By Ros Satar, in Madrid

  • Novak Djokovic [1] def. Andy Murray [2] 6-2 3-6 6-3
  • Wins second title in Madrid
  • Wins record 29th Masters 1000 title

MADRID, SPAIN – Andy Murray battled to the end but just fell short of defending his Madrid Masters title, as Novak Djokovic beat him in three sets.

With Murray looking to defend a title on clay for the first time in his career, and Djokovic looking to break his deadlock with Rafael Nadal in terms of Masters title, the scene was set for their latest encounter.

It was not the best of starts as the roof opened up on a very cold, grey day in Madrid. Both have had indoor matches, and have spoken about the challenges of playing with the altitude and the adjustments needed, and on the day it counted it was Djokovic who seemed to deal with the heavy conditions better.

Swiftly jumping out to a double break lead, Murray managed to dig out three serves to at least keep himself in some sort of contention, grabbing back one of the breaks, while Djokovic continued to look unruffled at he back of the court.

It was imperative that Murray started the second set better. Trying to pump himself up, it was almost roles reversed as suddenly Djokovic had a brief moment of looking unsure of himself, a double fault giving away a break advantage that Murray was highly unlikely to give up, as Murray hung on to force a decider.

For the briefest moment it looked as though the history of the first set was going to repeat itself. A long rally left Murray looking fatigued as Djokovic broke at the start of the second set, only for Murray to just as suddenly turn the power back on to break straight back.

Back on an even keel, but playing catch up, yet again some carelessness on the Brit’s part brought danger as Djokovic broke for the 4-2 advantage. But the story was not done yet – serving to stay in at 2-5, Murray staved off a championship point to force the World No. 1 to serve it out.

There the drama hit high gear. Forget the rest of the match – this game had it all. Murray had seven break points and forced Djokovic to finally convert on his third match point to win that coveted 29th Masters title, and his second title in Madrid.

 

 

Speaking to the press after the loss, Murray admitted that the crucial game had been his best chance for his title defence:

“I obviously fought hard today. Yeah, disappointed because from like two games, like 2-All to 4-2, 5-2, I was making him work hard in the second set and then beginning of the third and then at the end of the third set.

“I just think I’m definitely moving better. That’s for sure. It makes a huge difference. Like I said, on the other surfaces it’s a massive strength of mine, a big part of my game, and for a number years I didn’t move well on the clay. It was a hindrance, and that makes you uncomfortable. If you took Ivo Karlovic’s serve away he would feel uncomfortable going on the court. For me, take my movement away…

“When I was having the problems with my back it was difficult for me when stepping on the court; whereas now my body feels great. I feel like I’m moving a lot better. So I’m not going on the court sort of a little bit nervous or apprehensive. I believe I can play well on clay now.

Djokovic knew from the start of the match that he had been in control, with the lapse really let Murray back into the match.

“I started very well; played terrific tennis in the first set. Couple of close games in the second, beginning of the second set, and then I made some unforced errors and double faults in the game when I dropped my serve in the second set. I couldn’t get back.

“He started serving very well, especially down the T and deuce side. Very precise and very strong, and he was backing that serve up with aggressive first shots, and then just about an hour it was split sets.

“Then the match really could have gone either way, but we exchanged some breaks of serves early in the third. Then when it seemed like I was closing out the match and having a match point at 5-2, he came up with some big serves again. The last game obviously got myself out of some trouble with some good serves, with some good forehands, but was very, very close. Very close.”

For Djokovic, and indeed Murray it sees a decade of a rivalry that was born with the two were still very young juniors.

Djokovic continued: “We both thrived to be at the top, and we’ve known each other since we were 12. I think you can see already in those junior days that both of us have serious intentions to conquer the tennis world and try to make a serious mark with our name in the tennis world.

“So I’m very pleased that I have developed a great rivalry with somebody that I’ve known since very long time and somebody that I have a very good and friendly relationship with on and off the court.

“I think today there were couple situations where we showed respect to each other, which was truly something that is unusual, honestly, to see on the highest levels. I always like to look back at those moments and take that as a highlight rather than only results and rivalries.”

Djokovic just fell shy of Ivan Lendl’s Open Era record of 18 straight finals after an eye problem forced him to retire in the Dubai quarter-final, but on this form, who would count him out for defending his title in Rome and making a concerted push for the one Slam that eludes him – the French Open.

Djokovic and Murray will next play in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, which takes place between 9-15 May.

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