Murray and Djokovic’s Topsy Turvy 2017 Continues
This week marks the first time we’ve seen the top two men’s players in action since the Australian Open. World number 2, Novak Djokovic, headed to sunny Acapulco for the Mexican Open. Meanwhile top dog, Andy Murray, set his sights on Dubai. Having both had disappointingly early exits in Melbourne, they were largely in the same situation this week. Things could not have gone differently for the pair, however.
Djokovic’s Early Exit… Again
Okay so let’s just state off the bat that “early exit” is a bit harsh. The quarter finals of an ATP 500 is hardly a shoddy result, even for one of the game’s greats. It just goes to show how good Nole has been that such a result would be considered disappointing. But it’s not just Acapulco result itself, it’s an increasingly long list of results.
But lets look at the match itself.
It was Nick Kyrgios that did for Djokovic in the end. And, while the match was anything but easy for Kyrgios, he did come through in straight sets against one of the best players in the game. The final score of 7—6(11—9), 7—5 sees Kyrgios through to the semi-finals where he will face Sam Querrey. Meanwhile, Djokovic can look to Indian Wells and Miami on the back of a disappointing couple of months.
The End of Djoker?
It seems silly to think about Djokovic running out of steam at 29 when Federer is winning the Australian Open at 35. But the questions marks are there once more. When he beat Murray in the Qatar Open final, it was easy to think the last half of 2016 was just a slump, and normal service had resumed. But a shock exit at the Australian Open and now this, and we’re backing to wondering if the Djoker will ever dominate again.
Personally I’m reserving judgement until after Indian Wells and Miami. Djokovic is unmatched in Masters titles, and could well come out of his slump at these events. On the other hand, if Nole has a poor showing at both of the coming tournaments, it might be time to worry!
Murray Through… Just
Meanwhile, at the same stage of the Dubai Tennis Championships, Murray was facing tough times of his own. Playing 29th ranked Philipp Kohlschreiber, Murray dropped the first set on the back of a tiebreaker. Despite breaking early in the second, Murray found himself in a second tiebreaker, this time with the match on the line if he lost.
What followed was the longest tiebreaker at a tour level match since 1991!
Murray needed 8 set points to finally close out the second set and level the match. The third and final set was considerably less dramatic, and took just 30 minutes for Murray to seal the win. That’s a whole minute less than the second set tiebreaker had taken. The final score was 6—7(4—7), 7—6(20—18), 6—1, and means Murray will put a tiny bit more space between himself and Djokovic in the rankings.
Murray and Djokovic’s Topsy Turvy 2017
Having written this post a day late, I can tell you that Murray went on to beat Lucas Pouille in straight sets in the semis and will face Fernando Verdasco in the final later today. At the start of the year I would have said it’s crucial for Murray to do well in the first half of the year if he wants to retain his number one ranking in 2017. That’s still the case, of course, but now question marks are heavy over whether Djokovic will be mounting a challenge.
When Djokovic beat Murray in Qatar it really felt like 2016 was just a blip in the rivalry. But now, with Murray finding ways to win in ridiculous situations, while Djokovic is seeming increasingly down on himself (his post-defeat press conference clocked in at 12 words, total), a Murray dominant year is starting to seem more likely.