Djokovic Slated to Face Murray in 2015 ATP Rogers Cup Final
Leich Sinha for Tennis Atlantic
Semifinal Saturday took place yesterday as Novak Djokovic ended the run of underdog Jeremy Chardy, and Andy Murray ran right past Kei Nishikori to setup a #1 vs #2 seed final, and yet another edition of their rivalry.
Djokovic d. Chardy 6-4 6-4
If you weren’t following this week’s results, you might have done a bit of a double take upon seeing Jeremy Chardy’s name in today’s semi final. The Frenchman after all was on a five match losing streak prior to this tournament, with his last win dating back to a third round drubbing of David Goffin at Roland Garros, and was unseeded entering this tournament. The benefactor of a snafu in the upper half of the draw during which most top seeds were defeated early, Chardy obtained his spot in the semis by way of narrowly edging out last week’s Citi Open finalist John Isner, where he showed great tenacity in saving 7 match points during a gruelling 3 hour slugfest after having previously defeated Ivo Karlovic, Leonardo Mayer and grass specialist Nicolas Mahut. Today, he found himself in the unenviable position of taking out world number 1 Novak Djokovic for a spot in Sunday’s final.
Novak, to be fair, has not had a perfect tournament, having had to fend off match points of his own in the quarterfinals against a resurgent Ernest Gulbis and suffering from what appears to be tendinitis in his right elbow. Nevertheless, the match played out exactly as expected as Novak cruised through a 6-4, 6-4 victory without facing a single break point. Ever the opportunist, Djokovic seized on Chardy’s early match jitters when the latter’s erratic ball toss motion caused him to double fault twice in a row at the start of the match and subsequently go down a break. Djokovic, from that point on, didn’t need to do much more than hold serve and play his tactical brand of tennis to close out the first set, always keeping Chardy’s best weapon, the forehand, at bay.
The second set proved to be much of the same, with Djokovic rarely missing his shots and engaging in neutral rallies with comfort and peace, secure in the knowledge that Chardy was unlikely to redline his game as long as his rhythm in rallies was disabled. He broke again the 5th game of the 2nd set after correctly guessing a forehand return which he crushed to the open court. The lone break was enough to seal the set and the match.
Murray d. Nishikori 6-3 6-0
A day after his marquee straight sets victory over Rafael Nadal, it seemed that Kei Nishikori’s chances of securing a maiden Masters crown improved immeasurably upon that conquest. Nadal was after all the lone scalp of the big four that he’d yet to claim and to have dismissed him in such convincing fashion was surely a sign of the veil being lifted on tennis’ famed oligopoly. His dreams of entering that sacred vanguard were emphatically shattered by Britain’s Andy Murray on Saturday night as the Bolleteri protege was sent packing amidst a chorus of boos in a 6-3, 6-0 thrashing before a packed house in Centre Court. Andy Murray, relentless in his pursuit of the break, mercilessly attacked Kei’s serve, often crowding in well inside the baseline to return Nishikori’s 2nd serve which he would invariably eat up and spit out to an untended area of the court.
Nishikori would often be found second guessing himself, pausing a moment to think about placement and strategy, but those brief times of reflection would provide no answer for Murray’s aggressive returning. The two exchanged breaks from the get go with Nishikori himself returning Andy’s 2nd serve quite well and even getting the upper hand in the rallies. But It was his inability to earn free points on serve or even hold serve that set the scene for the destruction. Demoralized by a critical third break in the 8th game of the set, a game which saw him get broken from up 40 love, Nishikori simply threw in the towel, appearing to readily succumb to the physical and mental toll mounting on his body.
In the second set, he would not even attempt to challenge Andy’s serve, preferring to let Andy serve out aces and hit return winners at will. After the match, he was seen limping into the press conference room, no doubt sore from two weeks of tennis, though one could perhaps estimate that the greatest injury came at the expense of his pride.
Nishikori’s had a very good run here and in Washington but there’s lots of work to be done if he wants to be considered a serious contender for the US Openr. As for Andy Murray, his groundstrokes seemed very sharp and he looks to be in great form after delivering two strong performances in a row. He’ll need to clean up a little better on serve if he wants any chance at defeating his rival Novak Djokovic but overall, he’s found his hard court game. Tomorrow’s final should prove to be a very interesting contest.
Previewing the Final
Two world class hard court players will battle once more, with Novak the favorite, as his counterpunching has had the edge over Murray in their last seven meetings.Four previous times they have met this year and though their Roland Garros meeting on clay was close, their three other hard court meetings have strongly favored Djokovic, and with that in mind the world #1 is likely to prevail.