PHOTOS:Novak Djokovic Comes From Behind To Beat Andy Murray

for sale geneva;”>In their seventh contest of the year, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic hit more highs and lows than a doo-wop band, and it was no less entertaining for that.

With the world no1 not playing anywhere near his best and Murray’s superb serving alongside his fearsome returns means that the US Open and Olympic Champion takes the first set 6-4

This post Federer-Nadal shootout has the key ingredient of any genuine sporting head-to-head: uncertainty. There was plenty of it in Wednesday’s match, which Djokovic won at the death, and there is no shortage of it every time they step on to a court.

Murray emerges from the mist at the O2 Arena for his Group A match with old foe Novak Djokovic. This is the seventh time the pair have met this year. Thus far it’s three wins.

Pressed to back judgment with money, the prevailing sentiment might be with Murray on his favourite surface, indoors on a hard court – yet he lost to him the only other time they had met in such conditions, in Madrid five years ago – and anybody’s guess on clay or grass.

Under the lovely riverside tent in Greenwich, Djokovic won 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in just over two-and-a-half hours to take a 2-0 winning log into the third and final match of the Group A round robin of the World Tour Finals against Tomas Berdych on Friday. He leads Murray 10-7 overall, 4-3 for 2012.

Among the packed crowd is Jelena Ristic, Djokovic’s girlfriend

Murray, who beat Berdych comfortably enough in the first round, must defeat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Djokovic’s first-round victim, in his final match, but there remains the wickedly slim possibility that the maths could yet exclude him from the semi-finals.

Murray has the ideal start to the match, he breaks serve immediately. The Brit’s service game is also on the money too, he’s completely in rhythm with his serves hitting 135mph

So, they left the O2 Arena in contrasting spirits, the winning Serb exalting in the continued flowering of their personal duel at the summit of the game, the losing Scot struggling to come to terms with 44 unforced errors and a return to the growl-and-despair mien that blighted his development en route to that unforgettable win over Djokovic in the final of the US Open.

Murry’s Serbian opponent lashes a fierce drive-volley to claim a critical point and then goes on to win the set 6-3

Berdych beat Tsonga 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 in the night match – and that put a scintilla of pressure back on Djokovic, who would have favoured a Tsonga win. Either way, as Djokovic and Murray reiterated yesterday, it is best to make the progress safe by winning every match.

If that match was the needle-point on which this relationship now spins, serious jousting either side of it makes them about even for the year, with Murray moving out of Djokovic’s shadow to prevail at the Olympics before his long-time friend hit back by saving five match points to win in Shanghai.

Murray falls behind in the final set after an unlikely attempt at serve-volleying backfires

As Djokovic charitably observed: “He could have easily been sitting here as a winner of today’s match.” But he was not, although Murray contested the view that poor decision-making cost him the match.

Asked if he regretted going for and bungling a high-risk serve-and-volley on break point at 3-2 in the second set, he said: “He serve and volleyed on the break point in the game before and hit the back end of the line. I volleyed in the next game and missed the volley by a couple of centimetres.”

Djokovic celebrates breaking Murray’s serve for the second time in the final set to go 6-5 up

The unspoken suspicion was that he was thus indulging in what-you-can-do-I-can-do machismo, although he did not see it that way.

“When someone’s blocking returns and chipping returns, normally you can get in close to net and make it hard. He chipped the return, so I got the return that I wanted. I would have liked it maybe a little bit higher, but there are decisions you make in matches. If they come off, you get told you’re a genius. If you miss them, then you’re an idiot. That was just one of those ones that didn’t work today.”

Murray is no idiot. On Wednesday he might have wished for a few more moments of genius to go with those passages when his focus seemed to desert him, especially in the second set when Djokovic was roused from his first-set slumber.

In the opening exchanges, Murray looked irresistible, moving with ridiculous ease into nearly every shot; thereafter, uncertainty invaded his ground strokes, his normally exquisite lob converted from killing winner to liability.

The third set was tight, as both players acknowledged, but the ending was a frustrating mess for Murray. “The last two minutes probably decided it,” he admitted. “He broke from 15-40, and then I had 15-40 next game and didn’t break. So that was the moment that decided the match.”

And after two and a half hours of gripping tennis, victory is his (4-6, 6-3, 7-5)

Probably he is right. But that anxious passage did not exist in isolation. It was the culmination of a fight, many rounds of which were within Murray’s grasp, three of which were snatched away from him at crucial moments. Still, there is the comforting near certainty that they will continue to test each other at the highest level in the biggest tournaments for several years to come, two prodigies, only a week apart in age, who have risen through the ranks together and, at 25, are operating near the peak of their powers.

“Of course it’s special,” Djokovic said. “We know each other so well. The friendship goes back a long time, since we were 11 years old and more or less we developed into professional tennis players at the same time. Hopefully this rivalry will evolve and we can have many more great matches on the Tour.”

The pair shake hands after the match and walk off to rapturous applause

As close as it was, this match was not among their greatest contests. Given the extraordinary levels they reached in the semi-final at Melbourne this year, then in the final in New York, that is hardly surprising. If they touch those heights again, we will all be blessed.

Jonny Marray’s fairytale continues, meanwhile. The British Wimbledon champion and his Danish partner, Frederik Neilsen, secured a semi-final place by beating the title-holders Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor 7-6 (3), 4-6, 12-10 in and hour and 41 minutes.

“We were aware of the fact we were underdogs,” Nielsen said, “the lowest-ranked team, a special exemption due to a loophole. At the same time we’re comfortable being here. We weren’t here just to make up the numbers.”


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