ThrowbackTimes Madrid: Novak Djokovic tops Andy Murray to pass Rafael Nadal

In Madrid 2016, world no. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated the defending champion Andy Murray 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to lift the first crown in the Spanish capital in five years. It was the 64th ATP title for Novak and the record-breaking 29th Masters 1000 crown, leaving Rafael Nadal on 28. It was the fourth clash between Novak and Andy on clay and the fourth triumph for the Serb, who had won 12 of the last 13 encounters against world no. 2 for complete domination over the Briton. Like against Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori, Novak had some problems in the encounter’s closing stages, and he still did enough to seal the deal and secure the title. Djokovic fended off seven break chances in the final game to grab the 15th straight victory over the rivals from the top-10 and extended his Masters 1000 dominance after conquering ten of the last 14 events! Murray forced Djokovic to stay on the court for two hours and six minutes, and it was a high-intense battle between superb defenders.

Fast Madrid clay allowed them to be aggressive and go for the shots, with over half of the rallies finished within four strokes. No one had the advantage in those (41-40 for Novak), but the Serb prevailed 46-29 in the more extended exchanges to forge the win. They also had the same percentage on their first serve, with Novak using it slightly better than his rival despite Murray’s ten aces. The main problem for the Briton, as always against Novak, was his second serve that Djokovic pushed to the limits with his excellent return. Murray took just seven out of 22 points after missing the first, which made a massive difference. Novak finished the encounter with 25 winners and unforced errors each, while Andy fired 22 winners and 33 mistakes, trying to penetrate Djokovic and make him running over the baseline. Mainly thanks to that encounter’s last game, Murray created ten break opportunities, converting only two of those and suffering four breaks from six chances offered to Djokovic, another deciding factor in world no. 1’s triumph.

Novak Djokovic took down Andy Murray for 29th Masters 1000 crown in Madrid 2016.

Instead of measuring their skills in the opening games, Novak made the best start, playing out of this world tennis in the first set to win it 6-2 in just half an hour! He grabbed an early lead with a break in the first game after an excellent volley and never looked back, leaving the powerless Murray miles behind. Djokovic confirmed the break with a love service game and would lose only three points on serve in the opener, offering no chances to Andy and controlling the scoreboard. Novak earned another break in game seven with an excellent forehand winner and sealed the set in the next one, hoping for more of the same in the rest of the clash. The Serb was flying over the court, leaving Murray with no groundstroke winner in the first part of the clash after sending deep balls equally placed on both sides of the courts to spray the rival all over the baseline. Andy couldn’t find the pattern to take the longer rallies and scored only three points when the exchange would reach five strokes or more.

One more fact could trouble Murray, as he never won a match versus Novak after losing the first set, trailing 18-0 in that department! In the second set, Murray raised his game and started to play better on the return while keeping his serve safe, not letting Novak any break chance. After a challenging third game when he held after deuce, Murray went on to break Djokovic out of nowhere for the first time following a costly double fault from world no. 1. Andy was now 3-1 in front, and he kept the advantage until the end of the set, as both players had five commanding holds after that. Andy closed the set with a classy drop shot, gathering momentum and taking pressure off his back ahead of the decider. He had nine winners and eight unforced errors, while Novak placed five winners and 11 mistakes, having to work harder in the decider if he wanted the title. Djokovic was still the clear favorite, though, knowing how good he is in tight situations and playing at a higher level almost every time he needed it.

He broke Murray in the second game following a fantastic 23-shot rally, appearing in the driving seat again. Nonetheless, Andy stayed focused and found a way to break back immediately after another double fault from Djokovic that brought him to the positive side of the scoreboard! The Serb bounced back immediately, opening a 3-2 advantage with a love service game and broke Andy in the next one, which would prove to be the encounter’s pivotal moment. Djokovic was soon 5-2 in front and had the first match point in game eight on Murray’s serve. Andy responded well, saving it with an ace and holding to stay in touch, forcing Novak to serve for the title. The first 25 games of the match went on pretty quickly, with deuces in only three of those, but the last one came down to the wire as by far the most extending and exciting. Murray had no less than seven break chances to get back into set completely, but Novak somehow fended them off, converting his third match point when Murray sent the ball into the net to celebrate the record-breaking Masters 1000 crown.

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