As Andy Murray reaches the pointy end of the draw at the U.S. Open, he finds a familiar face in Novak Djokovic waiting in the quarterfinals Wednesday. Murray and Djokovic have met 20 times, four in Grand Slam finals - each winning twice. In his latest conversation with The New York Times, Murray discusses his role in the so-called Big 4, the four players who have dominated men's tennis in the past 10 years.
Q. There are many statistical measures by which you, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have separated yourselves, but do you buy into the concept of the Big 4, that you four are somehow a separate category of players in the past several years?
A. I wouldn't say it's a separate group. Also, all of those guys have obviously won more than me as well. But the amount of times all of us have been in the latter stages of a Slam, people got used to seeing it, TV got used to seeing it, and that's where the whole Big 4 thing started. I don't know how many times all four of us were in the semis - but it was three in the semis pretty much every single time at the beginning. So that was obviously where it came from.
Q. Do you feel as if you've fallen back from or out of that level? The three others are still ranked at the top; do you aspire to getting back up with them? Is that a way you look at it?
A. I'm not too concerned about being part of the Big 4. I want to try to win these events; that's what motivates me. Yeah, this year I've still performed decently in the Slams. It could have been better, but I'm still giving myself opportunities in the Slams, and getting into the latter stages. I just need to play my best tennis at the end of them. But yeah, I'm more concerned about trying to win a Slam than being part of a Big 4.
Q. You and Djokovic are a week apart in age and came up through the ranks closer to the same time. Does your rivalry with him, within the group, feel different? Roger and Rafa were pretty established by the time you got there.
A. Yeah, I think also that I've played him a lot more - it feels like that - over the last few years than I've played Roger and Rafa in the Slams. I've also known Rafa a long time, but "rivalry" for me would seem more closely linked to Novak.
Q. This will be the 21st time you have played. Is it autopilot at this point? Are there new things you have to prep for, or is it automatic with him by now?
A. You have a good idea about his game. Obviously I practiced with him just before the tournament as well, and we know each other's games fairly well. Both of us are still trying to improve things - that's why Novak got Boris Becker involved, and obviously I got Amelie Mauresmo involved. It's trying to keep improving. And it depends on the day and on the surface. You can't just have the same tactics every single time you play him. There needs to be some adjustments depending on the surface and the conditions. We'll see what those are Wednesday.
Q. Do you like the repetition? Is there some comfort in that? In the women's game right now, it's different people going deep in every Slam this year. Other eras of men's tennis have been similar, and you never knew who was going to be there at the end. Now in the men's, it has been pretty reliable. Is that better or worse for you?
A. Well (laughs), I'd rather not be playing players as good as Novak or Roger or Rafa in the latter stages of Slams, from a selfish point of view. But I guess in some ways it maybe makes the matches more interesting because you know each other's games well so it's easier to prepare for them. The level of tennis in those matches has been fairly high, and people like to see that.
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