Djokovic Beats Murray at MSG as Big 4 Prep for More Major Titles | Zagsblog
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Tuesday / May 28.
  • Djokovic Beats Murray at MSG as Big 4 Prep for More Major Titles

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    Murray-NoleNEW YORK — In a showdown of two of the tennis world’s Big Four, Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray, 6-3, 7-6 (2), Monday night at Madison Square Garden.

    It was fun and light-hearted  exhibition on World Tennis Day before both get back to the business at hand in 2014: playing the spring hardcourt circuit and then trying to win Grand Slam championships.

    Between them, the Big Four of Djokovic, Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have won 34 of the last 36 Majors, but none of them owns a Grand Slam title in 2014.

    That’s because Stan Wawrinka , Federer’s Swiss countryman, shocked the tennis world by winning the Australian Open, stunning an injured Nadal in the final after the Spaniard suffered a back injury after Wawrinka overpowered him in the first set.

    “I think what Stan did in Australian Open shows there’s also other players than the Top Four that are able to win Grand Slams,” Djokovic said. “Stan has been an established Top 10, Top 15 player for many previous years and now he managed to get that extra few percentage and extra self belief in order to win a Grand Slam and he played the tournament of his life.

    “It’s good for the sport that we have another Grand Slam winner after many years.”

    Beginning with the French Open, the Big Four once again hope to add to their Grand Slam dominance.

    Nadal, the eight-time French Open champ, missed out on a chance to tie Pete Sampras for second all-time behind Federer’s 17 Grand Slams with his 14th Major at the Australian and will do so again in Paris.

    “Of course Rafa is there and we have young guys like [Grigor] Dmitrov and [Milos] Raonic, [Jerzy] Janowicz, big servers,” Djokovic said.

    “It’s a very interesting time for men’s tennis at this moment and it’s just the beginning of the season and it’s still too early to predict who can finish No. 1 or who can win Grand Slams but I think there are a bigger group of players, not just the Top Four, who are able to win Grand Slams.”

    It remains an open question, of course, whether the 32-year-old Federer can ever win Major No. 18. His last Major title came at Wimbledon in 2012 and he only won one title in all of 2013 (Halle).

    Yet already this year Federer has as many wins over Top 10 opponents (4) as he had all of last year. He beat both Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before losing in straight sets to Nadal in the semifinals the Australian Open, and he downed Djokovic and Tomas Berdych to win the title in Dubai this past weekend.

    “Roger played a great tournament in Dubai and he’s No. 7 or 8 in the world but regardless of that he’s 17-time Grand Slam winner and one of the best players in the history of the game and you can never sign him out,” Djokovic said.

    “Definitely, he plays really hard. You always have to be on top of your game to win against him regardless of which surface you play. It’s Roger Federer, he’s still able to win big tournaments. He’s proven that. He played great even in Australia.”

    Federer’s best chance to win another Major probably remains at Wimbledon, and it wouldn’t hurt him if Nadal got upset before Federer had to face him, either.

    “Clearly, Rafa’s the one guy he doesn’t feel comfortable against,” Patrick McEnroe, who, along with older brother John, lost the doubles match to Bob and Mike Bryan, told “He can lose to Djokovic and Murray but he doesn’t seem as out of his comfort zone against those guys.

    “Nadal seems in his head for whatever reason, but still on grass I think that would be a pretty good matchup for Roger. But  overall you would think that he might need a little help with the draw and it might be tough to beat two or three of those guys. If he’s still ranked outside the top four, there’s a chance he’d have to beat three of those guys to win a Major. And at his age I think that would be challenging.

    “But certainly the way he’s played this year would lead to you think he’s got an excellent chance to win another Major.”

    Only time will tell…and  2014 should be another fascinating year for men’s tennis.


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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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