Last two minutes prove costly for Murray as Djokovic triumphs


TENNIS: The next great rivalry is up and stumbling. In their seventh contest of the year, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic hit more highs and lows than a doo-wop band, and it was no less entertaining for that.

This post Federer-Nadal shootout has the key ingredient of any genuine sporting head-to-head: uncertainty. There was plenty of it in yesterday’s match, which Djokovic won at the death. Under the lovely riverside tent in Greenwich, Djokovic won 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in just over two-and-a-half hours to take a 2-0 winning log into the third and final match of the Group A round robin of the World Tour finals against Tomas Berdych tomorrow.

He leads Murray 10-7 overall, 4-3 for 2012.

Murray, who beat Berdych in the first round, must defeat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Djokovic’s first-round victim, in his final match, but there is a slim possibility the maths could yet exclude him from the semi-finals.

The players left the arena in contrasting spirits, the Serb exalting in the continued flowering of their duel at the summit of the game, the Scot struggling to come to terms with 44 unforced errors.

Djokovic charitably observed: “He could have easily been sitting here as a winner.”

But he was not, although Murray contested the view that poor decision-making cost him the match. Asked if he regretted going for and bungling a high-risk serve-and-volley on break point at 3-2 in the second set, he said:

“He serve and volleyed on the break point in the game before and hit the back end of the line. I volleyed in the next game and missed the volley by a couple of centimetres.”

In the opening exchanges, Murray looked irresistible, moving with ease into nearly every shot; thereafter, uncertainty invaded his ground strokes, his normally exquisite lob converted from killing winner to liability. The third set was tight, as both acknowledged, but the ending was a frustrating mess for Murray. “The last two minutes probably decided it,” he admitted. “He broke from 15-40, and then I had 15-40 next game and didn’t break. So that was the moment that decided the match.”

Probably he is right. But that anxious passage did not exist in isolation. It was the culmination of a fight, many rounds of which were within Murray’s grasp, three of which were snatched away from him at crucial moments.

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