Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Murray enjoys first clash with Djokovic in over five years

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Andy Murray is happy to meet Novak Djokovic for the first time in over five years after beating Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in three sets at the Madrid Open.

Murray defeated world No. 14 Shapovalov 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 in two hours and nine minutes to set up a round of 16 match against old foe and world No. 1 Djokovic.

The rivals have known each other since childhood and have faced each other 36 times in their professional careers.

“He’s number one in the world and I’ve got a metal hip,” Murray told Amazon Prime.

“I didn’t know I would get opportunities to play games like this again. In theory, I shouldn’t have a chance in the match.

“But I’ve done my best, put myself in a great position and it’s a fantastic opportunity to play him again in a big tournament on a big pitch.”

The 34-year-old Scot, who marked his return to clay for the first time in two years in Madrid with a straight-set win over Dominic Thiem in the first round, proved too strong for Shapovalov in the deciding set.

Murray took an early lead, breaking Shapovalov’s serve twice en route to winning the opening set in 36 minutes.

The British number three, behind Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans in the domestic rankings, put more pressure on Shapovalov’s serve in the fifth game of the second set.

But Murray wasted two break points and was broken for the first time in the next game to trail 5-2 before Shapovalov served with a set after an hour and 25 minutes.

The deciding set went at serve until the fifth game before Murray used his first break point of the set to take a 4-2 lead.

The Scot, currently 78th in the ATP rankings, held again at 5-2 and took a 40-0 lead on Shapovalov’s serve before celebrating another impressive win with his third match point.

“I’ve been training really hard for the last four or five weeks and I’ve put my game in good shape,” Murray said of his performance after the game.

“My movement has been so much better than it was at the start of the year and it makes a huge difference to my whole game.

“It allows me to make different decisions on the pitch. My movement won me in this match tonight. I defended so many points.

“(Shapovalov) has so much power and I managed to defend a lot of points and that won the match for me, so I was really happy with that.”

Murray reversed his decision to skip the entire clay-court season after he was handed a wildcard for Madrid and four weeks of practice on the surface appear to have paid off.

Murray has not played against Djokovic since the Qatar Open in January 2017, when the Brit was world number one. The Serb won in three sets.

Djokovic praised the Scot for his determination to get back in shape after undergoing two hip surgeries – first in 2018 and then again in 2019 when his pain continued.

The Serb told the ATP Tour website: “(Murray is moving well, playing better and better. It’s really fantastic to see because he’s an important player for our game.

“He made his mark in the history of our sport by winning multiple slams, gold medals and (achieving) world No. 1. He’s one of the most important names we have.

“To still have him competing is great and even to have him play at (a) high level over time is impressive considering the surgery and what he’s been through in recent years. His resilience and fighting spirit are truly inspiring.”

Djokovic defeated France’s Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2 in their second round match after earning a bye in the opening round.

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