Pig-pourri: ATP French Open Semifinal Preview, Djokovic vs. Murray

Clash of the Titans on Chatrier

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (3) Andy Murray
This meeting will mark the 28th overall between Dkovovic & Murray. They have met at a Grand Slam in five straight seasons and multiple Slams now in three of the last five years. At the Australian Open this year, it was Djokovic who wore Murray down after two tightly contested tie breaks in the 1st two sets. Djokovic rolled 6-3, 6-0 in the final two sets. Djokovic also owns wins over Murray this season at Indian Wells and Miami.

For the tournament, Djokovic is a perfect five for five in winning in straight sets with the icing on the cake coming last round against Rafael Nadal. Djokovic has broken his opponent’s serve 28 times already and figures to add to that count often against Murray. In this year’s three meetings, Djokovic has forced 40 break points from Murray and cashed in on 18. For Murray, the path has been a little bumpier with sets dropped in three of his five matches. The most notable to me might have been in his quarter final clash with David Ferrer in the third set. Murray led that set 3-0, but struggled to close out as Ferrer rallied for a 7-5 set win. Murray would right the ship easily in the 4th as he rolled to a 6-1 close out. Still, for me, that third set is a warning sign of what could be to come. Murray cannot afford to blow any lead he gets against Djokovic.

Murray has been amazing at cashing in break opportunities in Paris with 35 breaks of his opponent’s serve on 66 chances. Murray will have his chances too. If you look over their last four Slam meetings, Murray has worked 49 break points, but only converted 15. While that doesn’t sound bad, compare that to Djokovic finishing off 23 breaks of 50 chances in those same matches. If Murray could convert closer to the percentage he has been able to get against his opponents at Roland Garros this tournament, he would likely be in prime shape for the upset. The problem is that Djokovic is better at saving break points with his serve still ranking a bit better than Murray’s. Unforced errors are huge between these two and usually a key stat in seeing who wins as you would expect. Of those last four Slam meetings, Murray only came out with less unforced errors once, when he won Wimbledon in 2013.

So what is in store for this semifinal clash? We’ll see it all. Great defense from both. Expect some long rallies and amazing gets. That is what both like to do. That is where both player’s excel. The problem for Murray is that Djokovic does these things just a little bit better on most occassions. It will be hot on Wednesday, so perhaps that can help Murray some as Djokovic made no bones about his disdain for the lack of watering for the clay in his quarter final against Nadal. Will that have enough of an effect to help Murray keep Djokovic from moving one step closer to that elusive French Open title? You never know. Remember, it was a combination of the heat/humidity in New York last Fall and great play from Kei Nishikori that derailed Novak Djokovic at the U.S. Open. The weather may be the only thing that is able to put a dent in the seemingly invincible, but I still think Djokovic will survive a physical encounter in four or possibly five sets.


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