Category Archives: Tennis

A match made in heaven

Djokovic and Nadal advertise everything tennis has to give

With the disappointment of Murray’s defeat to Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Australian Open the epic match that ensued in the final between Djokovic and Nadal was perhaps some what overlooked in this country, but I feel it would be unfair not to reflect on what was, perhaps, one of the greatest finals ever.

When the two greatest competitors in their sporting field meet, you always anticipate that there may be the possibility of witnessing brilliance. On many of these occasions the resulting quality may not match your expectations, but occasionally you are lucky enough to view something that surpasses anything you could possibly imagine. In recent times, tennis has been dominated by two supremely talented men; a Spaniard named Rafael Nadal and a humble man from Switzerland, Roger Federer. Many consider the latter to be the greatest player ever, but certainly Nadal has challenged that idea, overcoming Federer in several unbelievable matches. Who could forget the Wimbledon final where the fifth set was played practically in the dark? Now, however, a new era has begun. A Serb named Novak Djokovic has broken what had become a recurrent theme of Nadal and Federer Grand Slams. In a sensational 2011, Djokovic moved to the pinnacle of tennis, displacing both Nadal and Federer at the top of the game. However, as the England cricket team are learning, reaching the summit is the simple part, remaining there is a whole other matter.

Djokovic would begin 2012 by attempting to defend his Australian Open crown in Melbourne. On his road to the final he met extremely stern competition in Andy Murray, who fought valiantly til the very last point, but, despite seeming to exhaust all his talent, enthusiasm and energy, was still unable to defeat the super Serb. So it would be that World number 1, Novak Djokovic, would meet World number 2, Rafael Nadal, in a remarkable final.

Nadal began the stronger of the two when, following a set in which the initiative switched backwards and forwards, he broke Djokovic in the 11th game, taking the set 7-5. Djokovic, however, came back strongly, breaking early in the second set to level the match at 1-1. Djokovic’s baseline play was simply too good for Nadal in the 3rd set, with the Serb storming to a 2-1 lead after winning the 3rd set 6-2 with a scorching forehand down the line. When the heavens opened with the 4th set finely poised at 4-4, a short break had to be taken whilst the Rod Laver Arena roof was closed. The break, however, did not seem to have any effect on either player, as they took the set to a tie-break. Although it proved to be very tight, Nadal eventually claimed the set, laying the foundations for a quite incredible finale. Djokovic appeared to be fading at the business end of the match, as Nadal raced to a 4-2 lead. But the world number 1, who has inspirationally shown the resilience to fight through anything over the last year, was not yet finished. He fought back against all the odds to take a 6-5 lead, setting up the chance to serve out the match. Nadal did manage to force a break point, but when his efforts were rebuffed, Djokovic kept his cool to serve out the match and claim yet another grand slam title. Considering Djokovic’s semi-final against Andy Murray lasted for nearly 5 hours, it was a quite incredible feat that the Serbian, destined for greatness, managed to complete the 5 hour 53 minute match, never mind win it.

Put simply, Djokovic and Nadal delivered one of the greatest tennis matches that I, certainly, have ever witnessed and I’m sure that anybody who was fortunate enough to view the spectacle will agree with me when I say that, although Djokovic will be remembered as the victor, neither player deserved to or can be considered the loser. However, the world number 1 once again proved his worth and continues his brilliant form into 2012 and who’s to say that he cannot go on and continue this form for the rest of the year? Could he even complete a clean sweep of grand slam titles? The sky is the limit…

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Murray goes down fighting

British number 1 still lacks X factor required to win a Grand Slam

Andy Murray put in a valiant effort against Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-final, but still lost in what proved to be a thrilling, tightly-contested encounter.

