by ATP Staff
(Original Story: http://www.atpworldtour.com/News/Tennis/2012/11/Features/Rivalries-Djokovic-Murray.aspx?utm_source=ATPMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ATP%20World%20Tour%20Insider%20#49%20-%20December%206%202012%20%281%29 )
ATPWorldTour.com reviews how the key rivalries played out in 2012. Today we feature Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray.
Separated in age by just seven days and having been rivals since their adolescent years, the tennis world watched and waited this year to see if Murray could match Djokovic after the Serb had taken his confidence and performances to a new level in 2011. Previously, Djokovic had inflicted some fairly galling defeats on Murray, including a 6-1, 6-0 thrashing in the semi-finals of the 2007 Sony Open Tennis and a bruising straight-sets defeat in the 2011 Australian Open final.
They did not disappoint. It was the rivalry that took centre stage in 2012, eclipsing Federer-Nadal as the premier contest on the ATP World Tour. Three of their seven battles were among the best contests of the season on the biggest stages. In a career-best campaign for Murray, the Scot won a best-of-five-set match against Djokovic for the first time to claim his first Grand Slam championship and also took out the Serb en route to winning gold at the London 2012 Olympics. While Djokovic won four of the seven meetings this year, Murray could easily have come out with the winning percentage had he converted one of the five match points he held in the Shanghai Rolex Masters or edged the two matches that he lost which both went down to 7-5 in the final set.
In their very first contest of the year, Djokovic edged Murray in a 4hr., 50min., Australian Open semi-final, 6-3, 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-1, 7-5, that set the tone for the marvellous season both players would enjoy. Having let slip a two-sets-to-one lead, Murray rallied from 2-5 down in the fifth set and missed three chances to break Djokovic in the 11th game before the Serb broke to 15 in the following game to prevail.
“It was tough at the end ’cause obviously you come back, then you get close to breaking. To lose, it’s tough,” said Murray. “But [I’m] a different player, [with] a different attitude to this time last year. I’m proud of the way I fought.”
Revenge on a major stage would come later in the season for Murray, but the Scot did enjoy success over his Serbian counterpart, just seven days his junior, when they met a month later in the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, winning 6-2, 7-5.
Djokovic came out on top when the pair met in the final of the Sony Open Tennis, successfully defending his title in Miami with a 6-1, 7-6(4) victory. “I feel that being No. 1 and having the best year of my career in 2011, I’m playing at the peak of my form and I’m playing the best tennis that I have played,” said Djokovic. “So I have to use that as much as I can, coming into every tournament that I play. The competition is getting stronger, I believe. Everybody is so professional nowadays. So that makes it even tougher for anybody to win a title. But I’m ready for it.”
More than four months passed before Djokovic and Murray went head-to-head again, this time on Murray’s home turf in the semi-finals of the London 2012 Olympics. With the gold-medal match in his sights, an inspired Murray drew on the partisan support at the All England Club to defeat Djokovic 7-5, 7-5. He would go onto beat Roger Federer to win the coveted gold medal in a result that was set to take the Scot’s career to the next level.
It was a Murray powered by belief who stepped onto Arthur Ashe Stadium to contest his fifth Grand Slam final against Djokovic in the US Open title match. Having fallen to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon championship match in July, Murray was a man on a mission to end Great Britain’s 76-year wait for a male major champion and he looked on the verge as he mastered the windy conditions in New York to take a two-set lead.
Back came defending champion Djokovic. He lost just five games in the following two sets as he sent the final into a deciding fifth set. However, the Serb could not maintain his level and was broken twice at the start of the fifth set as Murray claimed a historic 7-6(10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 victory in 4hrs., 54mins.
“I was obviously very emotional. I cried a little bit on the court. You’re not sad; you’re incredibly happy,” Murray explained. “You’re in a little bit of disbelief because when I have been in that position many times before and not won, you do think, Is it ever going to happen? Then when it finally does, you’re obviously very, very excited. But mainly relieved to have got over that last hurdle.”
There was still more drama to come in the Djokovic-Murray rivalry. The following month in the Shanghai Rolex Masters final, Djokovic saved five match points as he came back from 7-5, 5-4, 40/30 down to capture his 13th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy. It marked a 10-match unbeaten run for the Belgrade native since falling to Murray in New York.
“Could have easily gone the other way,” admitted Djokovic. “He was five match points up. When I faced those match points, I tried to focus on each individually. He was so close to the victory that I cannot say I was the better player.”
Djokovic and Murray met for the seventh and final time of the season at the year-end Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. In a round-robin match, Djokovic prevailed 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 as he won 22 of his 30 points at the net in an aggressive and high-quality clash, which was watched by 17,651 spectators.
“I don’t think I played badly in the first set,” reflected Djokovic. “It was him playing really well, serving extremely well. He lost only [a] couple of points on his first serve throughout the whole set and then he made some unforced errors. He allowed me to get back to the match. Then I think it was quite even up to the last point.”