Murray made the finals in Paris (and is in the process of beating John Isner), putting himself into position to claim his 3rd Masters of the year, seventh ATP title overall. Djokovic lost to Cilic in the QF, so he’s no longer #1 in the world (Novak had to make the finals to maintain his #1 ranking). Novak is not playing very well, this we know and can chart this form back to the lawns of Wimbledon, his play really pretty pedestrian there and since then, at times almost disinterested (the Toronto field was thinned-out pretty good and his USO draw, we all know, was not much of a test, at all).
But I gave him the benefit of the doubt here, thought he could at least get to the finals where he could provide even some mental gymnastics on Andy in the final, maintain his #1 ranking and set the stage for the WTF. This is not the case. The free fall could be in effect at this point. Pretty stunning really that the Serb could not get by Cilic (14-0 HTH) to hold-on to that legacy mark at least until London. Although London might suit Novak’s game a little more than Andy’s, such a statement is unfounded as Novak is losing to guys he’s routinely beat throughout his career: see Agut and Cilic.
We’re in real time and the final is looking to go to a TB in the second set (they’re at 5-5, Isner serve, Andy won 1st set 63).
If Andy can close-out the match (they’ve gone to TB), he’d certainly have some confidence going to London for the final showdown. Where people have said (even I) that Andy’s game isn’t suited for London as much as Djokovic’s (Novak has won 5 WTFs, the last four, in fact), Andy should do fine this year, especially given the field of this year’s WTF (Isner won the TB 7-4, they go to decider). No Federer, Nadal, Djokovic will be in the other group, guys like Ferrer aren’t that demonic this year, Raonic might not make the field because of this injury, Stan is up and down, court might be a little fast for his bigger artillery. . . guys like Monfils and Thiem just aren’t going to intimidate Murray. Murray should be fine, so long as he plays his game (Murray 4-3 in the 3rd, on serve).
What’s interesting for me with this Murray/Djokovic drama is the history between them and the story I’ve always told myself and others (Andy just held-on at 4-4, so Isner serving 4-5 to stay in this tight final. Props to the American! If Andy had been broken there, they went to deuce, Isner would be serving for championship. Close call.. . Murray now pushing to break for championship, 30-0, now 30-15, 30-30. . .Big John holding serve? . . .Championship point for Murray. . .
Murray breaks Isner to take Paris 63 67 (4) 64. Congratulations to Andy Murray, new world #1.
Where was I. . . how’s that for live blogging, folks. Ha ha.
I have been a critic of Murray’s in the past. I am the first to point-out this reality. I could not stand his animated conversations between points, his yelling, cursing, wasting of energy that just grew like a deadly mold on his mediocre game. Indeed, his tennis was just not in the same league as the other top dogs on tour, namely Federer and Djokovic and, yes, Nadal. Murray made the “Big 4” nomenclature tough to use in my household. That terminology was born in the days of 0 to 2 majors for the Brit. Add to that his on-court demeanor. . . and the primarily defensive style. . .I wasn’t buying his championship character one bit. Again, it was partly the results but more the demeanor and aesthetics of his game. I questioned his quality.
Part of this Murray issue affected my view of Djokovic. He was giving the Swiss and Spanish kings all they could handle, starting to beat those guys on the regular, but then his losses to Murray in the 2012 U.S. Open final and the 2013 Wimbledon final were damaging to Djokovic, imho. The Serb is rising to the top of the sport starting back in 2010, making historical moves in 2011, and yet falling to this second-rate Murray in these major finals?
I wrote, once I started this blog, how I held Djokovic responsible for the Murray majors, as if I thought Murray wasn’t deserving and Djokovic, in a way, was letting us down. Murray was in the records books on Djokovic’s watch – this is another way I worded it. Murray is not in the same league as the other three, more of a Roddick type, yet he beat Djokovic not once but twice in major finals.
Murray, under Lendl’s tutelage, has matured. Even off the court, Murray has spoken-up against certain issues, supportive of certain issues, which has established some off-court character, for sure. His consistency, staying in that top 4 for so long has to speak loudly, as well, for the guy. Of course, as Federer and Nadal have waned, Murray has ascended and naturally is alone with Novak at the top, now. This has been the case all of 2016. They met this year in the AO final, Madrid and Rome finals, and the FO final. What was seemingly a one-man show has transformed into this huge showcase of Andy v Novak.
The outcome here at the end of 2016 appears to favor Andy, an outcome that should not surprise us since he has had success against the Serb in the past (big success, as in majors); what I thought in the past of Novak inexplicably losing to an inferior player (which tainted Novak’s resume) turns-out to be an interesting spin on the mini-history of this tennis era.
Will we look back and call the century’s first decade the Fedal era, and the second decade the Djokurray era? Djokovic seemingly belongs with Fedal, but as early as 2012 Murray and Djokovic have been joined in this narrative that plays-out here at the end of 2016 and will certainly be the story in 2017 unless Djokovic continues to really struggle and one Roger comes back for a little ultimate farewell tour (remember, I said 2015 was said tour).
To the point, this is not the run-away train of Novak, looking to rattle-off 5-6 more majors before he’s done. This is Djokovic v Murray. This is the top of the sport at this point (signs as far back as 2012 show that the rivalry has longer legs than we might want to admit). Murray has become #1 in the world on Djokovic’s watch. If one thinks that Murray doesn’t quite belong in that Big 4 conversation, this Murray legacy that grows by the week is taking shape under the Serb’s guard. And actually one can’t really say Murray doesn’t belong, anymore. Indeed, this is a bit of a confession.
Either way, Novak does have an opportunity to re-take the #1 ranking at the O2, starting Nov. 13.
He’ll have to beat a confident Andy Murray who just won Paris, beating big Johnny Isner in three sets. We have a week to wait and write (if we can find time), anticipating this excellent round-robin format to decide the WTF champ and most likely the end-of-year #1. Who really has the edge? And what is Djokovic playing for at this point? How will 2017 unfold for a guy looking to defend so many points, with a matured Murray breathing down his neck or looking down on him to start the 2017 campaign?
Lots to consider.