French Open Men's Final Preview: New Turf, Same Foes

French Open Men’s Final Preview: New Turf, Same Foes

It has been a rivalry that has bred both moments of triumph and agony alike, but on Sunday at Roland-Garros Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic will lock horns in a Grand Slam final once again. Despite having met in six Grand Slam finals, none of them have been on the red clay of Paris at the French Open with five having been played on hard courts. For so long both Murray and Djokovic stood in the shadows of Nadal and Federer, however, based on current form those days have well and truly ended.

Murray’s French Open Grind

Reaching his first ever French Open final was far from plain sailing for Murray with the World #2 playing ten sets in the space of two matches. Both veteran Radek Stepanek and inspired young Frenchman Mathias Bourgue pushed Murray all the way. However, the two time Grand Slam winner showed all his grit and determination to prevail in both those matches before easing past the big hitters of Ivo Karlovic and John Isner. Murray then displayed his true class, playing sublime tennis against both home favorite Richard Gasquet and defending champion Stan Wawrinka. Murray has gradually improved throughout the tournament but the sheer volume of tennis the Scotsman has played has led some to question weather or not Murray will be as fresh as Djokovic come Sunday.

Djokovic’s Easy Route

Few would deny that Djokovic has had a much easier time of things. He has dropped just one set, that being in woeful conditions against Roberto Bautista-Agut in the fourth round. Djokovic’s supposedly tougher opponent Tomas Berdych proved to be little challenge to the World #1 despite the slower conditions. Djokovic was also helped by the withdrawal of clay court master Rafael Nadal, who had been in good form heading into the tournament. But despite all this the Serb has played some jaw-dropping tennis the likes of which only the top players can produce with his returning looking particularly strong.
However, it is difficult to assert exactly who is the favorite. On the balance of things Djokovic may well have the upper hand. The pair’s record in Slam finals is 4-2 in the favor of the Serb while their overall record also shows good reading for Djokovic with it being 23-10 in favor of the 11-time Grand Slam champion. Djokovic is also arguably the fresher of the two having played less minutes of tennis than Murray. Murray’s camp do have some counter-punches however. It could be argued that Murray has become battle-hardened from his tough ties so far and that was no more evident than against Gasquet. Despite losing the first set Murray showed supreme quality from then on in utterly tearing Gasquet apart. Murray has also won the pair’s only non hard court Grand Slam final, that coming at Wimbledon in 2013.

Classic in Store?

Djokovic has the added pressure of trying to finally claim that elusive career Grand Slam, having failed to achieve it last year against Wawrinka on the same stage. That may well make the Serb even more determined to finally put the figurative cherry on top of his illustrious career. Murray will also be aiming to put this year’s Australian Open final behind him where Djokovic prevailed in three sets, stopping Murray from moving closer to his own career Grand Slam. With the French crowd on Chatrier likely to be hoping for a thrilling five-setter, their crucial support may sway erratically throughout the match. No matter the crowd and indeed unpredictable weather forecast, another round of Djokovic-Murray in a Grand Slam final is likely to be a thrilling one.

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