Friday, 27 January 2012

Djokovic beats Murray in 5 set thriller

Novak Djokovic
I didn't think it was possible that the first semi-final in which Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in 4 sets could be topped; however Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray served up a quite astonishing match on Friday night with Djokovic pulling off the tightest of victories with a 6-3 3-6 6-7 6-1 7-5 victory in 4 hours and 50 minutes.  Djokovic started the match well and was outplaying the Brit throughout the first set using his terrific cross-court forehand to manoeuvre Murray outside of the court.  It was intriguing tennis but many of the points were being lost rather than won with 9 winners (5 from Djokovic/4 from Murray) and 35 unforced errors (15 from Djokovic/20 from Murray).

In the second set, I got the sinking feeling that this semi-final would be a repeat of last year's one-sided final in which Djokovic eased past Murray in straight sets.  However things would turn out differently as a crucial hold from Murray at 2-0 including 3 break points daved turned the match on its head.  In the next game, Murray started to find his range and hit several thumping winners to win an epic 11-minute game.  The quality of the match was rising and rising, and the rallies became longer and more intense; there was even a 41 stroke rally that had me on the edge of my seat! Towards the end of the second set, Murray made an incredible get and Djokovic's response was to literally walk across the court to hit it back.  The gruelling nature of the match seemed to be getting to Djokovic and Murray converted to level the match at one set all.

The third set lasted 88 minutes and started with a marathon 14-minute game as a tiring Djokovic fought off five break points to hold.  Murray looked to have the advantage in this set, but his level dipped ever so slightly from his terrific performance in the second.  The end of the third set saw the momentum fluctuate on more than one occasion;  Djokovic had three set points at 5-4 to take the third set and then Murray served for the set at 6-5, but neither could take the advantage.  The tiebreak was a tense affair, but incredibly entertaining.  The big point came at 5-3 when Murray produced a tremendous forehand winner after another jawdroppingly good rally and he took the tiebreak 7 points to 4.

Andy Murray
The fourth set saw a massive comedown, which was almost to be expected from Murray after such a gruelling third set.  Djokovic took full advantage of the situation and looked completely calm as he finished the 6-1 set off with 3 stunning return winners.  The standard of the play dipped at the start of the fifth set as Murray first held off break points at 2-1, but was then broken at 3-2 by the Serb.  Djokovic moved to 5-3 and a whisker away from the final.  However, a physically and mentally exhausted Murray threw the kitchen sink at Djokovic and broke to love as the quality of the match reached new heights.  Murray showed real character to draw the third set back into his favour and had 2 break points at 5-5, 15-40, which would have given him a chance to serve for the match.

One poor backhand into the net and an inspired backhand down-the-line from Djokovic after a breathtaking 29-shot rally saw those break points disappear.  He had one more chance, but Djokovic closed the door with such ferocity and a mental strength that has taken him to world number one.  Djokovic held and then immediately put the pressure back on Murray who could not hold his serve as Djokovic completed the epic victory.

Murray gave his everything to this match and could easily have wilted like 12 months ago, but he really dug deep and put in a commendable performance.  There was just a point here and there that decided this match and although he is likely to be heartbroken by the loss, he should take massive positives from this semi-final.  I will be really disappointed if the papers are negative of his performance because he does not deserve it in the slightest.  Djokovic is likely to be knackered after this epic match, but nothing seems impossible with the world number one who will face off with Rafael Nadal in the final in what will be another physical tussle... I can't wait!!!

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