By Jake Davies
- Andy Murray  beats Tomas Berdych  6-3 6-4 in Doha semi-final
- The battle of World No.1 vs World No.2 takes place in Saturday’s final
DOHA, QATAR – So the season starts as it ended – with a showdown between the World No. 1 Andy Murray and No. 2 Novak Djokovic.
Andy Murray  defeats Tomas Berdych  6-3 6-4
Andy Murray has now won 28 consecutive matches on the ATP tour following a straightforward straight sets win over the Czech Tomas Berdych. The Briton really breezed past Berdych, whom he has enjoyed a favourable head-to-head, where he has won all of their last seven matches, dropping just the one set in the process.
This win puts Murray just four wins away from tying Rafael Nadal‘s historic winning streak in 2008 of 32 wins in succession.
Andy Murray  vs Novak Djokovic  H2H: Djokovic leads 24-11
In the first ATP tournament of the year, the tennis universe get exactly what they had been anticipating and hoping for when the Doha draw came out – World No.1 Andy Murray faces World No.2 Novak Djokovic in Saturday’s final.
The next chapter in the Murray vs Djokovic rivalry begins with the battle for the World No.1 ranking rolling on into the 2017 season. The two best players in the world are starting off exactly where they left off in the conclusion of the 2016 season as they continue to fight it out at the top of the ATP rankings.
Incredibly the last seven meetings between Murray and Djokovic have all taken place in the final of an event, and I expect more of the same as the two continue to dominate at every level on the ATP tour. The Serb actually edges the head-to-head when they have met in ATP finals with a lead of 10-8 and he holds a one-sided overall head-to-head at 24-11, although Murray has improved substantially against Djokovic inside the last twelve months.
One argument that could be made is that this is one of the more compelling encounters of their entire head-to-head for a number of reasons. In the past, Djokovic has enjoyed phenomenal success against Murray and, for a long period of time, held a huge mental advantage over the Briton. The last twelve months of tennis that Murray has played suggests that that mental edge has evaporated.
Following Murray’s memorable 2013 Wimbledon final win over the Serb he lost eight consecutive matches to Djokovic, which many have attributed to the fact that he was still recovering from the back injury that required surgery. Another reason why Murray had taken so long to get that valuable victory over Djokovic since that final was the lack of confidence that Murray had against the top players in that period.
Djokovic will be desperate to gain some much-needed confidence and momentum coming into the first Grand Slam of the year. These smaller tournaments in preparation for the bigger events mean a lot more than people think. Djokovic will understand how priceless a win over his biggest rival could be in his quest for his sixth Australian Open title in seven years and his seventh title overall. The World No.2 is not in his greatest form, but he makes a tremendous habit of winning matches even when he is not feeling his best on the court, which still makes him a huge threat to the rest of the field in Melbourne.
The conditions could play a massive part in deciding the Doha final. Murray is the better wind player. Djokovic struggles to penetrate through the court on blustery conditions as we saw in their historic 2012 US Open final between the two.
Djokovic was lucky to come through a thrilling match against former top tenner Fernando Verdasco. In that match, Djokovic saved a total of five match points before winning it in the deciding third set. Those sort of matches are what separates the good players from the great players, but it remains to be seen whether that match will have an adverse effect on his condition for the Doha final tomorrow.
I think Murray will edge this match in a three set match. Djokovic is getting closer to the type of player we saw in the first half of 2016, where he wins matches that he really should not win. But I feel this match has come around a bit too quickly for the Serb.
Prediction: Murray in three sets.
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