Andy Murray's Keys to Upsetting Novak Djokovic at 2014 US Open

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Andy Murray's Keys to Upsetting Novak Djokovic at 2014 US Open
Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Andy Murray's win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round of the U.S. Open has been a long time coming.

Still just 27 years old, one can't be blamed for mistakenly believing that Murray was into his 30s, considering his quick drop from the top of the men's game.

A seven-time Grand Slam finalist and two-time champion, Murray had been mired in a major slump against the sport's elite players since winning last year's Wimbledon title in front of a raucous British crowd.

His win against the Frenchman on Monday was his first against a player ranked in the top 10 since his historic triumph at Wimbledon over a year ago, per ESPNTennis:

Now the former U.S. Open champion will face a much tougher opponent in world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. The two will play in what is considered a marquee quarterfinal matchup, which will go Wednesday in the evening session, per the U.S. Open's official twitter account:

The history between these two is a long one, as ESPNTennis notes:

Murray actually beat Djokovic in the 2012 U.S. Open Final in a marathon five-setter.

If he plans on replicating that success and moving onto the tournament's semifinals, he's going to have to play a brand of tennis that resembles the Murray of 2012 and 2013.

Here's what Andy Murray needs to do to pull off the upset Wednesday.

 

Stay Aggressive

Just about every tennis player is at their best when they're on the attack.

That's not to say that they throw caution to the wind, but being able to keep your opposition on their heels, attacking their short balls, is crucial.

Getting back to that mentality is precisely what has helped Murray regain his form at this year's U.S. Open. As the BBC's tennis correspondent Russell Fuller points out, Murray was on point in this regard during his match with Tsonga:

Murray set the platform by dropping only three points on serve in the first set, and then took the initiative by attacking Tsonga's second serve when the Frenchman went set point down. The second set finished in exactly the same way, but only after Murray went into attack mode when 2-4 down. He had real fire in his belly throughout, and was unrecognisable from the man who lost to Grigor Dimitrov at Wimbledon. Djokovic will start Wednesday's quarter-final as a worthy favourite, but will not enjoy the ride if Murray can produce more of the same.

Both in his service and return game, Murray seemed to be back on track. That will be crucial against one of tennis' best returners in Djokovic. The Scot will need to hit his first serve for a high percentage to minimize Djokovic's opportunities against his weaker second serve.

 

Avoid Long Rallies

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Staying out of long rallies with "Joker" will be crucial to Murray's success.

Both of Djokovic's groundstrokes are among the game's elite, and Murray is still struggling with some parts of his forehand, as Greg Rusedski of The Telegraph notes:

As for Murray’s groundstrokes, his problem this year has been the wide, stretching forehand

[...]

My feeling is that Andy has been gambling too much on that shot, trying to hit it flat and fast because he did not trust his movement to put him back in the centre of the court for the next ball. As a result, he was missing too often.

Rusedski notes that his forehand has looked much better during this U.S. Open run, but testing that against a player like Djokovic may be a recipe for disaster.

Rusedski also points to Murray's fitness as a potential hurdle, with Murray having suffered bouts of inconsistency in his early matches.

The elevated temperatures of this tournament, as Reuters notes, certainly won't help his chances in any prolonged affairs, even with the match being played in the evening:

And it only cools down so much for the evening sessions.

Murray's win in the 2012 U.S. Open final came in five sets and lasted an incredible 4:54. The longer this one goes, the likelier it is that the more consistent and more fit Djokovic will emerge victorious.

Taking risks like coming to the net more often in an attempt to win quick, easy points on serve may be essential for Murray, even though Djokovic is such a talented returner.

 

Match Prediction

Murray seems to have, at least partially, re-discovered his form through four rounds at the U.S. Open.

The fact that his movement still isn't back to where it has been in the past, however—as well as his penchant for dropping off for games at a time in the early rounds—leads me to believe that he'll come up shy of defeating the world's top player.

Keep in mind, Murray's success against Djokovic in the past came in long matches with long forehand rallies. The fact that he's had dips in just about every match of this tournament so far shows his endurance just isn't where it needs to be to grind out one of those five-set thrillers.

Now that he's playing Djokovic, any kind of lapse in form will be seized upon by the Serbian.

Therefore, Murray will be forced to try and win points quickly, something not in his comfort zone when squaring off against his longtime rival.

It's been fun watching Murray progress and move closer to re-claiming a spot alongside Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as part of the "Big Four" in men's tennis, but he's not there just yet.

Djokovic should take this one in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

 

Follow Jon Reid on twitter, @JonReidCSM.

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