The U.S. Open championship match is finally settled after a Saturday of gale-force winds and the shut-down of the U.S. Tennis Center. The climax of the disturbing day came just as (4) David Ferrer prepared to serve for the first set against the No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic.
Their match was postponed until Sunday. As they took the court, the winds died, the sun shone brightly and all was once again "right" in the Djokovic world.
After winning the opening set, Ferrer was dismissed when Djokovic swept the final three.
Monday's final will feature the No. 2 seed against the No. 3 seed—ready to do battle for the last Grand Slam title of the season. Who the finalists turned out to be is really no big surprise. Most expected this matchup once favorite (1) Roger Federer was eliminated in the quarterfinals.
When the final ball is struck on Monday, however, will it be Djokovic’s second consecutive win at Flushing Meadows or the first Grand Slam title for perennial runner-up, (3) Andy Murray? That is the big question of the moment.
The best means to start analyzing Djokovic's or Murray's chance to win on Monday is by examining their head-to-head record.
The two men have opposed each other 14 times since they first met six years ago with Djokovic leading 8-6 overall.
The Serb won their first four matches—starting with a victory on the hard courts at Madrid back in 2006. Djokovic then followed by defeating Murray on the hard courts at Indian Wells and Miami in 2007. He finished in 2008 by winning on the clay at Monte Carlo.
Murray won the next three in Toronto and Cincinnati in 2008 and in Miami in 2009.
The next time the two met was at Australian Open finals in 2011 which Djokovic won. He followed that up by defeating Murray in Rome on clay a few months later.
Finally, in 2012 Djokovic defeated Murray in the semifinals of the Australian Open and again at Miami.
Murray defeated Djokovic on the hard courts in Dubai and at the 2012 Summer Games in London on grass.
In all Djokovic has defeated Murray six times on hard courts and twice on clay. Murray has defeated Djokovic five times on hard courts and once on grass.
The two men have never before met at the U.S. Open.
The two times they have challenged each other at a Grand Slam tournament, Djokovic won—both during the Australian Open finals of 2011 and the Australian Open semifinals in 2012.
That seems to be the major difference between them—winning on tennis' biggest stages at the Grand Slams.
Murray has never been able to win in a Grand Slam final mainly because under pressure he retreated into his defensive postures on court—behind the baseline. While his skills on defense are first rate, they are not enough to win a Grand Slam final.
Murray has never taken that last big step as his fans and the press expected. They still wait for him to win his first major.
Having appeared in one U.S. Open final in 2008, two Australian Open finals in 2010 and 2011 and one Wimbledon final in 2012, this is Murray’s best chance to win—on this fifth try.
What is the difference for Murray this year?
No. 6 ranked Thomas Berdych knocked out Murray’s touted semifinal opponent, Federer in the quarterfinals of this year’s Open. It was, therefore, Berdych Murray had to face in the semifinals—and that, plus the wind, blew Murray into this year’s final.
For another thing, Djokovic has cooled down considerably from his red-hot 2011 campaign where he went 70-6 on the season, collecting three Grand Slam titles.
Moreover, it was Murray who made it to the final of Wimbledon in 2012—but the Scot lost to the resurgent Federer.
Murray, of course, went on to win the gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, defeating Federer, in a strangely lopsided final. That win, according to Murray and his camp, turned his tennis life around and gave him the confidence he needed to win at the big events in tennis.
We shall see.
Djokovic also advanced to the finals going through one set of the wind-tossed Saturday semifinal debacle. After falling behind 2-5 with Ferrer ready to serve for the first set, the outcome was put on hold until Sunday.
By then Djokovic was in much better spirits and in much better form with the sun shining and no wind playing havoc with the ball toss. He won and advanced to Monday's final.
So far in 2012, Djokovic has appeared in two Grand Slam finals, winning the 2012 Australian Open, defeating Rafael Nadal—but losing during the French Open final to Nadal, his recent constant companion in Grand Slam finals.
With tendonitis hindering his knees, Nadal withdrew from all tennis tournaments after an early upset at Wimbledon. That seemed to ease Djokovic’s path as the Serb looked ahead to Wimbledon.
World No. 1 Djokovic, however, was ousted in the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2012 by Federer who went on to win his seventh Wimbledon title and steal away the Serb's No. 1 ranking.
Djokovic also lost in the semifinals at the London Summer games to Andy Murray.
As they enter the finals on Monday it appears that Murray has had the more recent successes. The Scot also had an extra day of rest because Djokovic had to come back and play on Sunday.
Nonetheless, Djokovic, as the defending champion, has a burning desire to win this final on Monday. He wants to reclaim the No. 1 ranking and extend his stay at the top of the men’s game.
Like other great players, Djokovic wishes to leave his own unique mark on tennis history. Today, you accomplish that by winning majors.
The Serb is definitely not done winning—not by a long shot.
You have to give the edge to Djokovic to win the final on Monday based on his experience and his superior style of play on hard courts.
Watch and see...
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