Instant analysis: Djokovic defeats Murray to make French Open final
PARIS – Follow along below for set-by-set analysis of the semifinal matchup between No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 3 Andy Murray.
Djokovic defeats Murray 6–3, 6–3, 5–7, 5–7, 6–1.
Set 5: Djokovic, 6–1.
2:10 p.m., Djokovic beats Murray to advance to his 16th major final.
With just a cool fistpump to his box, Djokovic closes out the match with an ace. What more can you say? Djokovic has met every obstacle over this fortnight and passed with, at the end of the day, relative ease. He draws Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals and rolls in three sets. He overcomes tricky conditions and a suspension of play to beat Murray in a protracted five set match that took two days to finish.
2:02 p.m., Djokovic holds, leads 4-1*: Despite the scoreline, Murray is still just one break down. But Djokovic looks completely calm and in control now.
Murray holds, trails *3-1: The Brit gets on the board to avoid the dreaded final set bagel. If you've seen their matches lately you know this is kind of a big deal. Murray was bageled in the fourth of their Australian Open final in January and then again in the third when they played in the spring in the final at the Miami Open.
2:00 p.m., Djokovic holds, leads 3-0*: If you ever need to understand why Djokovic has been the dominant player on the ATP Tour this year, just watch the last hour of tennis. Murray had to play out of his socks to take those four games in the fourth to force a third. It was a level that Murray simply couldn't sustain. Now that he's come down to earth ever so slightly, Djokovic's consistency and quality has taken over.
1:50 p.m., Djokovic breaks, leads *2-0: But it can all change just that fast for Murray. He was red-lining his game to start today—any drop and Djokovic will nudge ahead. The Serb is just that good and consistent. Sure enough, Murray steps to the line, gets to 0-15 and the hits two bad unforced errors to give Djokovic triple break point. Djokovic converts on his second after Murray throws in his third unforced error of the game, this time off his forehand side.
1:45 p.m.: Djokovic came into this match having been broken just five times in the tournament. Through the first two sets of the match that stat continued to hold. But it's been a different story since the middle of the third set. He's now been broken three times in the match.
Set 4: Murray, 7–5.
Murray wins the fourth set 7-5.
The Brit closes it out at 30 to force a one-set shootout for Sunday's final. What an incredible turn of events (and effort) from Murray. It's not easy to step out on the court and get yourself to play your A-plus level from the first point. He was the steadier man on the restart, as Djokovic started well but began to throw in a few too many errors. On the resumption at 3-3, Djokovic finished out that set hitting six unforced errors. Murray hit two.
1:33 p.m., Murray breaks, leads *6-5: Murray is quickly rewarded for his hard work. These are lung-busting rallies and Murray is winning all of them. He hits a great drop shot to finish off a 32-shot rally and then Djokovic begins to misfire. Murray earns two break points at 15-40 and he converts on his second as Djokovic sends a forehand long. Too loose from the Serb.
1:29 p.m., Murray holds, tied 5-5*: The first point lost by the server comes on Murray's service game but he was up 40-love anyway. He holds. This is fantastic tennis. All their matches should start at 3-3 in the fourth from now on.
1:23 p.m., Djokovic holds, leads 5-4*: Another love hold for Djokovic. All 12 points on the restart have gone the way of the server. Murray will serve to stay in the match after the changeover.
1:16 p.m., Djokovic holds, leads 4-3*: Play resumes with Djokovic serving. Four points. One hold. Clean, fresh start for Djokovic.
Play resumes, 3–3.
It's a beautiful day in Paris. The sun is out and there's a slight breeze but it's not the stifling hot conditions of yesterday. As Djokovic and Murray do their final warm-ups in the hallway, Stan Wawrinka casually wanders by. He must be loving this. He gets to have a light hit today and then kick up his feet. As for Djokovic and Murray, this could go 20 minutes, or it could go two hours.
Set 4: 3–3, match suspended for rain.
