Photo by REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh via Daylife
Ho, ho. It turns out Andy Murray was on to something when he took Novak Djokovic to five sets in Melbourne this year. Murray beat the unbeatable Nole in two sets in today’s Dubai semis: 6-2, 7-5. It was Novak’s first loss of the season.
Murray neatly explained what was at stake for him in this match:
“I think it’s big for me that after Australia this year I’ve come back and had a win like tonight,” Murray said. “Hopefully that will set me up well for the year. Confidence in tennis and almost any individual sport is so important. A win like tonight will do that no harm.”
“I thought I’ve been doing well since Wimbledon last year. You know, I’ve been having a lot off-court activities since I became No. 1, but I have a team of people that controls it well,” he said.
“Obviously there is a lot of temptations and a lot of things that you can enjoy. But it’s normal,” he said. “You know, you can’t on one hand just be 100 percent of your life in the tennis. You are young. You have to enjoy life.”
As tempting as it is to jump on the “OMG! There’s a new sheriff in town!” bandwagon, one must remember that Murray has a decent enough (4-7) record over Novak and all of his wins have come in best of three set matches. Also, when you’ve been playing as well as Novak has in the majors, these kinds of losses aren’t exactly mojo killers. Win three majors in a row and a semifinal loss in Dubai isn’t going to transform you into Paul-Henri Mathieu.
Photo by KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images via Daylife
Meanwhile, on the other side of the draw, Roger Federer is slowly building up the stores of confidence that he’s admitted to depleting over the last couple seasons. The same could be said about his opponent and last weekend’s titlist in Marseille, Juan Martin del Potro, who lost a tight one 7-6(5), 7-6(6) (and up 5-0 in the second set tiebreaker!) in today’s semi. Roger is having his way with Del Po since the Argentine’s comeback, while at the same time, Del Po is slowly, steadily making his way further in tougher draws.
Like Murray, it seems Roger’s confidence is peaking. Here’s his take on being in his fifth Dubai final:
“It would be wonderful to win five [titles],” said Federer. “It’s only happened at a handful of tournaments maybe in my career. It’s nice to be back in another final. That’s what I kind of play for, to be there and get a chance to win a tournament. I’ve played really well the last few months. I’ve hardly lost. It’s great that momentum is on my side. I’m really match tough right now, and I hope I can take it one step further tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes.”
Last year Roger lost to Novak in the final. This year, he faces Murray, a guy he trails 6-8 in career head-to-head wins. The two haven’t faced each other since 2010, a fairly startling fact.
While three of the top four jockey in the U.A.E., I’m left wondering about Rafael Nadal, the guy who has ducked into the jungle. His Facebook updates hint at some intense training sessions, no doubt fueled by the losses to Novak Djokovic. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rafa surfaces in Indian Wells with a serve like Raonic and a backhand like Djokovic.
It feels like things may be shifting on the Dubai sands. Or is it just a momentary sand storm?