of his serve in big matches against Novak Djokovic in recent years.  However many of those have been in Grand Slam events and best of five affairs.

The final here in London was best of three, and although Murray's first serve percentage was well below that of Djokovic, he was far more successful when he landed it, winning 27 points from 32 deliveries.  Djokovic won just 26 from 44.
Murray didn't face a break point in Set One and only a single one in Set Two.
Djokovic faced three break points in Set One and six in Set Two.

With his famous return of serve not as effective as normal, Djokovic was always under pressure and the result appeared inevitable from early in the match.
Andy Murray won 6-3 6-4 and earned the undisputed title of year end world number one.  He had beaten the great Novak Djokovic to seal the deal.

Next on the agenda for Murray is to win his first Australian Open title - he has lost three finals to Djokovic in Melbourne previously.

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