The last time that these 2 combatants faced, Novak Djokovic was at the beginning of what looked like an almighty end. Andy Murray, at the time, was number 1 ranked in the world- but was also unaware of what the future held. At 29 in 2016, little did he know that he would spend the next 5 years spiralling out of the tennis rankings, floating between 104 and 280 in the world.
For Andy Murray, this is his first trip to the round of 16 of a clay Masters 1000 in almost six years.
In that entire 5 year timespan, Murray has only managed to progress past the 3rd round once- that being at the 2019 Cincinnati Masters.
At 34, Murray has made it abundantly clear that he his only playing for the love of tennis. The appeal of playing a full season again is something that Murray managed to achieve again- in 2021
Having had his season disrupted during the 2020 coronavirus shutdown, Murray had once again been able to return to singles in August 2019, 7 months into the 2019 season. Having decided to withdraw from the US Open in 2017, and consequently shut down his season, Murray was effectively unable to play a full season from 2017-2020.
However in 2021, Murray was able to play in all 4 grand slams, a feat which most certainly gave Murray a new lease at life.
However, it is 2022 which seems like the season where Murray has finally been able to find his feet on the tour again, in terms of playing a full schedule. Last season, mind you, Murray did not play Miami, Monte Carlo or Rome.
This season however, Murray has participated in the majority of Masters 1000 events which have been on offer.
In terms of tomorrow night’s upcoming matchup, nothing is certain. Murray has shown in 2021 that he can beat the best players on tour, but has seriously lacked stamina to win back to back matches in a full season. Meanwhile, current world number 1 Novak Djokovic has had a heavily disrupted 2022 season (due to vaccine mandates in Australia, and in the US in terms of foreign travellers). Despite this, Djokovic last week managed to make the final of the Belgrade 250 tournament, which is still a promising outcome.
However, Djokovic in 2022 is completely unproven at Masters 1000 level. Djokovic did not play Indian Wells or Miami, and lost in the very first round of the last Masters 1000 event that was held in Monte Carlo.
Despite this match being a very nostalgic, blast-from-the-past type of fixture, Djokovic will not be coming into the match with old times on his mind. Djokovic, unfortunately, will be heading into this match knowing that he urgently needs to get wins and matches on the board at this level. With Roland Garros (the French Open), right around the corner, Djokovic cannot afford to rely on the next Masters 1000 tournament to be his first and last tune up tournament before his first major of the year.