Tennis

Champs collide as Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic set up Miami Open final

Andy Murray hits a backhand return during his victory against Tomas Berdych in the Miami Open semifinals Friday, April 3, 2015.
Andy Murray hits a backhand return during his victory against Tomas Berdych in the Miami Open semifinals Friday, April 3, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Novak Djokovic intimated earlier in the Miami Open that he was not playing up to his usual standards — not performing as he expects the No. 1 player in the world to perform.

And, of course, he is the No. 1 player.

Then again, maybe Djokovic was just saving his best tennis for tournament’s end. It’s starting to seem that way.

On Friday, he moved into the tournament’s championship match at 1 p.m. Sunday with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 victory against American John Isner. In the title match, Djokovic of Serbia will face third-seeded Andy Murray of Scotland, who defeated Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-4, earlier in the day.

Two somewhat easy semifinals might add up to one tough final, and fans will welcome that.

“It’s important to elevate the level of performance in the game toward the end of the tournament,” Djokovic said. “I created a lot of opportunities for myself. I moved him around the court, always made him play an extra shot. I used the court very well.”

Djokovic wasn’t bragging — he was just rightfully describing the match.

Isner is 6-10 with a blistering serve that almost seems to put dents into the purple courts of the Tennis Center at Crandon Park. Djokovic was asked how in the world do you practice for that scenario.

He smiled, laughed and said: “I had the guys that I warm up with the last six or seven days step probably six or seven feet into the court and just serve as hard as they can. That’s one of the ways.”

Djokovic was asked what will he do to prepare for the final against Murray.

“Go party,” he said with tongue firmly planted in cheek. “No, I’m just staying at home. My baby gives me a lot of party in the morning and during the day, so I’m partying with my boy and my wife and preparing myself for Sunday.”

Sunday’s title match will be between two players familiar with Stadium Court at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne.

And, for that matter, they are familiar with simply winning.

Djokovic, 26, has won the Miami event four times, and Murray, also 26, has taken the title twice.

Djokovic has five Australian Opens, two Wimbledons and a U.S. Open title in his majors résumé. Murray counters with a Wimbledon and U.S. Open title. Djokovic has won $76,122,498 in prize money during his career, and Murray has $35,556,928 of tennis winnings.

So let the rich guys square off and add to their bank accounts.

In Friday’s first semifinal, under a bright sun and cloudless sky that ensured a sunburn for virtually all of the Stadium Court fans, Murray won in fairly routine fashion over Berdych.

The first two sets were mirror images of themselves with Murray breaking Berdych in the first and third games of both sets. Berdych also recorded a break in the second game of each of those sets, but that wasn’t good enough to prevent defeat. In professional tennis, going a break up early more often than not ends up with winning a set.

“I thought I obviously started both sets well,” Murray said. “That was really the difference, to be honest. “Throughout the match, I thought it was a pretty clean matchup. I feel like I just played a bit better than him.”

Murray has residences both in England and the Brickell area of Miami, so he’s about 10 minutes from home after he finishes his matches in Miami. His plans for Friday night were already mapped out.

“I’ll just go back and recover basically,” he said. “Get a lot of good food down me. I’ll have an ice bath … get a stretch and a massage. It has been a really long five or six weeks for me, so just try to conserve as much energy as I can.”

Even Murray admits that one thing to his advantage against Djokovic is his familiarity with Stadium Court.

“There are little things in the court that maybe players that haven’t played on it that much won’t really know,” Murray said. “I’m extremely familiar with the conditions, with the surface, the way the court plays. Because I practice on it all the time I know how the ball bounces in certain areas and which serves work into certain spots on the court and how the ball responds off different spins. That’s why I feel comfortable on it.”

Andy Murray will be competing for his third Miami Open tennis championship after dismissing Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-4 on Friday in the first of two men’s semifinals at Stadium Court at the CrandonTennis Center on Key Biscayne.

England’s Murray, 26, will face the winner of a Friday night match between Serbia’s Novak Djokovic and American John Isner. The championship match is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.

Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 men’s player, has won four Miami titles. Isner will be making his first appearance in a Miami final.

Saturday’s women’s championship will pit world No. 1 Serena Williams from the United States against Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro. Williams, the two-time defending champion, has won seven Miami titles.

Miami Open results, schedule

SINGLES

MEN’S SEMIFINALS

Andy Murray (3), Britain, d. Tomas Berdych (8), Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-4.

Novak Djokovic (1), Serbia, d. John Isner (22), United States, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.

DOUBLES

WOMEN’S SEMIFINAL

Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina (2), Russia, d. Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka (9), Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-2.

SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE

1 p.m.: Serena Williams (USA) vs. Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP)

Not Before 3 p.m.: Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan (USA) vs. Vasek Pospisil (CAN) and Jack Sock (USA)

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