Australian Open 2013: Title Clash Will Push Djokovic-Murray Rivalry to New Level

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 07:  Andy Murray (L) of Great Britain shakes hands with Novak Djokovic of Serbia following his defeat during the men's singles match against  on day three of the ATP World Tour Finals at the at O2 Arena on November 7, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

For the third year in a row, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are set to put on a great display of tennis at the Australian Open.

Last season in the semifinals they went five sets with the Djoker coming out the winner. The stakes are raised at the 2013 Australian Open, with Murray and Djokovic both advancing to the men's singles final.

They have maintained a competitive, yet respectful, rivalry. Before meeting in the final of the 2012 U.S. Open, Kevin Mitchell of The Guardian quoted Djokovic saying:

The gold [medal] in London was great for Andy. I think he will use it as a springboard to now go and win majors. I can't be friends with Andy, though. I really like the guy, but how can you be best friends with a guy you know you are going to be doing battle with?

It is true for myself, Roger [Federer], Rafa [Nadal] and now Andy. We like each other and there is mutual respect but common sense tells you we can't be best friends and hang out.

That's how this rivalry should be. There doesn't need to be a mutual hatred between the two. Murray and Djokovic can be friends and then enemies once they step on the court.

Jimmy Connors had a great quote about playing Bjorn Borg. He said:

I'll chase … Borg to the ends of the earth. I'll be waiting for him. I'll dog him everywhere. Every time he looks around he'll see my shadow.

That kind of attitude is what the sport is missing. Djokovic should have that burning desire that can only be extinguished by beating Murray. Likewise for Murray, there should be that little piece of him that feels unfulfilled until he beats Djokovic at the Australian Open for the first time.

The rivalry between Djokovic and Murray has been pretty equal to this point. According to the ATP, Djokovic has the slight edge with a record of 10-7. In terms of Grand Slams, the Serb also has a 2-1 advantage, with both wins coming at the Australian Open.

Two of the Grand Slam meetings—2012 Australian Open and 2012 U.S. Open—have gone to five sets, meaning fans are in for another great matchup this weekend.

Tennis is dying for captivating reasons to watch. There's so many sports vying for the fans' attention that tennis needs to break through the clutter. That's not going to happen if it's just one guy at the top without much competition

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal used to almost carry the sport by themselves. Their matches at Wimbledon and the French Open became instant classics.

With Federer's talent diminishing and Nadal's knees not cooperating, their rivalry is beginning to wane. The sport can't rely on their star power in the way it did in the past. Seeing them face off in the early-to-mid rounds doesn't have the feel of their previously fantastic encounters.

Djokovic was one of the most dominant athletes in the world in 2011, yet few comprehended exactly how good he was because no one outside of tennis was really paying attention. He then followed that up with a stellar 2012.

Without a foil on the court, though, it's just not as compelling to watch him play.

Having him face off with Murray in the Australian Open is the best thing that could have happened for tennis right now.


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