Wimbledon 2013: Men’s final preview

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Andy Murray has appointed Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA

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128 men started in the field, and now we are down to the world’s top two, who will be left to fight it out for Grand Slam tennis’ most coveted prize – the Wimbledon title.

The early exits of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, among others, cleared the way for Andy Murray to reach a second consecutive final at the All England Club and he has taken this opportunity with both hands, just as he did last year when his would-be semi-final opponent, Rafael Nadal, was knocked out in the second round.

Murray only has one more obstacle to overcome in his bid to become Britain’s first male Wimbledon champion in 77 years – World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who will be going for a second title to compliment the title that he won in 2011.

Here is the full preview of the 2013 Wimbledon men’s final:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Andy Murray (2)

Head-to-head: Djokovic 11-7

Last meeting: Djokovic defeated Murray 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-2

Road to the final: Djokovic
Round 1: defeated Florian Mayer 6-3, 7-5, 6-4
Round 2: defeated Bobby Reynolds 7-6 (7-2), 6-3, 6-1
Round 3: defeated Jeremy Chardy (28) 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
Round 4: defeated Tommy Haas (13) 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4)
Quarter-final: defeated Tomas Berdych (7) 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-3
Semi-final: defeated Juan Martin del Potro (8) 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-7 (6-8), 6-3

Murray
Round 1: defeated Benjamin Becker 6-4, 6-3, 6-2
Round 2: defeated Lu Yen-hsun 6-3, 6-3, 7-5
Round 3: defeated Tommy Robredo (32) 6-2, 6-4, 7-5
Round 4: defeated Mikhail Youzhny (20) 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1
Quarter-final: defeated Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5
Semi-final: defeated Jerzy Janowicz (24) 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3

Both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are already the biggest winners from this year’s upsets and injury-ravaged Wimbledon Championships, which claimed the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, among others.

Following the exits of two of the biggest names in men’s tennis, all the pressure was on Andy Murray to capitalize on their early departures and breeze through to a second final at the All England Club, which he has now done with the minimum fuss.

Novak Djokovic, in the meantime, was already assured of a place in the final even before the tournament started, having been lucky enough to avoid his fellow rivals until the final, with only David Ferrer or Juan Martin del Potro potentially blocking his path.

This year will mark the first time since 2002 that neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal will contest in the Wimbledon men’s final. On that occasion, then-World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt thrashed David Nalbandian to win his (presumably) only Wimbledon title.

Now, let’s have a look at the two players in detail.

Andy Murray: Seventh career Grand Slam final (1-5)
The hopes Andy Murray had of going one better and winning the title this year were dealt a savage blow when the draw was released – to get to where he is now, he would have had to face one of Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer in the semi-finals.

But after both heavyweights crashed out within 48 hours of each other, Murray’s path to the final became increasingly easy and he has taken this chance with both hands.

Murray was impressive in his opening four rounds, winning each of his first four matches in straight sets before unexpectedly facing his first test of the Championships in the form of Fernando Verdasco, in the quarter-finals.

The 29-year-old Spaniard, who famously pushed his compatriot Rafael Nadal to five sets at the Australian Open four years ago, threatened to send British fans home unhappy when he took the first two sets, only for the Scot to hit back and claim the next three sets to claim a famous five-set victory.

Then, in his semi-final against Jerzy Janowicz, the home crowd’s patience was also tested when Murray again dropped the opening set, only to storm back and claim a four-set victory to return to the Wimbledon final for the first time since last year’s emotionally-charged four-set loss to Roger Federer.

Murray is now only one win away from ending the most famous hoodoo in tennis – and he will have his best chance to do so against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Sunday.

Novak Djokovic: 11th career Grand Slam final (6-4)
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic could not believe his luck when the Wimbledon draw was released – as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal got assigned to Andy Murray’s half of the draw, the Serb was left to track a very easy run to the final.

But even as both of his rivals crashed out early, Djokovic was not getting carried away and only focused on what he had in front of him.

In the first round, he faced a tough opponent in the form of Germany’s Florian Mayer, whom he had defeated in the quarter-finals last year.

But just as he did last year, Djokovic easily dismissed him straight sets; this was the first of a five-match streak in which he did not lose a set.

Subsequent straight-setters over Bobby Reynolds, Jeremy Chardy and Tommy Haas then set him up for a quarter-final showdown with Tomas Berdych, who had upset the Serb en route to reaching the final three years ago.

This time around, Berdych would be no match for Djokovic, as the Serb recorded yet another easy straight sets victory to advance to the semi-finals of Wimbledon for the fourth year in a row.

Then, in the semi-finals, Djokovic faced up to the challenge of Juan Martin del Potro, who hadn’t dropped his serve till then, let alone a set, but had suffered a minor knee injury in his quarter-final victory over Spaniard David Ferrer.

In what was arguably the match of the tournament, Djokovic and del Potro exchanged blows over the course of five sets in what was the longest Wimbledon men’s semi-final since 1989, clocking in at four hours and 44 minutes.

Djokovic took the first set by breaking del Potro’s serve for the first time in the tournament in the twelfth game, but then the former US Open champion would make things interesting by taking the second set.

The pair would then trade tiebreak sets to send the match into a thrilling fifth set, where Djokovic required a break of serve to go up 5-3. From there, he served out the match and now he finds himself in a second Wimbledon final in three years.

Should he take the title on Saturday, it’ll be his second title at a unique Grand Slam tournament outside of the Australian Open, where he has triumphed four times. He has one title each at Wimbledon and the US Open, but has yet to triumph at Roland Garros, having missed his chance just last month.

Stats that matter
* This is Djokovic’s 11th career Grand Slam final (6-4), whilst for Murray this is his seventh (1-5).

* Murray is bidding to become the first British male champion of Wimbledon since 1936; Djokovic is bidding for his second title here.

* Murray’s sole victory over Djokovic at Grand Slam level came at last year’s US Open, where he won in the final in five sets.

* The pair have only met once on grass – Murray won 7-5, 7-5 in the semi-finals of last year’s London Olympics.

* This is the first Wimbledon final not to feature either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal since 2002.

* This will be their fourth Grand Slam final; Djokovic leads 2-1.

* Including their semi-final at the 2012 Australian Open, Djokovic leads 3-1 at Grand Slam level.

The verdict
Andy Murray will be hungry to go one better this year, and many see him in a great shape to do so. He’s coming off a four-set victory over Jerzy Janowicz in the semi-final, whilst Djokovic is coming off a five-set victory over Juan Martin del Potro, but the latter didn’t appear to be mentally exhausted by it.

Djokovic has won two Grand Slam finals after winning the semi-final in five sets – at the US Open in 2011, he came back from the brink to deny Roger Federer a date with destiny against Rafael Nadal en route to winning, whilst at the Australian Open last year he backed up his five-set victory over Andy Murray with a mental, physical five set victory over Rafael Nadal in the final.

There is the theory that “you have to lose one in order to win one”. Collectively, Djokovic and Murray have lost nine Grand Slam finals, and won seven. Both lost their first Grand Slam finals to Roger Federer at the 2007 and 2008 US Opens respectively.

Murray may be hungry but Djokovic will also be as equally hungry. You can expect both players to give their all, right until the very end.

Prediction
Novak Djokovic in five sets.

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