I had a sneaky feeling Andy Murray could pull this off, make British Tennis history and prevent Djokovic securing his second Wimbledon title. And over the next few years these two truly immense tennis players are going to trade titles, Grand Slams and the No 1 crown. Each time they face off in a final it will be impossible to predict the winner.
Up until this tournament I have believed that Djokovic held the edge but now Murray has developed a mental strength to match his talent. Writing in January this year about their final in the Australian open, a match that Djokovic won I explained why Murray could not be written off;
For many Djokovic is the favourite this weekend and for good reason. He is playing the tennis of his life and his mental strength is such that he never knows when he’s beaten. This is the popular view, but a dominant Novak Djokovic ruins the script and Murray cannot be so easily discounted. His mental strength may not be as natural as Djokovic’s but is growing through hard earned experience. He has struggled and failed more in his quest to reach the pinnacle they now share which has transformed his natural pessimism into a stubbornness; a good old fashioned Scottish cussedness.
During this Wimbledon tournament I wonder if his cussedness has evolved into genuine belief. He played two really tough matches in the Quarter and Semi Finals, recovering from two sets down and one set down respectively. Both of his opponents in these matches, Fernando Verdasco and Jerzy Janowic, had Murray clinging on desperately only for him to find his best form and force the wins.
Djokovic always believes an opportunity will come
Over twitter @adrianpure made a point to me about Ivan Lendl’s mental strength work with Murray having a growing effect over the last twelve months. I agree with this and how his successes in New York and the Olympics have helped him strengthen mentally.
I also wonder if these two tough matches leading into the final helped finish the job. Before the start of this years Wimbledon I’d have said Murray believes he can win on his day. This thought allows space for the gnawing doubt, when under pressure, that it might not be his day. Djokovic on the other hand always believes an opportunity will come for him to turn the match his way and win it. If he is under the cosh he waits for the opportunity and is ready to pounce when it comes. This keeps him believing that he can win even when he is behind and is a signpost to the source of his mental strength. (I wrote this up in the post, ‘Why Djokovic has the edge over Murray’ last year).
Murray has developed the belief that he has the talent to make it his day
After the Quarter and Semi Finals I wonder if Murray has developed his thinking into a similar belief, not just that he can win on his day, but that he has the talent to make it his day.
Djokovic for his part remains a graceful and admirable opponent. Once again he showed the impress Formula style thinking that is the basis of his world renowned mental strength. In a post match interview on the BBC he used lines such as;
I lost to a better opponent today … he was more patient … I could not come up with my best game when I needed to … I lacked explosivity in my legs … maybe that’s why I went for shots I wouldn’t normally … made unforced errors and gave him the win…
His language flows with temporary & external reasons for the set back and permanent and internal belief in his talent. He doesn’t work at this, it’s truly natural to him.
This final was a brutal battle. Djokovic had leads in both the second and third sets which in previous games would have been the platform for him to go on and win. Murray, however, showed a resilience that has not been there before and under the severest of pressure played his best tennis and emerge the deserved winner.
These players have been friendly opponents since they were 12, play a very similar style of tennis and now possess a similar mental strength. In another era one or the other would have gone on to dominate in the way of a Bjorn Bourg, Pete Sampras or Roger Federer. It’s their fate they will trade Championships, titles and the World Crown. Their fate and our luck.
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