8:33 p.m., Murray saves break points and holds, tied 3-3*: Break points for Djokovic after he does well to end a lengthy rally with a backhand cross court stunner, and then Murray puts a forehand into the net to fall behind 15-40. He's livid. Even by Andy Murray standards.
Murray saves one with an ace out wide and then another as Djokovic misses the return into the net. Murray is shouting at himself at every point. Djokovic is screaming at his box. There's a lot of tension out there.
Murray indeed saves two break points and holds. The supervisor has come out to have a talk with both players, who have now left the court. Play is suspended due to an impending storm.
8:27 p.m., Djokovic breaks right back and holds, leads 3-2*: What a poor service game from Murray. He was on a string of winning 10 straight points before a slew of inexcusable errors come flying off his racket. The most shocking came at 15-30, when he had an easy overhead right on top of the net that he somehow puts into the bottom of the net. He's able to save one break point but not the second, missing a forehand.
It's not an easy consolidation attempt from Djokovic though. He leads 40-15 but Murray does well to get it to deuce. He gets no further, as Djokovic holds.
Murray seems to be struggling with the lack of light now too. The supervisors are on their walkie-talkies.
8:11 p.m., Murray breaks, leads *2-1: Somehow, Murray scrapes back from 0-40 down in his first service game to hold to 1-1. After throwing in a slew of lazy errors in Djokovic's first service game, Murray pulls it together. He gets the better of Djokovic in a 33-shot pounding rally that leaves the Serb fatigued. He's motioning to his box that he's having trouble seeing the ball. There's about one more hour of light left in Paris on Chatrier.
Then Murray rides the momentum to get his second break of the match. Djokovic is struggling not just with his execution and possibly his fitness—we don't know what his medical timeout was for—but also his clarity. He's making some poor shot decisions and he's let Murray back into this match.
The irony of all this: Murray could very easily force this to a fifth, which would probably have to be played on Saturday. In a one-set shootout with a rested Djokovic, you don't necessarily like Murray's chances.
Set 3 notes: Murray closed out the third set by winning 15 of the last 20 points. After his off-court medical timeout, Djokovic is greeted by a smattering of boos and whistles. Luckily for him, Murray insisted the umpire tell the crowd he had gone off court for a medical timeout and not just a bathroom. That may have averted some ideas that the break was an attempt at gamesmanship.
How good was Murray in that third set? He hit 10 winners to 7 unforced errors while Djokovic clearly dipped, hitting 13 winners to 15 unforced errors. But will the extended pause between sets ice him down?
Set 3: Murray, 7–5.
Murray wins the third set 7-5, trails Djokovic 6-3, 6-3, 5-7.
Murray steps up and holds at love to take us to a fourth set. You could see the momentum slowly start to shift after Murray saved those two break points in the sixth game. That fired him up and while Djokovic threw in a few more errors, he bounced. That 11th game from Murray was incredible. It was his best return game by far and showcased all his defense and shot-making ability to finally break Djokovic.
The Serb has left the court now for a medical timeout.
7:47 p.m., Murray breaks, leads *6-5: What a game from Andy Murray! He rips two unbelievable forehand winners to set up his first break point of the match. That was highlight reel stuff. On break point he shows great defense to get to a Djokovic drop shot and rip it off Djokovic's racket frame.
Could we have ourselves a match? Murray serving to force a fourth set. Out of nowhere.
7:43 p.m., Murray holds, tied 5-5*: That was the best service game Murray has had all day. He takes it cleanly at love. Back to you, Novak.
7:34 p.m., Djokovic holds, leads 5-4*: Djokovic is a game away from his third French Open final and 16th Slam final overall. All for a chance to play Stan Wawrinka, against whom he's 17-3.
Murray holds, tied 4-4*: It's a deuce game for Murray but he gets out of it with the help of a few untimely unforced errors from Djokovic. Slight dip in form from Djokovic as Murray has stepped up his intensity over the last 10 minutes.
