Olympics: Murray d. Djokovic

by: Dan Markowitz | August 03, 2012

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MurrayRRAndy Murray will face Roger Federer for Olympic gold in a repeat of the Wimbledon final. Fighting off three breaks in three different service games in the second set, Murray defeated Novak Djokovic, 7-5, 7-5, in today's second semifinal. 

It was a stellar display of power tennis and unfathomable court coverage by both men, but Murray was the the sharper of the two, pummeling first serves, keeping Djokovic pinned to the baseline with laser shots and displaying his characteristic fine touch. Murray clutched his back a couple of times, and grabbed his ankle once, but he left the court pumping his fist to the crowd as many waved back miniature Union Jack flags at him.

For Djokovic, it was a crushing defeat. Chasing balls down with amazing acrobatic quickness, the Serb was still unable to solve Murray. Djokovic has never lost to Murray in a major, beating his one-week-older opponent twice at the Australian Open. But this is a different Murray. The Scot is hitting bigger serves, rifling forehands to the extremes of the court and his slice backhand gave Djokovic fits. Murray can no longer be called a finesse player. He eschewed most of his cute stuff and is now playing grip-and-rip, full intensity tennis.

As if to emphasize this stunning transformation, the world No. 4 fired two aces in his first service game. He regularly hit serves at 130 MPH and showed off a heavier, more penetrating, Lendl-esque forehand. Djokovic saved two break points in his first service game. At 2-2, Murray missed a running backhand to go down 15-30 and immediately reached for his back, the ailing body part that Murray has been criticized for clutching so much.

"He does have a legitimate back problem," said Brett Haber, announcing the match with John McEnroe on American television. "He does?" replied McEnroe. "It's all pressure."

Murray withstood a four-deuce game to hold for 4-3.  The quality of shot-making and competitiveness was superb. Each player exerted maximum effort to win each and every point. The 6-foot-3 Murray  and 6-foot-two Djokovic looked like two volleyball players, extending points and covering every inch of the turf.  At one point, Djokovic pummeled a backhand cross court for a seeming winner, but Murray somehow bunted it back into the middle of the court. Djokovic hit a mediocre forehand drop shot which Murray easily reached and blasted a backhand down the line. Somehow Djokovic tracked it down and threw up a lob volley, but Murray put away the overhead.

Leading 6-5,  Murray's slice backhand drew a Djokovic error to give him a 15-30 lead. When he nailed the top of the net on the next point, Murray slammed his palm into his forehead repeatedly.
But a beautiful backhand drop volley got Murray the break point and he hit yet another slice backhand on the next point, drawing Djokovic to the net, where he got whiplash seeing a Murray cross court forehand roar past for an outright winner.

The point of the match came in the second game of the second set. Murray shoveled a forehand inside-out drop shot that Djokovic tracked down and hit an acute backhand angle shot. Murray dove and hit a lob half-volley that landed softly on Djokovic's opposite sideline. Djokovic had break point chances at 1-1, 3-3 and 5-5. On his last break point chance, he rifled a backhand down the line and moved into the net. Somehow Murray was there and he fired a forehand back that Djokovic missed, leaving the Serb crestfallen.

At 5-6, Djokovic basically forfeited the game; putting a forehand into the net, a backhand long and another backhand into the net. At 0-40, he tried to serve and volley, only to flub a forehand half-volley short of the net.

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