Match Day Preview: Novak Djokovic v Andy Murray

It’s crunch time for the Gentlemen’s Singles Championship, as the world No.1 and No.2 step out onto Centre Court for the final. Theirs’ is the rivalry that has defined the last year in men’s Tennis. This is the third time in the last four Grand Slams that they will play for the title. Murray beat Djokovic to win the US Open in September, while Djokovic beat Murray to win the Australian Open in January. Of the eighteen games the pair have played Murray has won seven and Djokovic 11, but what will give Murray hope is that they have only played once on grass – in the Olympics semi-finals last year – and that time the young Scot came away victorious.

Their performance in the Championships so far has been quite evenly matched. Murray has lost just three sets in the preceding rounds and Djokovic two.  Djokovic has been serving slightly more consistently, with a higher first-serve percentage of 66% to Murray’s 65%, and a higher percentage of both first serve and second serve points, at 82% and 60% to Murray’s 80% and 56%. Murray might have hit more aces, at 80 to 76, but Djokovic has held more of his service games, at 94% to 92%.

However, while Djokovic has the reputation as the game’s great returned, his epic match against Juan Martin Del Potro has knocked down his stats here by a per cent or two. Murray has won more of his return games, at 28% to Djokovic’s 26%, and also made fewer unforced errors, with 102 to 112. Finally, the surface will play its part. Djokovic is a great grass player, but Murray is on a 17 match winning streak on grass. In fact, his only defeat on grass in the last 24 matches was to Roger Federer in the Final last year.

The results from IBM SlamTracker in previous matches favour Novak Djokovic slightly. IBM’s predictive analytics software uses over 41 million points of data from over 8 years of Grand Slam matches to pick out the patterns which define whether a player wins or loses, and pulls out three keys to the match for each player – targets that, if met, improve their chances to beat this specific opponent.

Both Djokovic and Murray beat their semi-finals opponents despite not hitting any of their keys to the match, but in the previous two matches Djokovic met two out of three and three out of three of his targets while Murray only reached one out of three and two. This reflects the fact that both matches, against Tommy Robredo and Fernando Verdasco, were more tightly contested.

This one is going to be a tough call, and there’s already much debate on Twitter over which player will come out on top. “I think Murray will win in 4 sets. Djokovic was making a lot of errors v Del Potro. Murray won’t allow him to do that again” tweets @TennisFanMark24. “Sorry to the Murray fans but he hasn’t produced his best this Wimbledon and can’t see him beating Djokovic” contests @tommypole. “Murray got no chance at all, Djokovic is a different class” says @faizal_ravat. @Kyle_Gallagherr disagrees, “Andy Murray’s time is now! He’s on the form he was on at the Olympics. Djokovic won’t stand a chance!”

This afternoon we’ll know for sure. Visit wimbledon.com for more during the built-up to the big match, and see IBM’s Game Changers blog for a more detailed analysis of the crucial stats.

Stuart Andrews