If Andy Murray doesn’t walk away with the trophy and year-end number one ranking this week I would be surprised. He’s had a phenomenal six months reaching that lofty goal of best in the world, but real pride comes with finishing the season there and not just owning that ranking for a couple of weeks.
Watching Novak this week, he’s just not in the same place that he was at the start of this year. He’s fighting himself to stay strong and stay fresh.
You think about the level he was at during that amazing 18-month period up to the French Open – his perfromances were quite extraordinary. But he has mentally and physically come off that level – he’s human again – and it looks like he is worrying about it.
Because of Djokovic’s dip in form, Murray is probably the strongest that he has ever been mentally.
Therein lies the difference: Who expects to win in London and who wants to win there? Murray expects to win it and Djokovic would like to.
Of course, Djokovic may find some inner strength and Murray may struggle with the pressure, but don’t forget that his biggest triumphs have come in London with two Wimbledon crowns and Olympic gold. The difference now, though, is that Murray’s form and attitude resembles that of a dominant Djokovic.
If they play each other, it will be one of the most intriguing matches of the year.
Historically Novak has been on top of that match-up, mentally the stronger of the two. Andy could always stay with him for a period of time, but would then fall apart later in the match. We’ve seen that happen a few times at the Australian Open, where Murray seems to have said ‘I can’t get this guy, he’s too much of a level above’.
At the moment, though, he sees the cracks in Novak’s game, and Novak has let everyone in the locker room know that as well. He isn’t at his peak – smashed racquets, shirts ripped and tense press conferences – and he has lost that air of invincibility. That will strengthen Murray’s confidence.
Despite that, Novak will get his form back. He’s defending an enormous amount in first six months of 2017 – the Australian Open, Master’s Series and the French Open. Once that period is over, I think we’ll see a lot of stress off his shoulders and he will start again. I think he is young enough and good enough to come back again.
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