Brain Game: Djokovic Dominates In All Facets
You can’t run through Novak Djokovic. You can’t even run around him.
Djokovic defeated Andy Murray 6-1, 7-5, 7-6(3) to win the Australian Open for a sixth time with a dominant all-court game built on “first strike” mastery. He was at his baseline best, winning 56 per cent (83/149) of his own points from the back of the court to Murray’s 36 per cent (47/129). It does not matter what else is happening – those numbers are omnipotent.
There were a lot of other serve, return and approach battles that waged for almost three hours on Rod Laver Arena, but Murray was never going to seriously challenge the Serb unless he could do damage from the trenches. Djokovic hit fewer winners than Murray (31-40) for the match, which would seem like a negative statistic, but since winners are only around 30 per cent of the sport, it doesn’t matter nearly as much as you would think.
The key for Djokovic was to make fewer errors, and take the honours in the much higher 70 per cent area of points that totally dominate the bottom line. Overall, Djokovic committed 18 forced errors and 41 unforced errors (59 total), to Murray’s 27 forced errors and 65 unforced errors (93 total).
It was a tough ask for Murray to beat Djokovic to begin with. Once you layer almost 100 errors over three sets into the mix, it made the possibility of victory basically unattainable for the Scot.
Djokovic is widely recognised as the best returner in the world, but his prowess serving is constantly improving. He dominated much more with his first serves in the deuce court, winning 81 per cent (29/36), to only 68 per cent (25/37) in the ad court.
Djokovic mixed his serve locations very well to both courts, trying to keep Murray from correctly guessing the right location. In the deuce court, he served 16 first serves wide, five at the body, and 15 down the middle. In the ad court, the Serb hit the majority (16) of his first serves down the middle, with eight at the body, and 13 out wide. Overall, Djokovic made an extremely high 66 per cent of his first serves, winning 74 per cent.
Second serves were also a serious area of influence for the World No. 1. The tournament average for second serve points won at the 2016 Australian Open was 51 per cent, and Djokovic won 60 per cent for the tournament - tied for ninth best.
In the final against Murray, it was knocked down to 53 per cent points won - but it’s very important to remember anything above 50 per cent is a keeper. Murray could not come close to the same winning numbers in this important battleground. The Scot only won 35 per cent (14/40) of points on his second serve, which was by far his poorest performance in this key area during the fortnight.
It was a very tough night for Murray all around. Djokovic won all three rally lengths, giving Murray no place to build a winning strategy. The Serb claimed the short 0-4 rally length 65-54, the mid-length rally length of 5-8 shots 25-22, and extended rallies of nine shots or more 33-23.
If you can’t find a foothold under the bright lights, the match can slip away very quickly.
Djokovic once again asserted his superiority on the world’s biggest stage. In total, he won 123 points to Murray’s 99. It felt like a much greater separation. He did not come to the net as much as Murray, but then again, he didn’t have to. The Serb won 79 per cent (11/14) at the front of the court, with Murray winning 65 per cent (22/34).
As he he done for quite some time, Djokovic asserted his influence here, there, and absolutely everywhere.