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August 21, 2011

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2011 Western & Southern Open
Cincinnati (Mason), Ohio, USA
August 21, 2011
Editorial by Vince Barr.


Vince Barr Photo
Vince Barr

Murray Masters Djokovic; Sharapova Survives Tough Match With Jankovic In Cincy Singles Finals
To say that Novak Djokovic has been on a little bit of a roll is like saying that Leonardo da Vinci was not a bad painter. Novak has won nine titles this year, including two grand slams (the Australian Open, defeating Andy Murray in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2 and 6-3) as well as Wimbledon (defeating Rafael Nadal, 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3). He's won five Masters 1000 series tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Rome and Montreal) which has never been done before on the ATP Tour, at least since anyone has been keeping track of those tournaments in their current form going back to 1990. Four of those Masters events tournament titles have come over formerly ranked # 1 Rafael Nadal as well as one grand slam. Two of those Masters events on clay have resulted in straight sets wins over Nadal (Madrid & Rome) which is probably the most shocking statistic to me. Coming into the championship match, he sported a 57-1 record on the year and the only person to beat him was Roger Federer during the French Open semifinals. Andy Murray has been on the losing end of two matches against the Serbian Sensation (Australian Open final and a semifinal loss at the Masters event in Rome, 1-6, 6-3, 6-7 (2) but came away from both matches thinking that he could definitely beat Novak). So, going into this match, you probably would not have expected the young Scotsman to become only the second person to defeat Djokovic but that is exactly what happened in a match that was shortened due to the Serbian's retirement, 5-7, 0-3.
What was very interesting about this match was that less than one minute after Novak chose to retire from this match, the skies opened up and a torrential downpour consumed center court. Djokovic later confided that his right shoulder had gotten progressively worse through all the matches (10, counting this one in Cincinnati) he has been playing in the last few weeks. Speculation was that had he just waited to retire, he might have been able to benefit from the rain delay that would have occurred. During such weather delays, players can meet with their coaches in the locker room and they can get treatment for injuries that they might have sustained during play. But Novak did not want to blame his injury as the reason he lost, pointing out that Murray played well against him and the fact that he (Djokovic) was down a set and a break in a best of three-set match when he retired.
As far as the weather delay issue was concerned, Novak pointed out that "I don't think (that) anything could change in that short period of time (had he waited to retire and tried to take advantage of the rain delay). It is unfortunate that I had to finish this way. I apologized to the tournament (as well as) the people who came (out) here today to watch the match. I really tried (to complete the match but it) didn't make sense for me to continue," Novak explained. I then asked him if there was such a thing as a "good loss" in the sense that he can now head to New York and focus only on his tennis and not about how many consecutive matches he has won (if the streak of 17 matches would have continued here with a tournament win). "(I don't think that there is such a thing as a) good loss, that's for sure. But the good thing is that there is a week, eight days (before I have to) start (my) U.S. Open. So I think that's enough time for me to get ready," Djokovic explained.
We then wanted to know the extent of the injury and how it affected his game. Was it something that progressively got worse or did something suddenly happen today that made it too difficult to continue and so forth. "Yeah, well, the major issue was shoulder. Generally I was quite exhausted playing (so) many matches, but the exhaustion is not the reason (I had to retire today)," Djokovic explained. "The reason is shoulder pain. I just could not serve. I served an average 90 miles per hour as my first serve, and I could not play my forehand (very well). I (probably) could have (played) maybe another couple of games, but what for? I cannot beat a player like Murray today with one stroke," Novak thought. I then pursued another angle to the injury and asked how it affected his ground strokes, if at all. The key point there was that in this brief match alone, according to some detailed ATP statistics that I saw on site here, there were 43 rallies consisting of 5 shots or more; 14 of which (32.6% or nearly one-third) of them went into the double digit category. The longest rally of the day went for an amazing 42 shots and ended only on Novak's approach to the net with a forehand error that crashed into the net. So, did the longer rallies impact his ailing right shoulder any more than his serve did? "I had the most problem with the shoulder during my serve and forehand; (more specifically my) running forehand, or when I'm on the stretch. When I hit it from (a stationary) spot it (did not bother me), but whenever I had to stretch, (that's when I felt the pain). So, yeah, I'm not (going to sit here and give you any excuses for my loss). Of course I'm not saying if I was 100% that I would certainly win because Andy is a great player, but I am sure that we (would have had) a better match (than we were able to have today)," Djokovic opined.
I asked Andy Murray if he was superstitious because the last time he won here back in 2008, he was the runner-up in the U.S. Open. Murray kind of smiled at the question and then I followed up with the query of asking him how this event helped him do well at the Open in the past. "I think (that) the conditions are similar. It's normally pretty humid in New York and the courts are very similar to the ones here. So if you can get a few matches here and play well, it gives you good confidence going into the US Open. It's not a huge change in surface or speed of court, so that definitely helps," Murray thought. He was then asked to comment on his entire week in Cincinnati in terms of his form heading into New York. "Yeah, well, it was really a good week after I struggled last week. I didn't drop a set and beat some very good players from pretty much the first round onwards. Against Nalbandian who I started off against it was tough, and then Mardy was playing really good tennis going into the semis. Obviously, (in the match) today with Novak, it was unfortunate (in) the way it ended, but I thought (that in) the first set, after the first couple of games, (we both played to a) good standard. I thought (we had) a lot of long rallies (and some) good points. It's been good preparation for New York," Murray thought.
I told Andy that Novak had mentioned that his right shoulder had been bothering him for the last 10 days or so and wondered if that was common knowledge in the locker room. If it was, was that something he was able to use to his advantage today? "No. Well, I didn't know about it. That's what I was saying after the match, that you never know. Sometimes guys get hurt on the court and sometimes they're carrying something going in," Murray explained. "If it's been a problem for ten days, he's done a pretty good job playing through it as well. You just never know. Sometimes injuries, they build up. After ten days, it's starting to get very sore or sometimes it can get better and warm up as the match goes on. So I knew nothing about it. I just had to try and play my own game when I realized that he was hurt, because he was still hitting ball pretty good from the back of the court. He just wasn't serving hard," Murray observed.
The women's championship match went the distance and it was one of the better ones I saw all week long. Maria Sharapova came back from a set and a break down to ultimately win this match 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 which took nearly three hours to play (2:49). As you might expect with any close encounter at this level, the match turned on a few key points here and there. For one thing, there was not a lot of consistency by either player in their service games. Both players were broken eight times each and in the third set alone, both players lost their serve for three consecutive games. Double faults were an issue as Jelena Jankovic had nine double faults while Maria had 11. In the championship trophy presentation, Sharapova told the crowd that "the Serbian fans were definitely louder than the Russian fans but that I think I had a few more signs," Maria joked with the crowd.
Looking more closely at this match, Sharapova had a negative plus / minus of -24 (37 winners and 61 unforced errors) as compared with Jankovic's - 38 (11 winners and 49 unforced errors). I asked Maria if that was too many errors in a three-set match and she essentially agreed, but noted that "It's definitely up there. But then again, I think we had really long games and a lot of points were played. It was about a three hour match, so, you know, statistics I think can only tell you some things. It's very relative. But, yeah, that's the way it is, I guess. But I would love to see that number down, no doubt," Sharapova said.
I felt that a key to Maria's ability to come back in this match was in the second set tiebreaker in which, at one point, she was down 2-3 and went on a run of five consecutive points to win that breaker and the set. What was the key towards that run? "Just being able to put 5 points together that were well played. I think I really forced her to make those mistakes. I hit the ball deeper than I probably was (doing previously). But, yeah, like I said, there were ups and downs. You know, I felt like when I had my chances and breakpoints, I would go for the shot and then sometimes miss quite long. Sometimes it was only an inch," Sharapova noted. Someone asked about the crowd support that she enjoyed all week long (she was the runner-up to Kim Clijsters here last year). "The crowds here have been great throughout the whole week. I felt like, from the beginning of the tournament (the crowd support was there). (Normally, you might get that later in the week when) you see a lot more people coming in towards the end (as well as to watch) the bigger matches. But I think because we had so many good players here that this week there was so much support. When the crowd is there and they're into their sport and their tennis, of course you feel that energy, no doubt," Sharapova opined.
Obviously, Jankovic was disappointed to lose the finals but she seemed to have a great perspective about her stay in Cincinnati. "If somebody told me I was going to play a final here, you know, I would (take that) right away, sign the paper, because I wasn't doing well (before I got here) and lost in the first round in Toronto the week before. (Also, I) haven't played (many) matches since Wimbledon. So I was kind of, you know, rusty and didn't feel really comfortable and confident with my game," Jankovic said. "I mean, you get that when you play a lot when you keep winning matches, and that's what happened to me here. I started off the tournament, got a couple rounds, and with each match I was getting better and better and my level of tennis was getting higher and higher. I feel good about my game now. Obviously I can improve and get better. There are things that, you know, I've done well and haven't done well. But I will just work, work hard, and I look forward to playing my next tournament and playing the US Open, which is my goal to do well out there," Jankovic said.
I asked her if there was a specific part of her game that tended to break down when she loses to Sharapova (she is now 1-6 against her with her only win in the series coming in the semifinals on clay in Rome back in 2008). "No, today I thought it was a good battle out there. I mean, this match could have gone either way. I had my chances. I had a set. You know, I came back from being 4-1 down, and then we played that tiebreaker and it was a few points (that cost me the set)," Jankovic said. "It could have gone my way as well and I could have finished in two sets, but unfortunately it didn't happen. You know, that's part of the sport. It shows that the match is not over until you shake the hands. So we fought, both of us, we fought until the end. I think my biggest mistake was that I didn't serve so well today. I would break her many times and I would have the lead, and I would serve to, you know, go, you know, two games ahead. For example, 2-1 I would serve to go up 3-1, and I didn't make a lot of first serves so I could have the advantage and get some more free points. Especially in that third set and maybe at the end of the second, I was playing with a lot of second serves, which is tough, especially against Maria."


