The final of the Mutua Madrid Open on the clay is all set for Sunday and it features our numbers one and two ranked players in the world – just for a change.
It will be the 41st Masters 1000 final for number one ranked Novak Djokovic and the 17th for second-ranked Andy Murray and the ninth time the pair have clashed in a Masters final.
The score is actually tied at 4-4 in Masters finals, but Djokovic has only lost one to the Scot since 2011.
Yesterday’s wagers at the Caja Magica went one from two, with the ‘value bet’ of under 20.5 games in Djokovic’s win over Kei Nishikori failing thanks to Djokovic, incredibly, blowing four match points at 6-3, *5-4, 40-0.
He should have won it on his first match point, but blazed a forehand wide with the court at his mercy and then a couple of double faults and some neat play from Nishikori led to a second loss from four match points up this week for me.
You know your luck is out when even the world number one is choking away multiple match points on serve and of course Djokovic went on to wrap the match up shortly afterwards in the tie break.
Novak Djokovic vs Andy Murray
So, for the 32nd time in their careers, Murray and Djokovic face each other and the Scot is looking to snap a three-match losing streak against the Serb in which he hasn’t managed even a set.
Today could be a little different though, with Murray arguably having shown at least a similar level to Djokovic this week in Madrid in the defence of his title and a win over Rafael Nadal on clay is hardly bad for the confidence.
Murray wasn’t quite at the level we saw from him against Gilles Simon and Tomas Berdych, but there again the opposition was tougher, and it was Murray’s first serve that got him out of a lot of trouble against the Spaniard.
Neither Nadal or Murray were on their best form and Rafa in particular was more 2015 than 2016 at times, with a fair few shanks and unforced errors coming from his racquet.
Nadal couldn’t buy a point on his second serve, with only four of them won all match long, but it’s Murray’s second delivery that will probably make or break him today against Djokovic.
We’ve seen a significant increase in the pace of his second serve this week after working with a variety of coaches on his technique in the serving department in recent months.
It’s typical of Murray to go off and try and find solutions to the opponent preventing him from ascending to the top of the world rankings and if the stats are any guide he’s looking in the right area.
His last three clashes with Djokovic have been one-sided affairs, with the Scot failing to better 35 percent in the second serve points won category and that is not going to get it done against the world number one.
Now that he can regularly deliver it at around 100mph Murray can boss more of the points if he chooses to use the aggressive approach that brought success against Djokovic in Canada last summer – and surely he will.
Murray has started his matches very well this week, finding his rhythm off the ground quickly, and if he can also serve well from the off there’s every chance that the 3.20 about him winning set one is a viable ‘long shot’.
I’m not totally convinced that Djokovic is entirely comfortable in the conditions in Madrid, having skipped it a few times and he was hardly fabulous against Nishikori last night.
He remains the most likely winner of this match all things considered, but with Murray clearly well suited by conditions here and having improved his game to tackle this opponent 1.26 is not for me today.
Murray to win a set or Murray to win set one seem to me like more enticing wagers and having had some rotten luck this week in the Spanish capital I’m taking a chance on the Scot today.
Long shot: Back Murray to win set one at 3.20