Djoker is Mr. Clutch for a reason
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- I admit it, Mr. Bodo, it does not look good for the world No. 1.
He's been grinding for three weeks in America, and he can't wait to get back home to Monte Carlo. For the record, Novak Djokovic has played 10 matches in 20 days between Indian Wells and Miami. That's a big dose. There were a couple of draining three-set matches in California, most notably the semifinal won by John Isner. Here in Miami, he's looked sluggish, especially when he was trying to close out David Ferrer and Juan Monaco.
Andy Murray? He's got it all going his way.
First of all, it's a home game. He's commuting exactly 6.5 miles (yes, sir, I MapQuested it) from the site here to his downtown condo. How sweet is that?
Second, he's played only four matches, in contrast to Djokovic's double-digit schedule. This is because he lost his first match at Indian Wells and was the beneficiary of two walkovers in Miami -- when Milos Raonic and Rafael Nadal both pulled out with injuries. How sweet is that?
I mention all of this because -- because it doesn't matter.
The greater the odds, the more Djokovic rises to the occasion. I am well aware that Murray has won two of the past three matches between them, but that one happened to come at the Australian Open. Djokovic beat Murray in 4 hours, 50 minutes in the semifinals. Of course he did.
Murray can have those titles in Cincinnati and Dubai. He has demonstrated an ability to win these ATP World Tour Masters 1000s -- he's got eight of them so far. Last year, the three best records in Grand Slams were Djokovic (25-1), Nadal (23-3) and Murray (21-4). The first two won all four Slams. Murray did not.
The Sony Ericsson Open is a big title and, for that reason, I believe Djokovic will lift the trophy.
Murray will flex his muscles
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Being that you're such a big NFL guy, Garber, I can see why you're behind defending champ and No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic all the way in the Miami final against Andy Murray. Nobody does tennis' version of an end zone celebration better than shirt-removing, heart-pounding (literally), gun-flexing Nole.
But the No. 1 player in the world won't be doing much celebrating or biceps-flexing after Andy Murray gets through handcuffing and frustrating him Sunday.
The head-to-head suggests this is close to a toss-up, with Djokovic leading by only 7-5. And Murray won the last time they played (just weeks ago in Dubai). He's also taken five of their past eight meetings, mostly on the strength of great defense and counterpunching. Rangy and precise, he's as good, if not better than, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal at finding the soft spots or holes in Djokovic's offense.
Murray also has benefited significantly from the wisdom and experience of his coach since the end of last year, Ivan Lendl. Even Djokovic conceded Friday night that Murray's forehand seems to be more of a weapon these days.
This is the first time in three years that Murray survived the first round here, and he's been lucky to receive two walkovers against dangerous players: young ace-meister Milos Raonic and career rival Nadal.
My takeaway from the way things played out here is that Djokovic isn't as focused and determined as he was at this time in 2011. He's vulnerable to lapses of concentration and motivation. I expect Murray, who's on an upward arc and has fresh legs, to exploit those successfully and win the title -- unless Nole gets a stomach bug or something and Murray gets the title via walkover.