By Matt Hill
For Novak Djokovic, it was a little bit of revenge. For Andy Murray, it was a total collapse.
In maybe the match of 2012 on the ATP Tour, Djokovic avenged his five-set U.S. Open loss to the Scot 5-7, 7-6 (13-11) 6-3 in the championship of the Shanghai Masters. Though this match will not get the media attention that the U.S. Open classic did, this one was played at even a higher level than the Open match.
What might be remembered most about this one may not be how Djokovic won it, but how Murray lost it.
Murray outplayed Djokovic for almost two sets, and had a chance to serve it out up 5-4 in the second. Djokovic though then raised his game to another level, sort of the level we saw last year during that amazing stranglehold he had through 2011. Djokovic broke and then won a tiebreak that might have been the top tiebreak of 2012.
Murray fought off several set points in the tiebreak, but Djokovic was relentless and didn’t give an inch. Djokovic’s forehand became lethal and the defending Australian Open champ won the tiebreak.
Murray on the other hand may have blown a chance to cement his claim to Player of the Year. Still, I don’t think it was a situation where he blew it, Djokovic just took it from him.
By the same token, people are going to remember Murray having it in the bag and losing it. I think stamina might be the bigger issue.
In an almost three and a half hour match, which was the longest three-set match on tour this year, he looked visibly worn down in the third set. Give him credit though, he found a way to fight until the end.
The day in the end belongs to Djokovic. I told someone today he won the wrong match referring to Murray’s win in New York.
This was the next best thing though. All the able-bodied players were playing in this huge event and I feel it’s almost as tough to win a Masters Series event as it is a grand slam.
Djokovic has a bigger prize possibly awaiting him, a return to No. 1. To me he has been No. 1 all year. Djokovic leads the race to the ATP Tour Finals in London, which he has already qualified for.
Also, Roger Federer made up a lot of that ground last year when Djokovic was injured. Federer has played very well this year, but Djokovic is best player in the world. And if Djokovic is No. 1, I feel Andy Murray is the second best player in the world right now.
Since Federer won Wimbledon, Murray has been about unstoppable or at least until Sunday when he ran into Djokovic. This rivalry, not Federer-Djokovic, not Djokovic-Nadal or Federer-Nadal, is the best rivalry in men’s tennis. This rivalry is going to carry the game the next four or five years.
These players will basically beat each other up and they will be great matches like the one today.
I’m sure Djokovic would have traded this for the championship at Flushing Meadows, but he did play outstanding and won the best match of the season.
For Murray, he would have beaten anybody else on this day. It just turned out when the going got tough, Djokovic had more in the tank.
And revenge had wound up in the hands of Djokovic.
Matt Hill is a veteran tennis reporter for the Elizabethton (TN) Star. You can reach him via email at mountainsportswriter.com or via twitter at MattHillsports