LONDON – Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are building their own Grand Slam rivalry, one that perhaps someday will merit mention alongside Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal, or Djokovic vs. Nadal.
When the top-ranked Djokovic faces No. 2 Murray to determine Wimbledon’s champion today, it will be their fourth meeting in a major final – and third in less than a year.
Djokovic beat Murray at the Australian Open in 2011. Murray beat Djokovic at the U.S. Open last September. Djokovic beat Murray at the Australian Open in January.
That’s not yet quite up to the lofty standard set by Federer and Nadal, who played each other in eight Grand Slam title matches between 2006 and 11. Djokovic and Nadal have contested five major finals since 2010, including a stretch of four in a row.
While part of the appeal of the Federer-Nadal matchup lies in their vastly contrasting games, Djokovic-Murray features two guys who employ rather similar styles.
They are improving servers and fantastic returners who managed to silence big hitters in the semifinals Friday: Djokovic had a 22-4 edge in aces during his 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (6), 6-3 victory over No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro; Murray had a 20-9 edge in aces during his 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz.
There is some similarities there, in terms of if you look at stats and stuff. I mean, both of us return well. That’s probably the strongest part of our games. Both play predominantly from the baseline, said Murray, who is aiming to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.
Djokovic, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, is seeking his seventh Grand Slam title overall and will be playing in his 11th major final. Murray is 1-5 in major finals. He has reached the championship matches at each of the last four Grand Slam tournaments he entered; he skipped this year’s French Open because of a bad back.
Murray didn’t need to expend too much energy to get past Janowicz, but Djokovic’s win against del Potro was physically and emotionally sapping. It lasted 4 hours, 43 minutes, a record for a Wimbledon semifinal.
I did play a very long match, but I had situations before where I had to recover even just in 24 hours for the match the next day, Djokovic said.
Murray says he thrives with the backing of 15,000 or so flag-waving, top-of-their-lungs-yelling spectators every time he plays on Centre Court.
There’s that extra bit of pressure that probably Novak doesn’t have, said Murray’s brother Jamie, who won the 2007 mixed doubles title at the All England Club. If (Andy) deals with that well, then I’m sure he can perform in the final.