In 2011, Novak Djokovic let the tennis world know he had entered the elite, winning three Grand Slams. In 2012, Andy Murray finally got over the hump, winning Olympic gold and his first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open.
Now the two are on a collision course for dominance in 2013. And boy oh boy should it be fun to watch.
Djokovic won the first round of this rivalry at the Australian Open, beating Murray in the final 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 and taking his third straight title in Rod Laver Arena.
Not since Australian Roy Emerson (1963-67) has a player won three straight Australian Open titles.
This is now the second Grand Slam in a row that has pitted Djokovic against Murray in the final, with Murray winning the previous meeting at the U.S. Open. Murray also knocked Djokovic out of the Olympics.
Overall, however, Djokovic holds an 11-7 lead in the series and is 3-1 against Murray in Grand Slams.
But Murray is not to be underestimated. He's now advanced to the final in the last four major tournaments, if you include the Olympics. He's failed to advance to a semifinal at a Grand Slam only once since the start of the 2011 season.
And under coach Ivan Lendl, he looks like a different player. He's more focused, more confident, more aggressive and, perhaps most importantly, less emotional on the court. He now carries himself with an air of belief, as though he knows he can beat anyone.
He's come into his own, and that's scary news for the rest of the ATP Tour.
Still, Djokovic is the most complete player on the Tour when he's on his game. His will is incredibly strong, he's a much better athlete than people realize and he is intelligent and savvy, able to adjust on the fly when things aren't working.
That said, Djokovic has to prove he's not a one-trick pony in 2013 and win a Grand Slam outside Australia. The French Open will be tough if Nadal is healthy, and Federer and Murray are very tough at Wimbledon. It's truly a wonderful time to be a fan of men's tennis.
And it's partly so great because a new rivalry at the top of the rankings has emerged. For years, it was all about Nadal versus Federer. Now, we can add Djokovic versus Murray.
2013 is shaping up to be a fun year, folks.
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