7:28 p.m., Djokovic holds, leads 4-3*: Murray can't keep himself from making just enough errors to let Djokovic off the hook. The Brit wins the first point after a 24 shot rally, which he punctuates with a winner. But he misses two big returns at 15-30 and 30-all to give Djokovic game point, and then hits a forehand well out to hand over the game. He's furious with himself.
7:25 p.m., Murray holds, tied 3-3*: Murray saves two virtual match points to hold. It's looking like one of his mid-set lapses as he falls behind 15-40 on his serve. But after playing two good points to save both break points, Murray gets fired up. He eeks out the hold thanks to a few loose errors from Djokovic's racket.
7:16 p.m., Djokovic holds, leads 3-2*: Murray is still holding his serve well, but when Djokovic is handling near-impossible volleys with ease it's going to be a short day. He's now up to 32 winners to just 19 unforced errors. Most notably, he hasn't faced a break point today. He's been broken just five times in almost six matches so far. On clay. That's ridiculous.
7:09 p.m., Djokovic holds, leads 2-1*: The wind is definitely picking up around Roland Garros. Our press room windows are getting a good rattle.
On court it's just more of the same from Djokovic. Flawless tennis from him and Murray can't do much to put any pressure on him. The Serb is holding his position on the baseline while Murray is sent scampering left, right and center. One thing that always stands out about Djokovic these days: He never wastes a shot. Every ball that comes off his racket has clear purpose and intent. Again, you can't say the same about Murray. He puts too back too many neutral rally balls. Other players may miss those every once in a while, but not Djokovic. He has all the time in the world to decide what he wants to do and execute.
Set 2: Djokovic, 6–3.
Djokovic wins the second set, leads 6–3, 6–3.
Terrible overhead miss from Andy Murray and he's broken for a second time in the set. Djokovic takes it. So far the stats tell the story: Djokovic is playing it clean today. He's hit 24 winners to 16 unforced errors. Murray has hit 16 winners to 23 unforced errors and he's struggling on second serve points. The Brit has won 40%. In contrast, Djokovic has won 67%.
Complete Set 2 match stats:
Can Djokovic beat the Murray and the impending thunderstorms? Temperatures have dropped here on the grounds and dark clouds are beginning to gather nearby.
6:49 p.m., Murray holds, trails 3-4*: The most impressive thing about Djokovic in 2015 is that he's been able to dominate the men's tour without playing his best tennis. His big win over Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals was standard stuff from Djokovic. Today is very much the same. He is making Murray look average while playing his B-level. That's how good his B-level is now.
6:36 p.m., Djokovic breaks, leads *3-2: This is regulation stuff from both men. Djokovic is simply impenetrable on the baseline and Murray just can't stay with him. It's a handful of errors on key points that are doing him in. Murray hits three backhand unforced errors in his service game and Djokovic gets the break. In fact, it's the backhand that's failing both men. Ten of Murray's 17 unforced errors have come from that side. Ten of Djokovic's 13 unforced errors have come from that side.
6:22 p.m., Murray holds leads 2-1*: What can Murray do to turn things around? On one hand he could be thinking he was in that first set until two bad shots spelled his doom, and thus just continue with his current game plan. On the other hand, is patiently rallying with Djokovic from the baseline the way to go? He may need to take more risk and crack open some rallies with some bigger hitting.
Either way, a better-than-good serving day is much needed for Murray. He's serving at just a shade under 70% with four aces.
Set 1: Djokovic, 6–3.
Complete stats from Set 1:
Djokovic wins the first set 6-3.
It takes just 44 minutes but Djokovic takes the first set with relative ease. He played the cleaner tennis, hitting 17 winners to 10 unforced errors and never giving up a break point. Murray, as he has been in their last seven matches, has been the one prone to error. You can't give Djokovic any free points and Murray virtually gave that break away with his lack of focus on two forehands at the net.