[4] Andy Murray (GBR) {blue shoes} d [1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) {red shoes} 64 30 retired (shoulder)
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis
Andy Murray 2011 Western & Southern Open Tennis

Earlier Columns from this Event:
August 20, 2011 Western & Southern Open: Murray, Djokovic, Sharapova, Jankovic Advance - Fish, Berdych, Zvonareva
August 19, 2011 Western & Southern Open: Nadal Becomes Fish Food On Center Court; Djokovic Masters Monfils In Tough Three Setter - Federer, Berdych, Nadal, Fish, Sharapova, Stosur, Djokovic, Monfils
August 18, 2011 Western & Southern Open: Nadal Wins Spanish Civil War On Center Court (Round 12); Jankovic Outlasts Schiavone In 3 Tough Sets - Federer, Blake, Murray, Bogomolov, Sharapova, Kuznetsova, Djokovic, Stepanek
August 17, 2011 Western & Southern Open: Harrison Can't Quite Derail Djokovic
August 16, 2011 Western & Southern Open: Serbing Up Aces
August 15, 2011 Western & Southern Open: Roddick Rolls Out Amid Controversy
August 14, 2011 Western & Southern Open: Bombs Away As Blake Buries Baghdatis
August 13, 2011 Western & Southern Open: Western & Southern Open - Day 1

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