Andy Murray got his revenge in Rome.
One week removed from losing to Novak Djokovic for the fourth-straight time, Murray got his pound of flesh in the Italian capital. Murray has struggling against the world No. 1 in recent years, this victory was only his second over Novak since claiming the Wimbledon title in 2013. In Rome, Andy flipped the script and gained the clear statistical edge, evidenced by the 6-3, 6-3 score line.
As we move one week closer to Roland Garros, let’s use some numbers to understand just how Murray managed to defeat Djokovic.
In general, Murray’s serve underperforms on the ATP tour when compared to his ranking. In Rome, he was extremely aggressive with his serve speed, allowing him to boost winning percentages significantly. His first and second serves averaged 119 mph and 94 mph respectively, both quite a few mph faster than Djokovic’s. This allowed him to win 81.6% of points on first serve and 47.6% on second serve, about 15 ticks higher (for both serves) than their final in Madrid. Everyone knows that Muzz has a wicked return game, but if he can throw this into the mix, look out Roland Garros.
When you have a chance to break Novak Djokovic, you better take it. In pressure situations, Novak somehow knows how to turn up the heat, evidenced by a 20% break point conversion rate by Murray in the Madrid final. This time, it was Andy turning up the heat. He broke three times in six chances, and on championship point, finished in style.
For good measure, Muzz saved all three break points he faced on serve – a real testament to his quality in the final. Let’s be clear. He wasn’t bunting the ball back in on break point. He was hitting monster serves and following them in, finishing at the net and extinguishing any hope for the Djoker. That’s how a champion plays.
Speaking of following shots into the net, Murray won 13 of 17 points at the net. We all know how difficult it is to out-rally Djokovic, so you have to find other ways to finish points. Murray did just that, especially in high-pressure situations.
At times, it seems like Novak can move players around as if they were on a string – Murray turned the tables in Rome. Djokovic was slip-sliding all over the place, was NOT happy about it, and made sure to let the umpire know (his rant was definitely NSFW).
In the second round, Djokovic beat Stephane Robert in two sets and ran an average of 58 metres per game. Against Murray, he ran an average of 85 (!) metres per game – almost a 50% INCREASE in the same amount of sets. Murray forced him to run much more using his incredible array of shots, and most notably, the drop shot.
Murray was +5, Djokovic was -8. That’s all there is to say.
To be fair, Novak had a much harder run to the finals in Italy. The average rank of his first four opponents was 37, while Murray’s was 46. Djoker got Rafael Nadal in the quarters and Kei Nishikori in the semis, compared to David Goffin and Lucas Pouille for Murray (lol). Better quality opponents produce matches that are more draining, more intense, and in general, quite a bit longer.
In Rome, Murray only play 5 hours and 14 minutes through his first four matches, compared to 8 hours and 28 minutes for Novak (!). It’s almost as if Novak played an extra two matches before coming up against Murray in the final. Novak looked worn from his previous matches, and Andy made him pay.
Murray was firing on all cylinders in Italy, becoming the first Brit to capture the Rome title. This match had to be a massive shot in the arm for Andy, especially with Roland Garros right around the corner…