Djokovic Sets the Record Straight Against Murray in Doha Final

If the Doha final was a taste of what’s to come in the 2017 tennis season then it is going to be one hell of a year. Djokovic got his revenge over Murray 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in maybe their best match yet.

Djokovic appeared nervous at the beginning which was understandable after what happened in London but he soon found his rhythm from the ground and he went through a stretch where he won 16 consecutive points on serve which put pressure on Murray’s serve.

The pressure eventually got to Murray as Djokovic broke in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead. Djokovic continued to exert pressure on Murray in the second set with that incredible baseline consistency and broke serve again at 3-3 after a Murray double fault.

At 5-4 he was serving for the match which looked like it would be a masterclass win but Murray saved three match points in the game and broke back. I didn’t feel like Djokovic choked but he wasn’t quite convincing in putting Murray away either.

I’d rather give Murray the credit for how well he played in that game as he took break point with a tremendous inside out forehand winner. The momentum was now with him as he held serve and broke Djokovic again to win the second set.

Going into the third set, the commentator said that Djokovic could tire after the match with Verdasco but I wasn’t quite buying it. Becker also tweeted that the momentum was now with Murray and I wasn’t quite buying that either.

How many times have we seen Djokovic smash a racquet after losing a set and coming back to win the next set? Many times and that is exactly what he did after losing the second set. Djokovic was playing like his old self even though Murray found a way back and I was confident that he would bounce back.

  • Djokovic Goes In for the Kill

Serving at 2-3 in the third set it looked like Djokovic was doing the rope-a-dope again but it is always tough to tell with him. He may well have been feeling tired after the match with Verdasco.

Either way, despite visibly looking in trouble physically he found a way back in that game after being break point down to level at 3-3. The seventh game had a feel about it that Djokovic might break and that is exactly what he did.

He made the decision to take the initiative and be aggressive which paid off handsomely as he broke serve to love. At that point, he looked across the net at Murray and gave an intense stare.

He knew that was a big moment that even stubborn Murray was very unlikely to come back from. The quality of the tennis was just unreal and Murray was really stretching Djokovic to his very limits.

But as usual in their rivalry Djokovic just found something extra and I think it is safe to say now that he is back, although it will probably only be official if he wins the Australian Open.

That said, Djokovic still went 0-30 down on his serve when serving for the match for the second time and I thought here we go again. Fortunately, he spared me the anguish of losing serve again as he won the next four points and fittingly ended the match with a forehand winner.

It was pretty much the perfect ending to a perfect match. It lasted just short of three hours and as far as best of three set matches goes it is going to be very had to top this year.

  • How Significant Was This Result?

I think there was a fair amount of significance to the match as well with the upcoming Australian Open and after what happened in London last year. Murray went into the match as the favorite according to the bookies with odds of 10/7.

The bookies reflect most people’s expectations but as you well know if you read my blog regularly I said after the World Tour Finals that Djokovic was on his way back and that I can see that trend continuing this year.

I certainly was not ready to write him off like so many and today he proved a lot of people wrong again. The key to the match for me was always going to be who was going to be the most aggressive.

Djokovic was not quite decisive enough when he served for the match but he certainly was decisive at 3-3 in the third set. He started out slightly tentatively because of nerves and then towards the end of the second set he was not aggressive enough either.

But overall he played a brilliant match with a good balance between defense and offense. To me, the old Djokovic was already back in London bar the final against Murray where he didn’t show up.

Beating Murray today was the next logical step if he continued that trend and winning the Australian Open would be the next. To me, he is the favorite for the title now. This was the perfect preparation.

A brutal match against his biggest rival with him coming out on top. As a fan, I am delighted to see Djokovic playing this well again and to see my faith in him paying off. I missed that incredible level of tennis and intensity from my favorite player.

  • Highlights

Djokovic Will Have His Chance for Revenge Against Murray in Doha Final

So we got the final I’m sure most people have been hoping for after Djokovic saved five match points in his 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-3 win over Verdasco and Murray defeated Berdych 6-3, 6-4.

