Djokovic outlasts Murray in three-hour epic
No.2 through in thriller
In an absolutely epic tie in which his 35-0 start to the season was on the line, no.2 seed Novak Djokovic outlasted no.3 Andy Murray 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(2) in a three-hour thriller. Both players showed amazing skills and especially resilience, going deep into the night and pushing each other to the limit in a match which ebbed and flowed. Murray served for the match at 5-4 in the third, froze and yet still managed to force a tie-break, but there was to be no stopping the Serb, who won his 38th consecutive match and will now line up against Rafael Nadal in their fourth consecutive ATP Masters 1000 final.
“It’s obviously a great streak that he’s on – I’m just disappointed that I didn’t put an end to it,” said a lucid yet disappointed Murray after the match. “I’m pleased with the way I’m playing. Considering I’ve been in a ‘crisis’ as it’s been called… I was on a bad run, I was mentally in a bad place,” he said of his poor run of form after losing to Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open, “but I’ve been in the top four for the past few years now and your tennis never goes away. I needed to get off to a better start at a few matches here and that’s something I’m going to work on between now and the French Open. I’m going to practise for four or five days and get fitter. I do feel now that I’m going to be fresh and play my best tennis, and that’s the most important thing. I think I can win the French.”
Djokovic meanwhile – one of the hot favourites for Roland Garros already – paid tribute to his adversary. “Anyone who saw the match could see that the winner was not decided up until the last point,” he said. “It was a fantastic match to be a part of, Andy was serving really well especially in the second set and put a lot of pressure on my service games. Physically it took a lot out of both of us and I think he was unlucky – he was playing better at the end of the match.”
And so now Djokovic must take on five-time champion Nadal on a mere 17 hours rest, for what is his 37th match of the year already. “Nadal as we all know is physically the strongest guy around,” the world no.2 said. “It’s no secret that (the streak) is catching up with me. I have played the most matches – along with Nadal. I’ve been playing with high intensity and it’s natural to get tired, but that’s nothing new. I’ll do my best to recover.”
Novak Djokovic - Andy Murray: As it happened
11.12 pm: 5-1 Nole at the change-over after Andy just misses two lines... AM ace makes it 5-2, then Nole dropissimo makes it four match points... And the same incredible drop wins it! Novak Djokovic defeats Andy Murray 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(2). Three hours of some of the best. Tennis. Ever. They hit the same number of winners (36) and Andy hit four more unforced errors (37-33). Four points. Four crucial points... And the Nole streak goes on - 36-0! How much will he have left in the tank in 17 hours time though?
11.03 pm: Murray steps up to the plate at 15-30 and takes it to (drumroll...) A TIE-BREAK!
10.58 pm: 0-30 then Nole takes four in a row. Murray to serve to stay alive this time around.
10.53 pm: More deuces, three break points for Nole and he takes the third, or rather he is given it when Murray serves his second DF of the game. ARGH! 5-5.
10.43 pm: Game of all the deuces, Murray holds BPs which Nole negates with great services which puff up chalk dust, but in the end, the Scotsman breaks, returning with such incredible depth. Murray to serve to end the streak. And he's doing it with new balls...
10.29 pm: 4-4! 0-40, Murray serve and volleys to save two but the third point first service is long, and Nole swallows the second one whole. Oh boy. Tie-break anyone? #jinx
10.26 pm: !!! Murray holds, then suddenly the Djoker becomes the unforced error-er. Murray breaks to love! He leads 4-3! He takes the crucialissimo seventh game of the set! I bet you Nole breaks right back here...
10.14 pm: Oh lordy, Djokovic wobbles, lobs up a second serve that is begging to be hit at 30-40 and Murray says "Thanking you" as he fires a forehand return into the no-man's-land that his opponent has left. 2-3, Breakback Mountain and back on service. The crowd is torn, chanting "Nole, Nole" and "Andy, Andy", trying to drown each other out but basically cheering for whoever lost the last point, just to make sure that the enjoyment goes on.
10.08 pm: 3-1 with a break. Nole eats up Andy's second services like they were a big thick Neapolitan pizza (the best kind). Gioco Djoko. #noleservicehasbeenresumed
10.02 pm: 2-1 Djokovic. Ooh, the tension!
9.54 pm: One second service that Murray can capitalise on, otherwise four first'uns, four points for the Djoker who holds to open the decider.
9.48 pm: And he does it! Andy does it! Forehands into the corners, doing unto the Djoker what he does to others, and Murray takes the second set 6-3! Oh my goodness...
9.45 pm: Nole finds himself at 2-5, 15-40 then battles back. Murray to serve for the set at 5-3 though...
9.27 pm: Hope! Esperanza! A chink of light! After a comfortable hold, Murray battles and breaks to 30! He leads 4-2! He's two games away from taking a set off the invincible Serb! #jinx...
9.10 pm: 2-1 Murray. The second set is already better than the first as far as the Muzzmeister is concerned. But how do you solve a problem like Nole? You don't. Ah, make that 2-2 as the Serbian Stormer holds to love.
8.54 pm: 6-1 and that's all she wrote on the first set. I wouldn't like to be in Andy's shoes at the moment (not least because they'll be full of sweat and sand after being given the run-around there for the first 40 minutes).
8.51 pm: 5-1. Ouch. Men against boys? No. Excellent player against one who is in a state of grace, on a higher plane.
8.45 pm: Nine points ago, the game was back on, well and truly. Then a break to love and a hold to 15, and it's 4-1 Nole. A disappointed hush falls over Centre Court.
8.41 pm: Noooooo! All that hard work from the Scotsman undone in four points worth of awry forehands and weak services. Nole service has been resumed, the gluten-free Serbanator (to get the two necessary clichés out of the way in one go) leads 3-1.
8.37 pm: Whoa Murray! This time it's Nole's turn for stare down three break points. Murray is a thou' away from taking it with a backhand down the line that juuuust fails to clip some white, but the third time is the charm and he's back on service at 1-2. Wow! He earned that, big time.
8.23 pm: Worst possible scenario for Murray who faces down two break points by hook or by crook but it powerless to stop the third. Djokovic breaks to lead 2-0. Already.
8.14 pm: No Soderling repeat. Bobby Sod fired down four incredible returns to break Nole to love to open about 25 hours ago. Tonight, the Djoker holds to love. Boom.
8.05 pm: Good evening and welcome to Novak Djokovic versus Andy Murray, live from Centre Court at the Foro Italico, with a place in the final against Rafael Nadal the prize for the winner.
These two have met eight times in the past, with the Djoker edging the h2h 5-3 including the only time they have met on clay, at Monte Carlo three years ago when Nole won 0 and 4. Their last three meetings have been in finals, Nole taking the Aus Open this year, Andy winning at Miami in 2009 and Cincinnati in 2008.
Oh yes, and one more stat. 35-0. That's Nole this year. Boom. 37-0 if you take his wins over Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils to help Serbia win the Davis Cup last December. Invincible? Well he certainly has been for the past six months - just ask Rafa, whom he's beaten in three finals already this year...
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