Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are building a Grand Slam rivalry, one that perhaps someday will merit mention alongside Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal, or Djokovic vs Nadal.
When the No 1 Djokovic faces No 2 Murray to determine Wimbledon’s champion Sunday, it will be their fourth meeting in a Grand Slam final, third in less than a year.
Djokovic beat Murray at the Australian Open in 2011. Murray beat Djokovic at the US Open last September. Djokovic beat Murray at the Australian Open this January.
That’s not yet quite up to the lofty standard set by Federer and Nadal, who played each other in eight Grand Slam title matches from 2006-11. Djokovic and Nadal have contested five major finals since 2010, including a stretch of four in a row.
While part of the appeal of the Federer-Nadal matchup lies in their vastly contrasting games - all the way down to the most basic level, righty vs lefty - Djokovic-Murray features two guys who employ rather similar styles.
They are improving servers and fantastic returners who managed to silence big hitters in the semifinals Friday: Tough to decide whether it was more surprising that Djokovic had a 22-4 edge in aces during his 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (6), 6-3 victory over No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro, or that Murray had a 20-9 edge in aces during his 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz.
They also are cover-everything hustlers who can switch from defense to offense, quick as can be.
“There is some similarities there, in terms of if you look at stats and stuff. I mean, both of us return well. That’s probably the strongest part of our games. Both play predominantly from the baseline,” said Murray, who is aiming to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.
“We both move well, but a different sort of movement,” Murray continued. “He’s extremely flexible and he slides into shots, even on the courts here. He slides more. He’s quite a bit lighter than me. So I’d say I probably move with more power, and he’s much more flexible than me.”
Cut from same cloth
Born a week apart in May 1987, Djokovic and Murray have known each other since their days as juniors. Djokovic leads the head-to-head series 11-7, including winning their most recent three matches.
While this is their first Wimbledon encounter, they did play in the semifinals of the London Olympics, and Murray won 7-5, 7-5 on his way to a gold medal.