Djokovic salutes Mur­ray

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

ROME — Novak Djokovic un­der­lined the grow­ing clay-court threat of Andy Mur­ray barely a fort­night from the French Open af­ter con­ced­ing de­feat to the Bri­tish num­ber one in the fi­nal of the Rome Mas­ters on Sun­day.

Mur­ray, the num­ber two seed who suf­fered de­feat to Djokovic in last week’s Mas­ters fi­nal in Madrid, cel­e­brated his 29th birthday in style with a stylish 6-3, 6-3 vic­tory over the Ser­bian in one hour, 35 min­utes.

It was Mur­ray’s first ti­tle in Rome, the third clay-court ti­tle of his ca­reer af­ter vic­to­ries on the red dirt in Mu­nich and Madrid last year and, more im­por­tantly, comes in timely fash­ion.

Mur­ray’s pow­er­ful serve had Djokovic in trou­ble on more than one oc­ca­sion dur­ing a rain-hit 1hr 35mins fi­nal in which he re­quested, with­out suc­cess, a break amid fears he would slip and in­jure his an­kle.

But Mur­ray showed progress in other ar­eas, and although Djokovic heads to Paris look­ing to make amends for last year’s stun­ning de­feat to Swiss Stan Wawrinka, Mur­ray has just be­come a po­ten­tially big­ger ob­sta­cle to his hopes of a 12th Grand Slam ti­tle.

“I think he’s us­ing the court bet­ter now. He has more va­ri­ety in his shots from the base­line play, so ob­vi­ously he did im­prove,” said Djokovic.

“Win­ning Madrid and Rome and, you know, a cou­ple of clay-court tour­na­ments the last cou­ple of years proves it.

“At the French Open, the con­di­tions are also a bit quicker, which he likes. He’s been con­sis­tently play­ing well (at Roland Gar­ros) through­out the years, and I’m sure he’s go­ing to be very mo­ti­vated to do well again.

“He’s go­ing to come in in great form to Paris.”

Be­com­ing the first Bri­ton to win in Rome since Pa­trick Hughes in 1931, it is the first time Mur­ray’s name has been added to a tro­phy since the birth of his baby daugh­ter.

He said the ar­rival of his daugh­ter has changed his out­look on life and it will ul­ti­mately “have a pos­i­tive ef­fect on my ten­nis ca­reer”.

“The last thing I looked at to­day be­fore I went on the court was a pic­ture of my daugh­ter,” said Mur­ray.

A week af­ter his Madrid de­feat, the stars aligned for the Scot thanks to Djokovic com­ing in fa­tigued af­ter his late semi-fi­nal against Ja­pan’s Kei Nishikori on Satur­day.

But Mur­ray stressed: “Ev­ery time I go up against him I know I have to play great ten­nis to win. Any time you beat the best player in the world, it’s a big win.”

In Paris, nine-time French Open cham­pion Rafael Nadal and Swiss pair Wawrinka and Roger Fed­erer will be out to make amends for early ex­its in Rome.

Seven-time Rome cham­pion Nadal was ousted in the quar­ters by Djokovic, but two days af­ter Djokovic called beat­ing the Spa­niard on clay “the ul­ti­mate chal­lenge”, Nadal gave lit­tle in­di­ca­tion he fears for his prospects in Paris.

“I think I am play­ing well dur­ing the whole clay court sea­son,” Nadal said af­ter his de­feat on Fri­day.

“And to­day I was there men­tally, fight­ing for ev­ery point, hit­ting good shots.”

Wawrinka, beaten by Juan Monaco in the third round, is set to play in Geneva this week as he strug­gles for match-win­ning con­fi­dence ahead of the de­fence of his ti­tle in Paris.

There are even big­ger doubts on Fed­erer, who won the Roland Gar­ros ti­tle just once in 2009, and ex­ited Rome still com­plain­ing of a back in­jury which forced him out in Madrid.

Ser­ena Williams, mean­while, heads to Paris brim­ming with con­fi­dence ahead of her bid for a third ti­tle at Roland Gar­ros that would take her Grand Slam tally to 22.

The Amer­i­can swept past 21-year-old com­pa­triot Madi­son Keys 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 to claim her fourth Ital­ian Open vic­tory on Sun­day, first ti­tle of the sea­son and 70th of her ca­reer.

Williams be­comes just the fifth woman to achieve such a to­tal in sin­gles af­ter Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, St­effi Graf and Mar­garet Court.

“I’m go­ing to def­i­nitely go in there and I feel more calm and I don’t feel stress to, like, have to win,” she said. — AFP

Novak Djokovic (left) and andy Mur­ray

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