Saturday, July 6, 2013

Wimbledon 2013 Men's Singles Final preview

English: Novak Djokovic celebrating his 2011 A...
 Novak Djokovic  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Andy Murray (2)

Despite a whole host of upsets, seeds being knocked out left right and centre, it is quite remarkable that we still ended up having a Wimbledon final featuring the top two seeds, and on current form, the world's best two players. Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray face off in the Wimbledon 2013 final on Sunday, their third final amongst the last four grand slams, and it's hard to argue that there are two more deserving finalists.

It's hard to preview a match, in which both opponents know each others games so well. Matches between these two are often decided by a few crucial points, battles featuring endless momentum shifts and intense fight backs. Both have played spectacularly well at Wimbledon, but a case could be made for Djokovic having played the better tennis of the two.

Murray looked unbeatable through the first four rounds, and then almost threw away the dream with two dreadful sets of tennis against Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals. Murray battled back to win brilliantly in five sets, and then had a shaky first set against Jerzy Janowicz in the semis before prevailing again with his higher quality of tennis. Crucially Murray's serve has been extremely consistent throughout the tournament, and his brilliant return game completely nullified Janowicz's potent serve which had delivered the most aces in the tournament.

Like Murray, Djokovic also had a fantastic first week, and maintained his consistency against tougher opponents in the later rounds. Impressively even when Tommy Haas and Tomas Berdych built up sizeable leads by breaking Djokovic, the world no.1 fought back brilliantly to reach the semis without even losing a set. His semifinal win against Juan Martin Del Potro was a true classic. That Djokovic won in five sets reminded us of his resilience. That he did so after squandering two match points in the 4th set, and still came out so focused and determined in the fifth, speaks of his immense mental fortitude.

Andy Murray against Roger Federer at the 2008 ...
Andy Murray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Djokovic had a superb match with his serve, hitting 21 aces against Del Potro. Significantly, he also varied his tactics displaying great composure at net and winning points with some brilliantly executed volleys in the face of Del Potro's ferocious groundstrokes. Djokovic will need to approach the net again to challenge Murray with variety, despite the Scotsman's prowess with passing shots. In fact, Djokovic can come unstuck against Murray when he tries to play cat and mouse from the baseline. On the other hand Djokovic can possibly extend rallies even better than Murray can.

For Murray, the serve will continue to be crucial, and by the same token so will the return. If Murray can incorporate his slice effectively to Djokovic's backhand, then there is a good chance he can draw some errors in long rallies. As with Djokovic, Murray too will have to display his acumen at net to win some cheap points. Murray must have learnt from his victory over Djokovic on grass at the Olympics that playing an attacking game to start off the match can unhinge the Serb.

It's the first final at Wimbledon since 2003 that won't feature either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. On current form, it's becoming evident that this is now the pre-eminent rivalry on the ATP tour. Can Murray finally end the long wait for a British champion at Wimbledon? Can Djokovic win Wimbledon for the second time and banish the memories of a heartbreaking loss at Roland Garros? It's simply too close to call, and that's when we usually see the best sporting spectacles.
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