x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

'Great rivalry' in store as Novak Djokovic meets Andy Murray in Dubai

Both players wary of each other ahead of their semi-final on Friday.

Novak Djokovic, who beat compatriot Janko Tipsarevic in Dubai on Thursday, has been dominant during his run as world No 1.
Novak Djokovic, who beat compatriot Janko Tipsarevic in Dubai on Thursday, has been dominant during his run as world No 1.

DUBAI // Exactly five weeks after their pulsating semi-final at the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will go head-to-head again today for a place in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship.

In Melbourne, the two 24 year olds, born just a week apart, thrilled the crowds with an epic battle that lasted 10 minutes shy of five hours. After 345 points, 96 winners and 155 unforced errors, Djokovic emerged a 6-3, 3-6, 6-7, 6-1, 7-5 winner, but Murray is hoping he can that reverse that result and stop his old friend from winning a record fourth straight Dubai title.

"It should be obviously a great challenge," Murray said after his 6-3, 7-5 win over Tomas Berdych yesterday. "Any time you play against the top players, that's the case. I would like to get a chance to play him again. You know, before the Indian Wells, Miami stretch. It would be good to see exactly what I need to work on, where my game is.

"I had a great match with him in Australia and hopefully can reverse the result tomorrow."

Rivals from an early age, Djokovic and Murray have played against each other 11 times on the main tour. Their first duel was in Madrid in 2006 when Djokovic won in three sets and now holds a 7-4 record against the Scot.

But the world No 1 concedes any game against the other three players in the world's top four - Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Murray - is always a challenge.

Federer beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-4 yesterday to make it to the semi-finals. Juan Martin del Potro defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6, 6-2 late last night.

"Every time you play, especially a top four, it's a big challenge for both of us, especially after that Australian Open thrilling match that lasted for five hours," Djokovic said after his 6-1, 7-6 win over close friend and compatriot Janko Tipsarevic last night.

"He [Murray] is somebody that is established already at the top of the men's game, somebody that is one of the biggest talents that I have seen in the game.

"He has all round game. He can play equally well in defence, in offence. He has a great serve, very solid from both strokes on the baseline. So there is not much weaknesses.

"It's going to be a good match. We both look forward to that. Regardless if it's a grand slam or 1000 or 500 event or 250, we always try win against each other and it's a great rivalry."

While a win over Djokovic here would not exactly compensate for a grand slam loss, Murray believes it will give him confidence moving forward and be a part of his memories.

"I know if I said, it [a win] is so important, it would be like, 'Well, you know, the matches in the slams are the ones that are the most important ones'," Murray said.

"But any time you get a win against the No 1 player in the world it's important, because you don't get a chance to play them that often. It will be nice when you finish playing to look back and see the list of the guys you've played against and had the chance to win against as well."

arizvi@thenational.ae