With the defeat of top seed Roger Federer, there were no prizes for guessing the most probable line up for the finals of the men’s event at US Open 2012. The showdown between World Number 2 and defending champion Novak Djokovic and third seed Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray was inevitable. On paper, the two are essentially equal. Djokovic’s brutal ground strokes are nullified by Murray’s reliable defensive ability. The age difference between the two is less than a week. All these facts give form to what promises to be a very interesting clash.
With Nadal backing out, Djokovic has had a more easy run at this tournament than Murray. The Serb has lost only a single set so far in the tournament. He brushed past what was considered his only true challenge, Juan Martin Del Potro, with considerable ease in the quarterfinals in straight sets. His brilliant display of a strategic combination of thunderous ground strokes and gentle drop shots were beyond Del Potro’s grasp. The scoreboard read 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-4. Even Djokovic would agree that his semifinal encounter with the veteran David Ferrer was no walk in the park. The match stretched on for two days as the weather played spoil-sport. On the first day, it was quite clear that Djokovic was distracted by the choppy weather as Ferrer raced to a 5-2 lead in the first set when play was interrupted. Even though Ferrer took the first set 6-2 when play resumed the next day, Djokovic was at absolute ease with himself when he bludgeoned Ferrer in the next three sets to win the match in four sets and advance to the finals to face Andy Murray. Djokovic had reached a level that Ferrer could not comprehend, let alone compete.
If Djokovic’s road to the final has been bumpy, Murray’s in comparison has been a trek of sorts as he battled his way to his fifth grand slam final while losing three sets en route. He looks to emulate his coach, Ivan Lendl, who won his first grand slam title in his fifth attempt.
Murray suffered a scare as early as the third round when he barely managed to scrape past Felinciano Lopez in almost four hours. He suffered an even bigger scare in the quarterfinals at the hands of a motivated Marin Cilic. Initially, it seemed like there would be another upset with Murray’s departure. He was down a set and a couple of breaks as well while Cilic appeared sublime. If the recent past is to serve as evidence, Murray is not one to be written off until the very last point. He mustered his strength to take the second set in a tie breaker which led to the corrosion of Cilic’s resistance and Murray claimed the match in four sets. In the semifinals, Murray was up against the man who took down the mighty Roger Federer, Thomas Berdych. Berdych seemed all set to take down Murray as well as he took the first set 7-5. But as the match progressed into the second set, the winds got choppier and Berdych found it rather hard to find his composure. Murray took advantage of his opponent’s apparent weakness and coupled it with his own dexterity to overcome the Czech in four sets to set up a final showdown with Novak Djokovic, who is arguably the best player on hard court in recent times.
Head to head, Djokovic has a marginal lead, 8-6. But Murray has won most of their recent encounters including the three set embarrassment at the London Olympics. However, considering the facts that the Olympics were played on the lush green grass, possibly the Serb’s least favourite surface and that Djokovic has won their last three encounters on the hard surface, Murray’s impressive victory at the Olympics is of little consequence.
Then again, Murray has the perpetual flame of an incredible tennis player who is yet to win a grand slam title. Ironically, this desperate attitude might do more harm than good. Murray will be more hinged upon not losing than actually winning on his own terms. It has been made quite apparent that Murray has matured immensely in the recent past and his confidence has definitely taken a boost considering all the comebacks we have witnessed in this tournament so far.
The spectators are in for a treat as the two brilliant base-liners battle it out for the coveted trophy.
With all said and done, Djokovic is the one enjoying better form and statistics. It will by no means be an easy victory but he certainly has the edge. This is one match that even the most casual spectators would not want to miss.