The mood between Andy Murray and Novak Djokvic may be less cordial at the Sony Open on Wednesday. (Kathy Kmonicek/AP)
Novak Djokovic and defending champion Andy Murray will renew their rivalry on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the Sony Open.
Their 20th career meeting will be their first since the Wimbledon final last year, which Murray won 6-4, 7-5, 6-4, and their earliest at a tournament since the 2008 Rogers Cup quarterfinals, which Murray won 6-4, 7-6 (3). Djokovic leads the head-to-head 11-8, including 6-5 on outdoor hard courts.
Murray, ranked No. 6, will drop to No. 8 unless he makes the final, a tough task considering Roger Federer may be waiting for him should he defeat Djokovic. The Brit has struggled to find his form since undergoing back surgery last September, but he may have finally turned a corner this week in Miami. Since dropping the first set of his first match, Murray has lost just 11 games in six sets, defeating Matt Ebden, Feliciano Lopez and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Murray beat Tsonga 6-4, 6-1 on Tuesday for his first victory over a top-20 player since Wimbledon. He lost just six points on serve and hit eight unforced errors against Tsonga. All that while struggling with back pain that required more than one visit from the tournament doctor to get some anti-inflammatories.
"My game is getting there," Murray said. "The last six sets I've played very high-level tennis, very few errors."
As for No. 2 Djokovic, he's a much more confident player than two weeks ago, when he landed in Indian Wells, Calif., without a title for the first time since 2006. Then he went on to defeat Federer in the final. After a physically tough two weeks in the desert, Djokovic has had to play only four sets to advance to the quarterfinals in Miami; the Serb received a walkover from Florian Mayer in the third round, sandwiched between straight-set victories against Jeremy Chardy and Tommy Robredo.
While Djokovic's greatest career triumphs have usually involved Rafael Nadal or Federer across the net, most of Murray's have been against Djokovic. He defeated Djokovic to win his first ATP Masters title (2008 Cincinnati), his first Grand Slam title (2012 U.S. Open) and his historic Wimbledon title.
“I’ve played the biggest matches of my career against Novak, so it’s going to be a little bit more special than other matches," Murray said.