The Brit has come to the net seven times. He has yet to win a point there. Murray didn't do much wrong in that set. But he did enough. He's playing patient tennis but he needs more than that. He has to hit for winners. He has to take the game to Djokovic.
6:07 p.m., Djokovic breaks, leads *5-3: Murray wobbles. Four points, four errors, including two terrible forehand misses at the net and the Brit is broken at love.
Djokovic didn't have to do anything for that break. He'll serve for the set.
Djokovic holds, leads 4-3*.
Yet again, Murray gets into Djokovic's service game. He gets to 0-30 but no further. Djokovic keeps coming up with the goods on the big swing points to get his service holds. Will Murray rue these missed chances? Djokovic has started the match with some low serving numbers, serving at just 54% through his four service games. He served well in excess of 60% in all his matches in Paris so far.
5:59 p.m., Murray holds, tied 3-3*: Djokovic earns the first break point of the match but it's Murray who comes through another tough baseline rally to save it. He goes on to hold with his third ace of the match. Not much separating the two men so far. Murray is doing well not to get caught too far behind the baseline and he's hitting both his backhand and forehand well. Djokovic is playing as solid as ever.
5:52 p.m., Djokovic holds, leads, 3-2*: After an easy service hold, Murray once again gets to 30-all on Djokovic's serve. But after exchanging 17 shots back and forth, Murray goes for the drop shot and doesn't hit it well enough. Djokovic gets to it and slams it cross court for a winner and Murray gives his box what I can only assume was a sarcastic thumbs up.
5:44 p.m., Djokovic holds, leads 2-1*: Clean love hold from Djokovic. It's all about the start for Andy Murray today. Whoever won the first set won their last eight matches, the last seven of which were won by the Serb. Their last two Slam meetings went to a first set tiebreaker.
5:38 p.m., Murray holds, tied 1-1: Sure enough, it's another deuce game, this time on Murray's serve. The Brit, seeking to make his ninth Slam final and first here in Paris, has game point at 40-30, which Djokovic saves with a perfectly carved drop shot. Murray answers in the next point with some heavy backhand hitting and then another backhand, this time down the line, helps him hold.
5:36 p.m., Djokovic holds 1-0*: What level can these two sustain in this heat? Don't let Amelie Mauresmo sitting in direct sun wearing a black shirt fool you. It's sweltering today, the hottest day of the tournament so far. Given how the matches usually go between Djokovic and Murray, this will require a taxing effort from both men.
Murray has opted to go with a white shirt given the conditions. Djokovic is wearing his standard orange polo and black shorts.
No surprise, the first game goes to deuce. It features long protracted baseline rallies. Murray gets to 0-30 but never sees a break point and Djokovic starts the match off with a hold.
How does No. 1 Djokovic match up with No. 3 Murray?
For the second straight major, Djokovic's road to the title must go through Murray. The two have already faced each other three times this season, with Djokovic getting the better of Murray each time. In both the Australian Open final and Miami Open final, Djokovic won the decisive set 6–0. It's no surprise that Murray emphasized his need to stay mentally strong from first ball to last.
"[I need to] make sure I take sort of control of my own side of the net and be mentally strong out there on the court," Murray said. "I'll need to be, and accept that there is going to be if I want to win the match, it's not going to be plain sailing. That's very unlikely that you'll be comfortable physically. It will be difficult, and you need to prepare yourself mentally before you go out on to the court."
Since beating Djokovic to win Wimbledon in 2013, Murray has lost their last seven matches. As the Brit struggled with a back problem that required surgery and recovery time thereafter, Djokovic has just upgraded his game across the board. The most decisive element of their last few matches has been Djokovic's improvement on his second serve. In every match he has played in Paris so far he has won over 60% of his second serve points. In only one match, his quarterfinal against Nadal, was he broken more than once. The big ask for Murray is to serve well enough to get regular, easy holds.
This post will be updated.