Andy Murray identifies what makes Novak Djokovic 'nightmare opponent' in finals


Andy Murray identifies what makes Novak Djokovic 'nightmare opponent' in finals
© Getty Images Sport - Scott Barbour

Andy Murray described facing Novak Djokovic in a final as "unbelievably tough" as the Briton highlights that it's not only about the Serb's quality but also about the mental edge he has in the biggest matches due to his astonishing success. 

Murray and Djokovic, both 36 years old, created one of the most interesting and best rivalries in men's tennis as they have played against each other 36 times, with the majority of those matches being finals or coming in the latter stages of tournaments. A bit shockingly, all of those 36 meetings came between 2006 and 2017 as Murray and Djokovic haven't clashed against each other since 2017 January. 

While Murray has had certain success against Djokovic, the Serb still holds a pretty good 25-11 head-to-head against the Briton. However, eight of Murray's 11 wins against Djokovic came in finals - the Serb has won 11 of their 19 meetings in finals. While Murray still has a losing record against Djokovic in the finals, he still managed to beat Djokovic in the 2012 US Open final for his first Grand Slam title and also in the 2013 Wimbledon final for his second Grand Slam title. 

Since undergoing two major hip surgeries, Murray hasn't been a strong force in the last several years. On the other side, Djokovic continues to win the biggest titles and set new records.

“Obviously unbelievably tough. You know, and then the sort of middle, latter stage of his career, you know, I think even stronger,” Murray said when asked about how it feels to play Djokovic in a final.

“I have obviously played lots of finals against him and it was extremely difficult for me even when we’d sort of grown up together and had a lot of experience of playing against him in major competitions.

“But I think with what he’s gone on to achieve, you know, in the last five or six years, I think for some of the younger players coming through to be stepping into playing a final of a Masters Series or a Grand Slam and he’s on the other side of the net when he’s won, you know, 24 majors and, like you say, 98 titles, it’s not easy when you have limited experience in those situations and, you know, you’re standing across the net from a guy who’s won as much as he has. That’s really difficult.”

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Murray on going through the most difficult period of his career

For many years, former world No. 1 Murray was one of the best players in the game and constantly winning titles on the biggest stage. As mentioned above, Murray hasn't had much success over the last several years but the last couple of months have been especially tough. 

After losing five of his last six matches in 2023, Murray also started the 2024 season with four consecutive first-round exits. During his pre-tournament interview at this week's ATP 250 tournament in Doha, Murray admitted being in this position is a completely new experience for him.

"Tennis-wise it hasn’t been a great start to the year. I’ve never experienced a period like this as a professional. It’s been difficult, a new experience for me (which) is not the nicest, but good to experience new things and try and learn from them," Murray said.

“When I do get myself out of it and start to feel better, hopefully I’ll be stronger for it, but it’s been hard. I’ve not been playing well and winning as many matches as I would like, so I’m hoping I can turn it around here.”

Andy Murray
Andy Murray© Getty Images Sport - Morgan Hancock

Murray practicing well but that is not translating into matches

What makes it even more baffling for Murray is the fact that he is doing well on the practice court but when the moment comes for him to deliver in an official match, it is just not happening for him. Murray noted that's also something completely new for him.

“I’ve never really experienced playing really well in practice and not being able to translate it to a match court before, it was always the opposite for me," Murray said.

“I was never a great practice player, I didn’t use to win practice matches, exhibition matches, it’s been the complete opposite for me recently. I know there’s better tennis in me than I’m showing just now, but I’m hoping I can turn it around.”

Andy Murray
Andy Murray© Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Meanwhile, Murray will be looking to clinch his first win of the season when he meets Alexandre Muller in the Doha first round. When Murray and world No. 73 Muller meet, it will be their second meeting. Interestingly, their first and only meeting came in Doha last year, when Murray created an impressive comeback to beat Muller 4-6 6-1 6-2. 

Muller is certainly a favorable matchup for Murray and a good chance for the three-time Grand Slam champion to register his first win of the year.

Andy Murray Novak Djokovic