After terminating Rafael Nadal’s 32 match winning streak to get into the finals, world number 3 Novak Djokovic seemed to be destined to take the title at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati. Yet, no one clued in Great Britain’s Andy Murray on that part of the script. After beating Djokovic for the first time last week in Toronto, Murray was poised to demonstrate that he could give an encore performance. The Brit dismantled his Serbian rival 7-6, 7-6 to earn his first ATP masters’ shield.
After getting off the blocks in a positive light, Djokovic’s serve started to trouble him in the fifth game. Despite two double faults and break point, Novak escaped to get to 3-2. In the seventh game, Djokovic again faced break points which he dismissed. For his part, Murray’s service games were uncomplicated, not facing a single break point. Moreover, Murray did not lament his lost opportunities while an exasperated Djokovic had numerous one sided heated exchanges with his coach. A 71 minute first set was decided by a tiebreak and 31 unforced errors by Djokovic helped Murray to prevail.
Turning a new leaf, Djokovic held comfortably in the second set’s opening game. Then, Novak attacked Andy’s serve to attain break points which he banked to lead 2-1. But, the shift in the tides was momentary. Novak’s shaky serve deserted him and with consecutive double faults, Murray eventually leveled the set at 2-2. Subsequently at 3-4, Djokovic missed a makeable smash which handed Murray the break and the chance to serve for the title. Down 3-5, Novak had a drop shot bounce off the net to land for a winner, swatted away four championship point and broke Andy for another lifeline. The set was settled by a tiebreak. After a seesaw of points, Murray produced a delicious crosscourt backhand down the line winner in an interminable rally to get to 5-4. On the next point, Djokovic double faulted giving Murray match point which he then converted. The Bryan brothers, who have been struggling this year, won the doubles trophy in a compelling three set match over Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram 4-6, 7-6, 10-7.
Belief is everything. The combination of an ineffective serve and the inability to connect on his favorite shot, the backhand down the line, caused Djokovic’s undoing in the finals. Murray’s return of serve was key in the match. By winning, Murray improves his ranking to number 6. With so many players peaking at this stage, it’s difficult to say who will claim Olympic gold or for that matter the U.S. Open trophy.