Preview: Australian Open 2016 - Novak Djokovic meets Andy Murray yet again
The Australian Open finals will see a repeat of last year's lineup, with the World No. 1 taking on the World No. 2 to defend his title.
It’s an old rivalry – and it was at the same tournament, at the same stage last year, when Novak Djokovic put paid to Murray’s Australian Open hope in the Scot’s 4th finals appearance in Melbourne.
Three of those four had been against Djokovic – the other against Roger Federer, with Murray losing every single time.
It is also to be noted, however, that Murray defeated Djokovic to win his own first Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2012, and beat him again on home ground at Wimbledon the following year – so he is not ill-equipped against the Serb.
But the World No. 1 has held on to that title for over 170 weeks now, and does not appear to be relinquishing the title anytime soon, with some absolutely scintillating form and a total annihilation of his opponents.
The top-ranked player has shown his moments of weakness at the Australian Open, though, with a tough match against 14th seed Gilles Simon. The Frenchman took him to 5 sets, with Djokovic gaining notoriety for committing a mammoth 100 unforced errors on his way to an eventual win.
Just as Djokovic was tested by Simon, Murray was himself tested by 13th seed Milos Raonic, who began the year having beaten Roger Federer to a title.
In fact, Murray looked to be losing until an injured Milos Raonic began flagging and losing the momentum he had gained early on in the pair’s match.
The Serb leads the Scot resoundingly in their head-to-head record; the pair have played 30 times in the past, with Djokovic winning on 21 occasions. Of their 7 encounters in 2015, Djokovic won all but one – the finals of the Montreal Masters, a title that Murray went on to win.
Their contest at the finals last year started off very closely, with both the first and second sets going to tiebreaks – one apiece to Djokovic and Murray, following which the Scot’s forehand let him down spectacularly as he lost the final two sets.
His forehand has been quite errant over the past number of years – while it has led to some strong winners off his racquet, it can also just as quickly lead to disaster for the World No. 2, who often starts off strongly and loses momentum, much as he did last year after looking strong against Djokovic – and even up a break in the third set, managed to squander that to be bageled in the fourth.
Barring his contest against Gilles Simon, Djokovic has for his part looked in consummate form. He has already won a title this year at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, completely outclassing longtime rival and former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who was beaten 6-1, 6-2 by the Serb’s ruthless attack.
Djokovic won 6 Masters titles last year – defeating Andy Murray in two of them, and 3 Majors. Denied a Calendar Slam by a powerful Stan Wawrinka at Roland Garros last year, he will look to start off 2016 aiming to fulfil that goal and add to his tally of 10 Grand Slams.
He is already a 5-time champion here and a crowd favourite, so Djokovic will be buoyed by that fact as well.
The pair’s last meeting, at the finals of the BNP Paribas Masters last year, saw Djokovic soundly dispatch Murray in straight sets – 6-2, 6-4, a fact that will not exactly please the Scot.
Things look primed to give Djokovic yet another Grand Slam title, but could Andy Murray pull a rabbit out a hat and upset his rival?
Djokovic won 11 trophies last year, he won 3 of the Grand Slams and was in the final of the 4th, and he’s gunning for a record 6th Australian Open title. Is he unstoppable? Quite possibly.
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