Novak Djokovic has beaten old rival Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4 to make the final of the ATP 500 event the China Open in Beijing. It is the world No. 1’s 23rd win in a row at the event and increases his head to head lead to 14-8 over the Scot.
It was a dominant performance from the Serbian, and an impressive one, too. Murray had just come off a tournament win in Shenzen, and had beaten U.S Open champion Marin Cilic for the loss of just five games. With Murray in this kind of form after not winning any event since Wimbledon 2013, many predicted it would be a close match.
It certainly looked like it would be from the way the match started. Both men held serve convincingly until the eighth game of the first set when Murray made a few unforced errors and was broken. That break decided the set as Djokovic then held serve to take a one set lead.
The Serb then broke Murray at the start of the second set and looked to dominate until Murray got his game back together, broke back and made it competitive. Midway through the set, when Murray held for 4-3 with some unreturnable serving, it looked like another thrilling match between the two was on the cards. But Djokovic then went on a tear, winning 12 of the last 13 points of the match.
Djokovic’s dominance was no surprise considering his history at the event. The Serb said after the match that the pollution slowed the ball down, conditions which allow him to strike the ball from the baseline with more time and control points.
Novak Djokovic has been dominant all week in Beijing, an event he has won four times. In his previous round he beat Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-4. His victories over Dimitrov and Murray suggest the Serbian has recovered from his post-Wimbledon slump.
That is bad news for his final opponent, Tomas Berdych. The world No. 6 had been suffering a slump of his own pre-Beijing. He had not gone past the last eight of an event since Oeiras in April when he suffered a shock defeat in the final to Carlos Berlocq. But Beijing seems to suit the cleanest ball striker in the game, too, as he wiped out qualifier and Nadal’s victor Martin Klizan 6-4, 6-1 in their semi-final match. However, Djokovic is the last player Berdych would have wanted to see in the final. The Serbian leads the Czech 15-2 in their career head to head.
Berdych’s last victory over Djokovic came at the 2013 Italian Open when he came back from a set and a break down to beat the Serbian at one of his best tournaments. Berdych has the ball striking ability to beat the world No.1, but he needs to get under Djokovic’s skin and unnerve him if he is to grab the win. With Djokovic playing like he is this week, he will be able to dictate play from the baseline and get one too many balls back for the Czech to handle. Victory will bring the Serb Beijing title No. 5, and send out a message to the tour that his post Wimbledon slump is over and his days at No.1 are anything but numbered as he enters what is traditionally his strongest period of the ATP tennis season.
Commentary by Christian Deverille