Brain Game: Djokovic Turns The Tables To Triumph
How you hit the ball matters. Where you stand to hit it matters more.
Andy Murray got off to a flying start, but Novak Djokovic finally prevailed 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to win the Roland Garros final Sunday. Murray had an opportunity to go up a set and break with Djokovic serving at Ad out in the first game of the second set, but Murray’s strong magnetism for the baseline suddenly lost its attraction.
On break point, the Brit played three defensive shots, finishing the point standing near the back fence as Djokovic dispatched an easy overhead winner at net. Everything to that point in time was primarily controlled by Murray. Almost everything after that was dominated by Djokovic.
“I did a pretty good job of not giving him free points for the first hour or so, and then I started dropping too far behind the baseline, and he was then able to dictate more of the points,” Murray said. “I needed to be a little bit closer to the baseline for more of the match today, and wasn’t able to do it,” he added.
First Set Firepower
Murray won the opening set with power tennis and targeting Djokovic’s forehand wing, where the Serb committed 14 forehand errors, including nine groundstrokes and five on his return of serve. Murray initially broke Djokovic for a 3-1 lead, crushing a 150km/h (93mph) forehand return winner to surge to a 0/30 advantage in that game. Serving at 3-1 30/15, he unleashed with a 159km/h (99mph) forehand winner to clearly send the message that his primary pattern of play was pure aggression from a commanding court position.
With Murray leading 4-1 in the opening set, his average serve speed was 176 km/h (109mph), compared to Djokovic’s 159 km/h (99 mph). The added power helped Murray run less, as he was averaging 16.67 metres moved per point to Djokovic’s 17.39 metres halfway through the opener.
Even on clay, even between these two baseline giants of our game, the shorter 0-4 shot rally length was still where the majority of points were played in this final. Overall, 52 per cent of points ended in the first four shots, 24 per cent ended in the 5-8 shot range, and an identical 24 per cent lasted nine shots or longer.
Amazingly, their Australian Open final in January on hard court and in Madrid on clay last month both produced exactly 52 per cent of total points in the crucial 0-4 shot rally length. In the Roland Garros final, Djokovic did not have a winning record in any rally length in set one, but dominated in almost all of the rally lengths from the second set onward.Final Rally Length
||0-4 Shot Rallies Won
||5-8 Shot Rallies Won
||9+ Shot Rallies Won
||Djokovic: 10, Murray: 15
||Djokovic: 6, Murray: 9
||Djokovic: 8, Murray: 8
||Djokovic: 16, Murray: 9
||Djokovic: 6, Murray: 3
||Djokovic: 7, Murray: 3
||Djokovic: 19, Murray: 17
||Djokovic: 8, Murray: 2
||Djokovic: 6, Murray: 6
||Djokovic: 17, Murray, 11
||Djokovic: 12, Murray: 6
||Djokovic: 7, Murray: 8
||Djokovic: 62, Murray: 52
||Djokovic: 32, Murray: 20
||Djokovic: 28, Murray: 25|
A combined 29 drop shots were hit for the match between the two players, sometimes coming from the back of the court or following another drop shot. Djokovic won 59 per cent (10/17), while Murray was even more successful, winning 67 per cent (8/12). The goal was to often pull the opponent out of their comfort zone at the back of the court and fatigue him for the ensuing points.
Net versus Baseline
Djokovic and Murray are widely regarded as two of the best baseliners in the world, but they combined to venture to the net 57 times in four sets to feast on the higher win percentage that the front of the court offers.
Djokovic won just 51 per cent (68/133) of his baseline points in the final, but an astounding 79 per cent (26/33) at the net. Murray won just 42 per cent (59/142) from the baseline and 54 per cent (13/24) venturing forward to the net.
Modern clay court tennis is very much about holding the baseline, dominating with first strike aggression and finishing at the net - just like the other surfaces. To no one’s surprise, Djokovic does it all just a little bit better than the rest.