Tennis

Miami Open men’s final matchup is marked by familiarity

Great Britain’s Andy Murray returns against the Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych during the first set of a men's semifinal match at the Miami Open in Key Biscayne on April 3, 2015.
Great Britain’s Andy Murray returns against the Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych during the first set of a men's semifinal match at the Miami Open in Key Biscayne on April 3, 2015. El Nuevo Herald

Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will be meeting for the 26th time in their careers on Sunday in the men’s championship of the Miami Open at the Crandon Park Tennis Center.

In this case, familiarity does not breed contempt. In fact, just the opposite. Familiarity has bred respect between these two players.

“I expect a battle, long rallies,” Djokovic predicted. “I know what to expect from him on the court.”

Murray added, “It’s a tough, tough matchup.”

History and past results would clearly favor Djokovic.

Djokovic, ranked No. 1 in the world, has a 17-8 career edge over Murray, ranked No. 4. That includes winning their past six matches in a row, and on hard courts, which the Miami tournament is played on, Djokovic has won their past nine matches. Djokovic has eight majors to his name, and Murray has two. Finally, Djokovic will be bidding for his fifth title in Miami, and Murray is seeking his third.

Sounds a bit one-sided, but Djokovic cautions against making a quick conclusion.

“We’re talking about small margins, and that’s always the case when we play against each other,” Djokovic said.

“Details can decide the winner. We have very similar games. We already played twice this year, and of course one was in a big match in the Australian Open final. That was very physical, very close.” And it was also a Djokovic victory.

Djokovic anticipates the Miami Open final to be similar to Australia, and to be decided by those “small margins” he keeps talking about. Those margins can be both physical and mental.

“I know his game pretty well, as well as he knows mine,” Djokovic said of Murray.

Even though most of the statistics favor Djokovic, Murray thinks he enters with at least one advantage.

Because he has a home 10 minutes or so from Crandon’s Stadium Court and often practices at Crandon, Murray said, “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.

“So, that’s why I feel comfortable on it.”

Murray knows all-too-well that beating Djokovic sets up as a formidable task, pointing out, “Novak obviously started the year off extremely well.” Murray was talking about Djokovic’s victory against him in the Australian, and then two weeks ago when Djokovic won at Indian Wells, California, defeating Murray in a semifinal en route.

Conditions for the final are predicted to be the same as they have been the past few days — sun beating down and brutally hot. That’s not news for either finalist — they’re expecting just that.

And nobody could ever question the fitness of either Djokovic or Murray.

“It’s challenging conditions here pretty much every year I’ve played,” Murray said. The fact that he will be playing Djokovic makes it just a little bit more challenging — and also more interesting.

As Djokovic summed up Sunday’s Miami Open finale: “I’m sure that both of us are equally wanting to win this trophy, so we’ll see what happens.”

MEN’S DOUBLES

The Bryan brothers, Mike and Bob, won their fourth Miami Open men’s doubles title in dramatic fashion on Saturday.

The Bryans won the first set against Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock 6-3, before losing the second set 6-1, sending the match into a tiebreaker.

In the tiebreaker, the Bryans took leads of 6-1 and 8-4 before Pospisil and Sock tied the score at 8-8. The Bryans won the next two points and the match as Mike hammered a shot down the middle between Pospisil and Sock.

“It was a match of momentum,’’ Mike said. “We’re happy with the way we won it, and we’re happy to win it in Miami and at a tournament that is big as this one is.’’

Men’s final

Djokovic

Murray

27

Age

27

1

World rank.

4

35-5

Miami W-L

27-7

24-2

2015 record

21-4

628-142

Career W-L

502-155

50

Career titles

31

2

2015 titles

0

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