why Djokovic beat Murray in Madrid

Dominating for five years, Novak Djokovic has the tennis world in the palm of his hand.

 

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His 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 Madrid Open 2016 win over Andy Murray followed a familiar pattern.

Djokovic jumped on Murray early. He was aggressive from the baseline, hitting hard, flat, deep balls to both corners before Murray could ease into the match.

 

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“It is a completely different game to playing Rafa,” said Murray after the match. “Novak obviously plays significantly flatter, stands much closer to the baseline, and returns much closer to the baseline, so there is much less time. Maybe it took a while to adjust to that. Against Rafa, he’s playing (the ball) much higher, so you have more time. You’re then able to play with spin as well. Whereas at the start when Novak is hitting the ball flatter and faster, it’s not easy for you to play high and use your spin. It took me a while to adjust to that. But he started extremely well.”

 

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Djokovic seemed on cruise control.

 

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Djokovic was seeing right through Murray, and hitting through his defensives.

 

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Murray had to try something different to slow him down. Serving out of trouble, Murray adjusted in the second set. He drew Djokovic forward with dropshots. He took pace off the ball with fizzing low slices and looping forehands to throw off Djokovic’s rhythm. Djokovic, a counterpuncher who prefers dealing with more pace rather than generating his own, dumped routine forehands and backhands into the net, giving Murray the second set.

 

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But then Djokovic made the final triumphant adjustment. On the anxious key points later in the match, Djokovic opted for more conservative swings and targets. He locked down a defensive wall, getting everything back, and forcing Murray into errors and frustration. Murray’s mind wandered. His focus switched away from the court toward his box, while Djokovic seemed to bear down mentally.

 

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Then Djokovic went for the kill with big serves and sharp groundstrokes.

“I prefer playing like I did in the first set, but sometimes you get to the nervy moments and you get a little bit tight,” said Djokovic after the match. “That’s when you try to loop maybe the ball a little bit more without going through it. So, yeah, I mean, it just depends who you’re playing against, what surface you’re playing on. But in the last game, I tried to take one-two punch kind of tactics, you know, not get myself in long rallies. You know, it worked. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. But I always try to make my opponent play an extra shot. If I have a shorter ball, I need to take my chances. That’s the kind of mindset.”

Murray praised Djokovic’s tactics and execution. “Both of us were pretty clinical on the break points up until the last game for me. That’s why he’s number one right now. He fought very hard in that game and served well when he was a bit nervous. At the end he came up with some big serves and got himself some free points and did well. Today I needed to keep my intensity very high and concentration on every point, and made a few mistakes in the middle of the third. The best players capitalize on that. You get away with it with players who aren’t that good.”

 

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—words and images by Christopher Johnson in Madrid. Copyright Globalite Media all rights reserved —

 

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