Djokovic, the world number 1 who had such a sensational year in 2011, had to produce some of his finest tennis to overcome the challenge from the determined Scot, who fought right until the final point. At one stage Murray held a 2 sets to 1 lead over the Serb, but Djokovic came back strongly, winning the fourth set 6-1 and then cruising to a 5-2 lead in the final set. However, Murray did not give up, breaking Djokovic to love when he was serving for the match at 5-3. Murray then went on to level the set and leave it finely balanced at 5-5. Djokovic proved too strong, though, saving 3 break points and then overcoming Murray’s serve to win the match. Although Murray once again lost in the latter stages of a Grand Slam tournament, this defeat showed promise- signs that he has the ability to challenge the very best.

So, why is Murray unable to compete with Djokovic, Nadal and Federer and claim that elusive first Grand Slam title? There are a number of variables to consider. Firstly and most simply, luck. If a few extremely close calls had gone Murray’s way then the result may well have been very different. Luck plays a large part in most sports, but in tennis its role is massive. A few inches can be the difference between a win or a loss, a ticket to the final or a flight home. It is also important to consider that because Murray has not won a Grand Slam title before there is potentially more pressure on him. This is not to say that because Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have all won Grand Slams they don’t feel under pressure, as this is certainly not the case, but they may have more confidence in themselves as they know they have done it before. Federer and Nadal have far more experience in semi-finals and finals and can perhaps use this experience to control their nerves better in pressure situations. Djokovic has less experience, as up until 2011 he was in a similar position to Murray, still playing catch-up with Nadal and Federer. However, he is coming off an incredible run of form and, as has been proven time and again, winning is a habit which breeds further success and Djokovic will be hoping that it remains for a long time to come. Finally, Murray still seems to lack that certain something that makes the other three stand out. No one can doubt his commitment, his passion or his drive, but he still seems to lack that ‘X Factor’ that perhaps will come over time.

2011 was Djokovic’s year to come to the forefront, perhaps now is Murray’s time… certainly, judging by his performances in this competition, he is not far short of the mark. Still, Djokovic remains a class act and looks very hard to beat, but perhaps Murray has just found a chink in his armour? One thing’s for sure, the Nadal- Djokovic final should indulge us in some magical tennis. But for Murray, the wait goes on…

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Murray breezes into quarter finals

British No 1 finds going easy in 1st week

Andy Murray has been heralded as potentially the first Brit in over 50 years to win Wimbledon, but, despite dramatic improvements over the last couple of years, he still falls against the big three- Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. However, in the first week of the Australian Open we have seen a more composed, more mature Andy Murray. Certainly, Murray has been maturing as a player over the last year and has shown significant improvements and a far better temperament. We have seen fewer moments where he becomes infuriated and berates himself, which has appeared to significantly affect how he performs in the past. The Australian Open represents his biggest chance to win a grand slam to date, something which has eluded him throughout his career so far. He has come very close to achieving this goal on three occasions, when he has reached the final of a grand slam tournament. However, on this occasion, Murray appears to be a more finely tuned and effective player. Federer and Nadal have already booked a place in the first semi-final, having beaten Juan Martin Del Potro and Thomas Berdych respectively. Djokovic looks likely to join them, although he faces a tough test in the resilient David Ferrer, and Murray faces Kei Nishikori, seeded 24th, in a bid to seal the final semi-final place. Nishikori’s place in the quarter-final will come as a surprise to many, but, having knocked out 6th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round, he may prove to be a more difficult prospect than he appears.

Murray has been in impressive and ruthless form thus far in the tournament, progressing with ease to the quarter final stage, defeating Ryan Harrison, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, Michael Llodra and Mikhail Kukushkin on the way. Harrison was the only competitor able to take Murray beyond 3 sets, before being crushed in the fourth. Murray labelled his victory over Kukushkin as ‘boring’, after the Russian was forced to retire in the 3rd set, but it leaves him well rested for his match with Nishikori, particularly as his match against Tsonga lasted for more than three hours.

Murray looks to be in fine form heading into his clash with Kei Nishikori and, if he keeps this form up, who’s to say a first grandslam title can’t be achieved?

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