Djokovic v. Murray: where it was won and lost
Andy Murray was spellbinding for a set and dogged to the last point, but Novak Djokovic's mid-match surge put him clear of the Scot when it mattered.
The great dictator
For a player who was broken to love in the opening game, Murray's tear through the first set was simply outstanding - and built on the back of his most aggressive tennis of this year's tournament. Leaping into forehands and looking for the lines, the world No.2 danced along the baseline and pushed Djokovic deep when on the attack, freeing himself up to play with a little more finesse. But when the marks started appearing beyond the court boundaries, Murray backed off - and the world No.1 grabbed his chance to step further up the court and dictate the play. "I was sort of dropping a bit far back behind the baseline," Murray conceded. "Against him, obviously, if you're letting the best players control points, that's tough. I wasn't able to dictate enough points after the beginning of the match, and made it tough."
The right kind of distraction
There's so much more to tennis than service speed and unforced errors. Today was no ordinary tennis match for either player - given the history on the line - and while Murray rode the adrenaline to great effect in the opening exchanges Djokovic appeared flat and fuzzy-headed. Typically self-assured, he spent the first half-hour of the contest second-guessing Murray and, disconcertingly, himself. All that changed in an instant when, justifyably, he felt hard done by when Murray was awarded a point after his serve was wrongly called out. Should the point have been replayed? Probably. Djokovic, however, was incadescent, and from that moment on, he was a different player - nerves dissipated and focus returned.
"My legs have gone!"
Seeing Murray shouting to his box is nothing new - during one game in the first set he seemed alarmingly preoccupied by the presence of a French television reporter among his entourage, and still held serve - yet sometimes it can be a little more revealing than it ought to be. In the third set he turned and yelled "my legs have gone!", a clear indication that the contest, and the near-18 hours he had spent on court in Paris beforehand, was taking its toll. Only one man had won Roland-Garros in the Open era after playing two five-setters in the first two rounds: Gaston Gaudio, the unlikely 2004 champion. Factor in the heavy conditions and some seriously taxing rallies, and the fatigue factor was inevitable.
Murray saw a break point come and go in the opening game of the second set - it would be his last until trailing Djokovic 4-1 in the third, when the Serb saved four to hold. With that, Djokovic had claimed 11 of the last 13 games - six on serve and five breaks, aided in large part by Murray's slow starts to on serve. A glance at the game scores tells a story - 0-30, 0-30, 15-30, 15-30, 15-30 - as does Murray's 50.4 per cent first serve conversion rate, which drops to 46 per cent when you exclude the first set. The Murray serve may be much improved but his second remains vulnerable, especially on clay against one of the game's great returners.