Saturday, July 06, 2013

2013 WIMBLEDON: Men's Final Preview

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] vs. Andy Murray (GBR) [2]
The players are set for the 2013 men's final at the Wimbledon Championships. Last year correctly predicted Serena Williams would defeat Agnieska Radwanska in the Women's Final and I also correctly predicted Roger Federer would defeat Andy Murray in the Men's Final. This year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals and 2 of 2 men's semifinals

However, this year I incorrectly predicted that Sabine Lisicki would defeat Marion Bartoli.  What follows is my analysis of this year's men's final between Novak Djokovic and Andy  Murray and a review of the recently completed Men's semifinals.

How They Got Here: Men's Semifinals Review
Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] d. Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) [8] 7-5 4-6 7-6(2) 6-7(6) 6-3.
Surprisingly, this was simply one of the all-time grass court matches, and almost certainly the best Wimbledon men's semifinal ever. It broke the record for the longest Wimbledon semifinal, lasting 4 hours 43 minutes. Only two other matches come to mind that obviously surpass it, namely the 2008 Wimbledon final between Federer and Nadal and the 2009 Wimbledon final between Federer and Andy Roddick. But those two are also some of the greatest matches of all-time. This result was a surprise, because 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro had never played his best tennis on grass before, even though he had given hints of the brilliance that could come in his straight-sets dismissal of David Ferrer in the quarterfinals. Both Djokovic and Del Potro had both not lost a setup to this point in the tournament. That quickly changed when Djokovic was able to sneak out the first set. But Del Potro came back and broke Djokovic and then easily held serve to take the second set. In the third set, the two held serve until the tiebreak (with Djokovic failing to convert multiple breakpoints) and then simply outplayed the Argentine to win the 3rd. Following a break relatively early in the fourth set the match seemed like it would be soon over. But Del Potro had other ideas and broke back. Even though he again fell behind in the tie-break, Djokovic was able to save two match points and then grab his first set point in the tiebreak to force a fifth set very close to the 4th hour of the match. However, Djokovic was able to eventually break serve and despite facing a breakpoint n the final game was able to serve it out to reach his 9th major final in the last 12 played.

Andy Murray (GBR) [2] dJerzy Janowicz (POL) [24] 6-7(2) 6-4 6-4 6-3. Murray continued the long tradition of torturing his countrymen by losing the first set in a tie-break again the young Pole, who became the first player to get this deep in only their fifth major tournament since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the 2008 Australian Open. Murray fought back to win the second set and then fell down to 1-4 in the third set before the crowd got involved and powered their countryman to five consecutive games to win the 3rd set. At this point the Club made the curious decision to close the roof, completely stopping Murray's momentum. But Murray's hard-eared experience at the top levels of profesional tennis help him to maintain his focus on holding his service games (even out-acing the 6-foot-8 Janowicz who hit serves as high as 140 mph) and eventually he broke Janowicz early. Murray constantly applied pressure which led to a reduction in Janowicz's  service percentage so that and then in the 8th game he faced a breakpoint that was a match point and served a puff second serve that was returned for a clear winner by Murray to end the match.

Who Will Win: Men's Final Preview

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] vs. Andy Murray (GBR) [2]. This is another major final (their fourth) played between these two men who were born a week apart in 1987 and are now the current World #1 and World #2. Head-to-head Djokovic still leads 11 to 7 including 2-1 in major finals but Murray leads 1-0 on grass, having beaten Djokovic in the semifinals of the London Olympics tennis tournament played last year at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club. Interestingly, the two are tied 4-all in tour finals and they each have won three tournaments this year. Djokovic beat Murray in this year's Australian Open final in four sets while Murray beat Djokovic at last year's US Open final in 5 sets.

Suffice it to say that there is not a lot of differences between these two players that will determine who will win the match. To get to this stage of the tournament Djokovic had had the tougher field, which included Tommy Haas2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, and Del Potro, losing only 2 sets to the latter. Murray dropped 2 sets against an inspired Fernando Verdasco in the quarters and another one against Janowicz in the semis. Murray has hit 249 winners to 102 unforced errors in the first 6 rounds, an average of 25 more winners than errors, while Djokovic has hit 275 winners to 112 unforced errors, and average of 27 more winners than errors per match. Djokovic has hit 76 aces to 7 double faults, while Murray has hit 80 aces to 11 double faults. 

Djokovic has to be considered the more experienced player, having played in 10 major finals, with an impressive 6-4 record. Murray very famously lost his first 4 major finals, finally winning his 5th and then losing in the 6th, for an overall record of 1-5. But honestly, one needs to separate Murray into the pre-Lendl Murray (0-4) and the post-Lendl Murray. In that case, the post-Lendl Murray is 1-2 in major finals and has won the Gold Medal match over Roger Federer, on grass

The surface is another important aspect of the match. I think that Murray is a better grass court player than Djokovic, as evinced by his win over him in the one time they have played here (even though that was a 3-set match) and by Murray's quick success at an early age as opposed to Djokovic's.

However, mentally I have to give a slight edge to Djokovic because of his overall record in major finals and his head-to-head over Murray. And physically I have to give Djokovic another slight edge as well, as evinced by his 6-hour marathon win over Nadal in the 2012 Australian Open final and his outlasting of Murray this January in Melbourne. 

But I believe the intangibles will determine who wins this match. Playing the Wimbledon final in front of an almost completely partisan crowd will be an extremely important factor that Murray has already demonstrated that he knows how to use to his advantage. The crowd could become a motivating factor for Djokovic as well; he as used hostile crowd in New York to his advantage when playing Roger Federer in the US Open semifinals to come back from match point down to win the match on two occasions. So, the crowd support could be a double edged sword for Murray in the end. But I suspect he will use it to give him the extra edge he needs to finally get over the finish line at his country's major tournament, which just happens to be the most prestigious title in tennis. 


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