November 8, 2015
With frightening self-assurance and predictable ease, Novak Djokovic defeated Andy Murray 6-2, 6-4 to take a fourth Paris Masters title – the first man to do so.
It was the super Serb’s tenth title of the year and no one can doubt that he is still the greatest player around. He has 22 wins in a row under his belt; and it’s been three years since he last lost indoors. That is true dominance.
Djokovic said afterwards: ‘I want to congratulate Andy for a great week – and good luck for the Davis Cup final, I know how much you want to do well. It’s a pleasure to win in Paris and maybe just once I can win Roland Garros here one day too!’
A sportsmanlike Murray said: ‘It was a pleasure to play at this beautiful new stadium with such a fantastic atmosphere, it’s like a new event. Congratulations to Novak, it’s been an incredible year for him. Hopefully I can get a bit closer to him next year.’
You wouldn’t bet on it. Djokovic fed happily off the lingering doubts Murray clearly still harboured, after eight consecutive defeats at the hands of the world number one, halted only by that solitary victory in Montreal.
A total of 34 unforced errors from Murray was almost three times those of the winner. Some were down to the pressure Djokovic exerted all match, others down to the Brit’s failure to conquer his demons against his nemesis.
And it appears that Murray does still struggle to find a sustainable level of confidence against Djokovic, who broke as early as the third game of the match. Even then Andy might have broken back, but failed to take advantage of his opportunity.
The Brit struggled to make his first serve count and failed to find the required precision in rallies. Incredibly, the Serb only had to hit four winners in a first set he still romped away to win with ease inside 42 minutes.
Murray tried to make up for what he lacked in aggression by using guile. But his drop-shots were always going to be high-risk and although the Scot enjoyed some success with them, Novak pounced gratefully on just as many.
Andy could have added to his own six first-set winners but all too often he fired wide at crucial moments. And that extraordinary Djokovic defence meant that his opponent felt he was climbing a mountain every time he wanted to win a point.
Novak wasn’t immaculate but his eight unforced errors didn’t constitute much of a problem as he took that first set to underline his usual imperious form.
Murray seemed to lack the self-belief to turn the tide early in the second set, as he allowed himself to be broken in the third game once more. Then, without warning, the match appeared to turn temporarily on its head.
Frustratingly for any Brits who believe Murray’s biggest problem against Djokovic is psychological, the mere act of falling behind again released the Scot from his shackles. He suddenly raised his game and played with a freedom and power we hadn’t seen before.
Astonishingly, Murray was able to break Djokovic to love, aided by an uncharacteristic miscalculation from the world’s best player, who completely misjudged Andy’s baseline slice at 0-30. Murray then consolidated to take a rare lead in the set – and was two points from breaking Novak yet again.
That’s when Djokovic, the more fiercely competitive animal of the two, raised his game once more. With a familiar and punishing blend of desire and accuracy, Novak not only held his serve but broke the shaky Murray again. There was to be no coming back from that blow for the Brit, who couldn’t sustain his intensity for more than a couple of games at a time.
By contrast, Djokovic never lost his own intensity for more than a couple of games in the entire match. And that psychological edge remains the greatest difference between the two players – as well as Novak’s more dependable first serve.
When Murray missed a straightforward smash – another technical weakness in his game – he began to curse to himself, and you knew he was crumbling at 3-5. The course of the match had a recognisable feel to it. And until Murray can bring the aggression and confidence to his game that his talent deserves, Djokovic will continue to win the vast majority of their clashes.
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