12-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic rallied hard to beat world no. 1 Andy Murray in the final of Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2017 winning the match 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 after 2 hours and 54 minutes of battle. Andy Murray was on a 28-match winning streak coming into the final and was picked by many to win the Qatar Open. It was going to be the first blockbuster match of the year featuring the two very best players in the game at the moment. And, it didn’t disappoint us at all as we witnessed the first epic encounter of the year.
Road to the final
Andy Murray reached the final without much struggle. He hadn’t lost a set yet in the tournament and was looking as sharp as ever in his matches. Novak Djokovic, on the other hand, was really challenged in the semi-final by Fernando Verdasco who lost the match despite having 5 chances in all to close out the match on match-point. Djokovic looked sluggish on that windy day but managed to reach the final. Murray was thought of as the favourite for the final. What followed was a titanic match which was also a display of great rallies, tension and drama.
The storyline of the Djokovic vs. Murray final
Djokovic and Murray held their respective service games for the first 7 games of the first set. Djokovic really decided to step up his game when Murray served at 3-4. Murray made a shank on his forehand giving Djokovic the break. Djokovic served for the first set successful then, finishing the last point with a charismatic down-the-line forehand. Djokovic was clearly the won playing more aggressively.
The start of the second set saw each of the two win their respective service games till it was 3-3. Murray played a poor service game committing two double faults and had his service broken. Djokovic was soon serving for the match at 5-4. He held a match-point multiple times but was not able to finish the match on any of his chances. Murray should great composure to actually break Novak’s serve and get back into the match. He would break Novak’s serve again in the 12th game of the set to win that set 7-5. He hit two great passing shots in that game. What an unreal comeback that was by Murray!
Djokovic was down 0-30 on serve at 3-2 in the third set. Djokovic prevented a break in that game by playing hitting on overhead shot on break-point. He broke Murray’s serve in the very next game. He played some good points reminding us why he had been the no. 1 in the world. Serving for the match at 5-4, he was down 0-30 in that game. And, it looked like another comeback by Murray is coming up. But it wasn’t to be. Djokovic won the next 3 points creating a match-point at 40-30. Djokovic won the point by approaching the net just with the right approach shot and hitting a forehand winner. Therefore, he won the marathon match 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in the most attractive manner in the end. He won defended his Qatar Open title. He won Qatar Open for the second time in his career. And, he had avenged his ATP Finals loss to Andy Murray.
How they fared
Certainly, it was a thrilling match. Both the contestants played amazing tennis. There were beautiful rallies and great competition between the two. Nothing could be said until the last point had been finished.
Djokovic looked really good in a big match after a long time. He was sublime almost throughout the match and could not have hoped for an even better performance. Barring some rusty tennis in the first set early on, he was scintillating. His forehand especially was brilliant in the match. He was able to alternatively hit to the two sides of his opponent’s court in consecutive shots. His down-the-line forehand was blistering. Besides, his serve was great. He landed 72% of his first serves in. He saved most of the break-points he faced (5 out of 7) and converted most of the break-points he created (3 out 4). He was more aggressive of the two players for most of the duration of the match. Certainly, that has been the key to his win given the surface (hard surface) on which the match was played. He played some awe-inspiring tennis.
Murray played great too. Djokovic’s aggressive intent subdued his game but he was constantly there to take any chance that he gets. Although committing two double faults in one game in the second set was ant-climax, he will be proud of his comeback toward the business end of the set. It was marvelous to watch. Even in the third set, he did well to create half-chances. A good positive would be that he won 78% of the points he played on his first serve. The only thing he might regret a bit is that he probably did not take the advantage of Djokovic’s second serve as well as he would have wanted to. He won 39% of return points on second serves. Except that, he was pretty good too. He might have lost, but this match will do him good in that it will keep him from getting complacent and will give a fair picture of the form of his greatest rival at the moment, Djokovic. So, now he will know what tweaks he would want to do to turn the tables on him at the big stage, viz., at the Australian Open.
What they had to say
Djokovic sure got the best start to the season; he defeated his main rival in his first tournament. He said,
“To win here, against the biggest rival, is a dream start,”
“Best scenario I could ask for at the beginning of the season. Playing all five matches in this tournament and then three hours against No. 1 of the world, biggest rival, and winning in a thrilling marathon match,”
“It was a really, really thrilling performance from both of us. Just a great way to start the year.”
Djokovic was quite aggressive against his opponent. And the former world no. 1 surely knows the right way to be aggressive. He said, “That controlled, aggressive style of play is the way to win.”
Murray is all upbeat about his performance. He said, “It was a tough one to lose, but a great way to start the year. I think it was high-level tennis. Some of the points were physically tough, but a great way to start the new year playing like that, and I look forward to the next few weeks. I’ve had a fantastic week here, I’ve really enjoyed it.” As he is one of the favourites for the Oz Open, he will be looking to go deep at Melbourne.
Djokovic has already got the start he had been hoping for. He played great tennis in the final with all the departments of his game looking sharp. He will want to take this momentum into the Oz Open where he is obviously one of the favourites. World no. 1, Andy Murray will look to take his positives from this match and augment his game going into the Australian Open which is anyway the main target.
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