Brain Game: Djokovic At His Resilient Best
Brain Game explains how Djokovic held his nerve to get the better of Murray
Novak Djokovic has come back from 0/40 on serve to hold just 15 per cent of the time this season leading into the Mutua Madrid Open.
Crunch time against Andy Murray in the Madrid final came right at the finish line, with Djokovic impressively escaping a 0/40 hole whilst serving at 5-3 in the third set to claim a record 29th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title.
Djokovic miraculously saved seven break points in the 13-minute, 40-second game, which spanned six deuces of pulsating action before finally triumphing 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
Performance on break points was a strength of the Serb all week, as he was only broken once for the tournament in the semi-finals against Kei Nishikori.
Djokovic consistently elevated his game down break point in the earlier rounds, pushing harder in the important moments to pressure critical errors from his opponents.
Through to the final, Djokovic’s average first serve speed for the tournament was 182 km/h (113 mph) , but that ramped up to 191 km/h (119 mph) when down break point. And just for good measure, he made a first serve on all nine of those break points.
That form initially held true against Murray, with Djokovic making a first serve facing his first break point, leading 6-2, 1-2, 30/40. Murray eventually missed a forehand approach long, and then Djokovic’s form guide on big points was thrown out the window.
Djokovic was broken on the next point when he double faulted. The only other time Djokovic was broken for the match, leading 2-0, 30/40 in the third set, he double faulted again.
Set 1: Spreading the Court
Djokovic won a massive 80 per cent (20/25) of the baseline exchanges in the opening set, owning the directional battle wide on both sides of the court. The Serb directed 47 per cent of his shots in the opening set wide through the Ad court, 48 per cent wide in the Deuce court, and only three shots (five per cent) were directed to the the middle third of court.
This enabled Djokovic to notch up five forehand winners and four backhand winners, while Murray failed to register a single groundstroke winner. Once a rally matured past four shots, Djokovic won a staggering 82 per cent (14/17), including 90 per cent (9/10) in the rally length between five and nine shots. Murray was constantly on defense, running 516 metres in the set to Djokovic’s 488 metres.
Set 2: Depth is the Diamond
Murray turned things around early in the second set, winning five of the first six baseline exchanges in the opening two games.
In the first set, Murray was only able to get 22 per cent of his shots to land closer to the baseline than the service line, mainly due to Djokovic's superior court position and placement.
Murray built a 4-1 lead in the second set by improving his depth, making a substantially higher 42 per cent of his shots land closer to the baseline than the service line.
Murray's second serve performance also drastically improved. He only won 17 per cent in this key area in the first set, but greatly elevated that number to 60 per cent in the second set.
Murray's average second serve speed in the 2015 season was only 141 km/h (88 mph), but it was a substantially higher 155 km/h (96mph) this year in Madrid. In the second set, Murray ramped it up even more to average 159 km/h (99 mph).
It’s interesting to note that a classic clay-court battle between two of the world’s best groundstroke maestros still produced more short points than long ones. More than half of all points (52 per cent) were contested in the 0-4 shot range. Twenty nine per cent were in the 5-9 shot range, and just 19 per cent were longer than nine shots.
Our eyes are naturally drawn to the drama of the longer points, but the top two players in the world wrestle far more over points containing a maximum of just two shots each.