Sunday, April 5, 2009

MIAMI: MURRAY MUSCLES PAST DJOKOVIC



Andy Murray inched closer to the #3 world-ranking Sunday, after notching a decisive 6-2, 7-5 victory against the enigmatic but always dangerous Novak Djokovic.

It was the tour leading 3rd ATP title for Murray, and the 11th of his career.

For Djokovic, it was another loss in what has become a disconcerting stretch for him.

"Yet again, I was, I think, the biggest enemy to myself," the frustrated Serbian told the media after the match. "I was struggling again and adjusting to the heat."

Unfortunately for Djokovic, who has held the #3 ranking since August of 2007, the heat came in several forms. While the temperature soared to 87 degrees with 54% humidity, his opponent, the ever improving Scot who looks destined for the # 2 spot at some point later this year, was bringing the heat as well.

After taking the first 4 games of the match, the calm and patient Murray did not loosen his grip. Serving well and playing virtually error free from the baseline, Murray only surrendered 3 points on his serve in the whole set.

Djokovic, meanwhile, was over hitting and playing too aggressively - exactly what he said he didn't want to do in a pre-match interview. He sailed many attempts at winners beyond the baseline and when he did make shots it seemed that Murray, even from defensive positions, was able to counter (especially with his cross-court backhand, a nasty dipping shot that seemed always to elude Djokovic as he approached the net.)

"I think I played volleys quite well, but he was managing to find a little space to pass me," said Djokovic. "He just made good passing shots. You have to say, well done. I was positioning myself as best as I can."

While the scoreboard will allude to a completely one-sided match, Djokovic did have chances to force a third set. Following a brief encounter with the trainer (Djokovic suffered from fatigue due to heat) after being broken in the first game of the 2nd set, Djokovic rallied to win the next four games for a 4-1 lead. But the security of that cushion proved to be fleeting.

Murray battled back, using his superior conditioning to gain the edge, and he finally was able to gain a break in a pivotal 9th game of the set to get back on serve (Djokovic missed an inside out forehand by an amount so tiny that even the Hawk-Eye seemed to deliberate on the call) after Djokovic squandered 2 critical set points.

At that point the battle of wills appeared to favor Murray.

Djokovic had a chance to earn a break point at 30-30, 4-5, but he failed to convert an overhead smash and eventually lost the point on an unfortunate net-chord bounce that favored Murray.

He wouldn't see another opportunity like that, and the match ended with Murray reeling off the final 5 games.

Murray, who now lives part-time and trains in Miami, is the first British player to ever win the Masters Miami event. While he actively dispels any hype that might be brought upon him due to his heritage, he is eager to share his enthusiasm about his improving fitness. "I spent my off-season here and trained at the University. I traveled all last year with a fitness trainer. It just makes a big difference."

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