Saturday, 17 November 2012

WTF SF: The Pendulum Swing

Novak Djokovic def. Juan Martin del Potro 46 63 62
Roger Federer def. Andy Murray 76(5) 62

Despite losing his semi-final to Roger Federer on Sunday evening, and failing to make the final of the ATP World Tour Finals, Andy Murray did very little wrong over the course of that match.  His greatest mistake came four days earlier when he allowed Novak Djokovic to wrestle back control of their round robin match from a set and a break down.

On that occasion, Murray started sharper than the Serbian #1 and sustained the momentum throughout the first set.  But two serve and volley points determined the outcome of the second set, and subsequently, the match.  The first, an audacious drive volley from Djokovic caught the baseline right at the junction with the sideline, cuing disbelief from the heart-on-sleeve Scot.  Murray's response was to attempt a similar play of his own a few points later, but the return he got from Djokovic was too subtle and too low and Murray's clumsy volley sailed long.  From those two plays the pendulum swung out of the British half and into the #1 seed's.  Djokovic was to go on to be a worthy 3-set winner topping Group A with 3 wins from 3.

Would you prefer to face Federer or del Potro?
However, Murray played his part and looked equally strong as he qualified as Group A runner-up, but that solitary loss to Djokovic meant that he was scheduled to face Federer in the semi-final.  And most unfortunately of all, the Federer he faced was on ethereal form, an instinctive touch manifested itself in flawless tennis on the points that mattered.  Murray was a mere spectator from a masterclass in Swiss precision and timing.  He might have blasted out of the blocks into an early lead, but he couldn't convert anything further as Federer pulled back the first set and took the opportunities that came his way to take a one set lead.  The second followed suit with more Federer wizardry negating the Murray challenge and taking him through the match to compete for his seventh title of the season.  It was a performance that suggests that the great man is still has a motivation for winning, still has a motivation for titles and still has a motivation for records.

Joining Federer in Monday's final will be Novak Djokovic, who experienced a pendulum swing of his own against the #6 seed Juan Martin del Potro.  It was the Argentine who looked dominant in the slug-fest opening set, Djokovic seemingly unable to find the precision needed to pass the immense wingspan of his 6ft5 opponent.  Near misses characterised the first set from the Serb and del Potro always seemed to be in control, the player with better rhythm and therefore better momentum.  But at 2-2 in the second set, after some sloppy play from both men, the Djokovic lion roared within and he sprung into life.  The same shots that had flashed long and wide suddenly found the channel, deep into the court and with pace.  He was now the boss of the rallies, controlling the points from the baseline, and the change in fortune seemed to weary the Argentine as an error off his racquet gifted Djokovic the chance to level the scoreline.

In the third set, it was one-way traffic, del Potro tired out by the relentless Djokovic defense and forced into errors as the Serb's nostrils flared and chest puffed out, indicative of his growing confidence.  With the first set concluding over an hour, the next two were wrapped up in somewhat speedier fashion as the Argentine ran out of steam and Djokovic ran out a convincing winner, For although del Potro had led for a large portion of the game, once the pendulum had swung into Djokovic's quarter, it was unlikely that it would ever be passed back to the Argentine.

A fitting final for the last event of the year, as the top two players of the season battle it out to place the full stop on the 2012 ATP tour.

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