Djokovic and Murray setup @MiamiOpenTennis ATP final on Friday, Serena wins WTA title on Saturday
Esam Taha for Tennis Atlantic
On Friday Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray setup their second straight head-to-head showdown for a Masters title with wins over John Isner and Tomas Berdych, while Serena took out Carla Suarez Navarro for yet another WTA title in a blowout final.
Novak Djokovic d. John Isner 7-6(3) 6-2
Novak was not having his best tournament in terms of performance entering the semifinal clash with John Isner. There was a sense that he needed a solid showing here going into the final. The good news for Djokovic was that he had just beaten Isner in Indian Wells a couple of weeks ago in straight sets. Having said that Isner was playing much better now and the Serb wasn’t looking as sharp. Isner so far has had an impressive run down in Miami, beating Dimitrov, Raonic, and Nishikori back to back to back. Big John has been serving absolutely lights out and was full of confidence going into his clash with the world #1.
The crowd gathered for the highly anticipated night session semifinal as the two semifinalists started their pre-game warmup. Right off the bat Djokovic looked much more focused than he did all tournament with a solid service game to kick things off. It seemed like Isner would easily hold as well going up 40-0, however Novak would fight back to deuce things up. Early on Djokovic was getting his racket on most of Isner’s serve, his superior returning skills were on full display. Isner would hit a sweet volley to avoid a breakpoint and eventually blast an ace down the T to hold after the mini-battle. Isner’s forehand looked powerful early on, he went all out on it on virtually every shot. He’d get a nice return winner but follow that with a forehand to the bottom of the net Novak held to take us to 1-2 in the 1st. As much heat Isner packed in that forehand, once the rally got going the gap in consistency between the 2 would show itself.
Novak’s defense and returning were top notch, as they need to be when playing John, on one occasion he’d force the latter to hit 3 overheads on a single point. The Serb would force deuce again on Isner’s serve but the big server would find a way out without facing breakpoint. Meanwhile the world #1 was getting little resistance from Isner on his service game, the Serb was serving pretty well himself. At 2-3 both players would really hit their stride with easy holds to take us to 3-4 in the 1st. One issue with Isner up to that point was his 1st serve percentage, which was hovering around 60%. That won’t cut it against the best returner in the game. Isner would follow a couple of bad misses with back to back aces down the T to level things at 4-4 as Novak just shook his head at the monster serves. The roles would be revered the next game. Isner would finally put some pressure on Novak’s serve following a long baseline exchange which the American somehow won coupled with an inside out return winner, much to the crowd’s delight. Novak would then give Isner a taste of his own medicine firing back to back aces to dig out of the 0-30 hole and hold. With Isner under some pressure serving at 4-5, he’d show zero nerves as he blasted a forehand winner followed by a 136 MPH heater down the T. Novak would continue his good serving to go up 6-5, the Serb had 5 aces to Isner’s 6 thus far. After Isner goes up 40-0 he would tighten up falling all the way back to face the first break point of the match. Big John would show good composure as he hit a clutch overhead followed by a 128 MPH well-placed ace to force a tiebreak.
Despite the missed opportunity the world #1 was determined, immediately jumping on Isner’s 2nd serve to go up a mini-break. It was all Novak in that tiebreak, Isner probably wished he gotten more 1st serves in during that TB as Serb had a beat on the American’s kicker. With a little over an hour in the books, Novak stroked the cross court backhand winner to claim the 1st set 7-6(3).
Djokovic brimmed with confidence going into the 2nd set, forcing triple breakpoint early on at 1-1. The Serb was really starting to look unplayable as he broke with ease, the American had a mountain to climb down a set and break. One big adjustment Isner had to adapt to is Novak’s superior serving compared to Nishikori in the quarterfinal matchup. The world #1 played like a world #1 that 2nd set, he consolidated with ease before forcing another double break point already up 3-1. A low biting slice would be almost impossible for Isner to get down to and slice back, the Serb was now in total control up a couple of breaks at 4-1. Novak was also out-aceing Isner 10-8, pretty much summed up how the match had gone.
Djokovic would bring the crowd to their feet as he was on full stretch to retrieve an inside out forehand before passing John with ease. Novak was the definition of locked in. At 5-2 Djokovic would have no trouble serving out the match to a huge ovation from the crowd. This was exactly the sort of performance he needed going into the final given how he had played up to that point.
Andy Murray d. Tomas Berdych 6-4 6-4
Andy Murray continued his good run of play on his home court effectively, as he beat Tomas Berdych yet again 4 and 4. Murray broke early in the first at both 1-0, a break he couldn’t consolidate, and 1-1, and after that he cruised through the first set without facing another break point the rest of the set. Set 2 was groundhog day, as just like set 1, Murray broke for 1-0, got broken back, and then broke again for 2-1, and held his serve the rest of the way without facing another break point. In the final game of the match, he held serve from 0-30 to take it on his lone match point. Statline wise, Murray’s 70% first serve number and 80% of first serve points won were the main marker as to why he was too difficult to beat, as Berdych failed to do enough on his opponents serve to cause trouble, while Murray was a superior returner on his opponents serve.
After Murray was blown out by Djokovic in Indian Wells, it’s going to be a tough task to upset him in Miami, but we’ll see what happens on Sunday.
Makarova/Vesnina and Hingis/Mirza setup the WTA doubles final with routine wins in the doubles semifinals over Hlavackova/Hradecka, and Babos/Mladenovic respectively.
Serena Williams d. Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2 6-0
From the time she stepped on court, Carla Suarez Navarro lacked both the belief, and the raw ability needed to beat an in-form Serena Williams, and thusly Serena entirely dominated proceedings and won in less than a hour. CSN only won 5 points in the second set and Serena has yet to lose a match this season, as the world number 1 is again dominating the WTA tour. The 33 year old Williams has won 8 WTA Miami titles and has won the title 3 times in a row at the Crandon Park Tennis Center. CSN can still be pleased with her week however as she will enter the top 10.
Bryan/Bryan beat Sock/Pospisil 6-3 1-6 10-8
In a burgeoning ATP doubles rivalry, the veteran Bryan brothers beat younger upstarts Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil to win their fourth Miami title, and an incredible 105th title overall (33 Masters titles). The Bryans dominated on serve in the first set but they would lose control of the match in the second set, and were forced into a entertaining third set tiebreak to decide the winner. In their Indian Wells meeting, it was Sock and Pospisil who came out on top, but the Bryans would win this time by the slightest of margins, as experience beat youth on the day.
On Sunday, along with the Djokovic-Murray match, Hingis/Mirza will seek to continue their doubles success against Makarova/Vesnina.