I couldn’t watch the Djokovic match due to my poor Internet quality but on the highlights, I saw Djokovic was 2-6 and 6-7 down in the tiebreak. He was also up 4-2 in the first set after which he slumped badly to lose the first set and go down 0-2 in the second set.

It’s not every day that you see Djokovic get broken three consecutive times. It must have been a bad day at the office but what matters is that he won with the help of his characteristic mental strength.

Losing to Verdasco would have been a pretty big setback at this point and I am still not sure how first of all he got into that situation and second of all found a way out. But it is not the first time we see Djokovic save match points.

His mental strength is up there with the best of all time. The match with Verdasco may boost his confidence as well before playing Murray, knowing how close he was to exiting the tournament.

Who knows what to expect from the second final between these two in as many events. I am just glad it is the best final possible. Djokovic would obviously love to turn the tables after what happened in London last year.

If he can win that would give him a nice boost before the Australian Open and he will probably be the favorite to win his seventh title. If Murray wins that would be two consecutive final wins over Djokovic and it could give him a mental edge if they meet in the Melbourne final again.

  • Things Heat Up in Brisbane

In Brisbane today there were some interesting results as Raonic defeated Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and continues to look like a serious threat to the likes of Djokovic and Murray.

Wawrinka also came from a set down to defeat Edmund 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-4 and Dimitrov continued his good form from last year with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over Thiem. Finally, Nishikori easily defeated Thompson 6-1, 6-1.

So we have Raonic vs Dimitrov and Wawrinka vs Nishikori in Brisbane which is a strong semis lineup for an ATP 250. Raonic is the defending champ after defeating Federer last year and he is probably the favorite to go all the way.

  • Highlights

Djokovic and Murray On Course For Doha Final Meeting

Since my last post, Djokovic and Murray won their next two matches to make the semi-finals stage in Doha and will play against Verdasco and Berdych in the semis respectively.

Interestingly, Djokovic has been the one who has been looking more comfortable since that slow start in his first round match which was understandable as it was his first match of the year.

Since then he defeated Zeballos 6-3, 6-4 and Stepanek 6-3, 6-3 today. The match against Stepanek was played in windy conditions and he did well against the oldest player at 38 years of age to make the quarterfinals of an event since Connors in 1995.

Djokovic seems to be carrying on where he left off last year before he lost to Murray at the World Tour Finals. Obviously, he was not very pleased with that loss and has been training his ass off in the offseason.

He’d love to play Murray in the final of Doha to set the record straight. Murray has been less convincing than Djokovic having needed a tiebreak in each of his first three matches. Today he defeated Almagro by the same scoreline that he defeated Melzer in the previous round(7-6, 7-5).

He is also playing Berdych next who defeated Tsonga 7-5, 6-3 today. He only leads Berdych 10-6 in the head-to-head so that could be a tough match for him if he doesn’t improve.

Djokovic plays Verdasco who he leads 8-4 in the head-to-head. Verdasco can be dangerous but Djokovic will probably be too solid for him. What I saw from Djokovic in the wind today was very solid and he still looks like the old Djokovic.

He just allowed Murray to get under his skin a bit during the second half of last year but with the Doha and Australian Open titles that would be history.

  • Zverev Defeats Federer at Hopman Cup

Yesterday the rising youngster Alex Zverev defeated Federer 7-6(1), 6-7(4), 7-6(4) at the Hopman Cup. The Hopman Cup is not a tour event but Federer will be taking every match seriously knowing that it is his only preparation for Melbourne after being out of the sport since Wimbledon last year.

He has since fallen to number 16 in the rankings but it is nice to have him back. I think Zverev would have given everything as well knowing that beating Federer under any conditions would be a big win for him.

19-year old Zverev made a big move last year when he won his first title in St. Petersburg and rose to as high as number 20(currently 24) in the rankings. He is one of the brightest young stars in tennis if not the brightest.

The win over Federer was more proof of his potential which he is fast delivering on. As for Federer, I bet he is just happy that he is able to play. His ranking won’t help his draw in Melbourne but it will be interesting to see if he can do some damage.