Top-seed Djokovic relishes friendly rivalry with Murray
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
Serbian superstar Novak Djokovic is guaranteed to finish this year on top of the rankings of the ATP, which oversees men’s tennis. REUTERS photoNovak Djokovic admits he is relishing the chance to renew his friendly rivalry with Andy Murray at the ATP Tour Finals today.
World number one Djokovic has already spent years competing with Murray after the pair emerged onto the Tour at the same time but, with Roger Federer approaching the end of his career and Rafael Nadal hampered by knee problems, this could emerge as the sport’s new great rivalry.
In 2012 alone they have clashed six times, with Djokovic starting the year with a thrilling victory over the Scot in the Australian Open semifinals and Murray getting his revenge with an Olympic last four win and then, even more significantly, a five-set triumph over the Serb to win his first Grand Slam title at the US Open.
No ill feelings
Djokovic won their most recent meeting in Shanghai final when he had to save five match points before clinching the victory, yet, despite the crucial nature of so many of their 16 meetings, there is no ill-feeling between the pair.
They practice together on a regular basis and did so on last week at the O2 Arena before learning a few hours later that they had been drawn in the same group in the season-ending Tour Finals. “We practice with each other very often, whenever we can,” Djokovic said. “We are big rivals as well, but also very fair to each other. It is a very friendly relationship.
“I’m very glad to keep that relationship with Andy, somebody that I’ve known for a very long time.” After winning their opening group matches on Nov. 5, Djokovic against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Murray against Tomas Berdych, they will meet today with the victor almost certain to progress to the semifinals.
With plenty at stake, there is every chance the clash will be the latest in a long line of gruelling encounters between two of the fittest and most dynamic players on the Tour. “Playing Andy is always a big challenge. He has had lots of success in London, playing in front of his crowd with big support,” Djokovic said.
“When I’m playing Andy I need to be ready for long rallies and a physically demanding match. “We know a lot about each other. I’m sure we are going to come up with some really good tennis.”
Following his shock exit from the Paris Masters against Sam Querrey last week, Djokovic admitted he needed the boost of regaining the world number one ranking on Nov. 5 and he looked a more vibrant figure in his 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 win over Tsonga.
“It’s a huge satisfaction,” he said. “Of course I want to win every match that I play. That’s why I’m here. It’s the season final."
“But knowing in the back of my mind that I will end as number one is a huge relief.”
The match on Nov. 5 was Murray’s first match in front of a British audience since his Grand Slam victory and the Olympic gold medalist admitted the vocal support of the crowd was a major lift at the end of a draining campaign. “The noise and the atmosphere at the beginning of the match was great,” Murray said.
“The last week of the year when everyone’s a little bit tired, it does help to have that atmosphere and a big crowd to give you that extra push you need to play good tennis. So, yeah, it was good to be back playing in the UK.”
Murray beat Djokovic to win his first Grand Slam title in the US Open earlier this year. The 25-year-old said that the win has given him an extra edge when he comes up against the best players.
“I hope when I’m playing the best players in the world, I’ll believe in my shots a bit more and make sure to be aggressive when I can,” Murray said. “I’ve learnt a lot this year how I need to play those big points in big games.”