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Brain Game: Djokovic Finds Mojo & Momentum

Shanghai Rolex Masters

Djokovic© Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic saved five match points to turn the tables against Andy Murray in the Shanghai Rolex Masters final.

Craig O'Shannessy breaks down the Shanghai Rolex Masters final.

Momentum is an invisible force that can snatch victory right out of your hands without you even knowing it.

Andy Murray held it – indeed he held five match points – but ultimately lost the final of the Shanghai Rolex Masters 5-7, 7-6(11), 6-3 to Novak Djokovic on Sunday. Murray served for the match leading 5-4 in the second set and led 30-0 when Djokovic finally found his mojo with a brassy ‘tweener and a deft drop shot. That play brought a broad smile to the Serb's face and delivered the positive energy he needed to fight back from the very edge of defeat.

Murray’s agonising loss comes on the heels of failing to convert two match points against Milos Raonic in the semi-finals of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships the week before. It is also interesting to note how similar the score line was to the first three sets of their last encounter at the US Open in September – where Murray led 7-6, 7-5, 2-6. Not a lot has changed at the top of the men’s game in the past couple of months.

The match featured dozens of bruising baseline rallies with both players trading heavy groundstrokes looking to force errors with depth and direction.

While Murray and Djokovic are widely recognised for possessing two of the most lethal backhands in the game, the outcome of this match was far more dictated by their forehands.

Forehand winners almost doubled backhand winners with 19 to 10 and they also made slightly less errors with 54 forehand errors to 55 backhand errors.

Both players were always looking to upgrade their artillery from a backhand to a forehand to be able to do more damage throughout the match. Of the 19 total forehand winners, 13 were hit standing in the Ad court as a run-around forehand.

What is interesting is that the run-around forehand tactic produced only 14 total errors in the Ad court but contributed a sizeable 40 forehand errors when the players were standing in the deuce court.

Even with two of the world’s best backhands on display, the Ad court is still a place where the forehand is always on the prowl. The Ad court accounted for 68% of total forehand winners but only 26% of total errors.

Their backhands numbers were extremely close with Murray hitting six winners to Djokovic’s four while Murray made 28 backhand errors to Djokovic’s 27.

Djokovic was also far more willing to approach to finish the point, winning 22/33 (66%) coming forward on all shots including Murray’s three drop shots.

Murray came forward less, but was very successful winning 14/16 (87%) on all short balls. Murray focused on attacking Djokovic’s backhand, particularly playing behind him, where he hit thirteen of his sixteen approaches.

Neither player served particularly well, with Murray only making 55% of his first serves for the match while Djokovic could only manage 59% and 53% in the first two sets. He did serve considerably better in the third set, making 71% which helped to not face a break point in the deciding set.

Both players focused on serving wide with their first serve in the deuce court to open up a hole for the next shot. Djokovic was more successful winning 13/17 (76%) while Murray only won 9/20 (45%).

Djokovic targeted the wide serve in the Ad court as their primary location, winning 7/11 (63%). Murray far preferred to go down the middle in the Ad court where he attempted 35 serves, made 23 and won 15. He only won seven points serving out wide in the Ad court with first serves.

Djokovic faired significantly better returning 1st serves with his forehand, winning 19/44 (43%) but only 6/23 (26%) off his backhand. Murray only won 9/30 (30%) returning first serves with his forehand and won 10/28 (35%) with his backhand.

This Houdini-like victory keeps Djokovic’s main goal alive for 2012 to leap frog Roger Federer and finish as the year-end No. 1. The confidence from being knocked down but not out in Shanghai helps build the confidence to bring his dream to reality in the coming weeks.

Craig O'Shannessy uses extensive tagging, metrics and formulas to uncover the patterns and percentages behind the game.

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Related Topics:

Brain Game, Novak Djokovic

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