World number one Novak Djokovic roared home in a 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-0 win over Andy Murray on Sunday to claim a fifth Miami Masters title.
Serbia’s Djokovic pushed his career record against the Scot to 18-8, adding the triumph in the championship match on the hardcourts of Miami to victories over Murray this year in the Australian Openfinal and the semi-finals of the Indian Wells Masters.
“I could not ask for a better start of the season, winning three big titles,” Djokovic said. “Hopefully I’m able to use this for the claycourt coming up. That’s extremely important for me obviously leading up to French.”
Djokovic became the first man to complete the Indian Wells-Miami Masters title sweep three times, having also done so in 2011 and 2014.
On Monday, Djokovic will tie Spain’s Rafael Nadal for the sixth-most weeks spent at the top of the rankings, sitting atop the summit for the 141st week in his career.
Murray, meanwhile, is poised to return to number three in the world.
The Scot, whose last victory over Djokovic was in his historic Wimbledon final triumph of 2013, started strong in a bid to end a six-match skid against the Serb.
– Brutal conditions –
The two traded four breaks of serve in the first eight games of the tense first set in which both struggled on serve on one sun-splashed end of the court.
“It was just very tough, brutal conditions for both of us,” Djokovic said.
“We tried to stay mentally tough, both of us, and kind of hang in there, battle, and wear down the other player physically.
“There were lots of exchanges, a lot of long rallies. I was expecting that coming into the match, but one thing is to really expect and the other is to really experience it and really go through it on the court.”
Djokovic was quick to seize the initiative in the tiebreaker, racing to a 4-0 lead, and despite a double fault Djokovic had quickly wrapped up the decider 7/3.
The second set went with serve until Djokovic, looking weary, was broken in the final game, gifting Murray a double fault for 0-30 before the Brit belted two winners to force a third set.
A frustrated Djokovic barked at those in his box on the change over, startling a nearby ball kid and earning a warning from the chair umpire.
But the Serb regrouped, storming through the third set for the win.
“Of course I go through moments of doubt, as everybody else,” the world number one said.
“But it’s important to keep those moments short… That’s what happened today. I just gathered my thoughts and all the energy into right direction, and that helped.”
Murray had a glimmer of hope of avoiding the undesired “bagel” with a break chance against Djokovic in the sixth game.
He couldn’t convert and Djokovic gave himself a match point with a cunning drop shot-lob combination.
The Serb finished Murray off on his first opportunity, pulling him out wide with a serve then stroking a winner into the open court on match point.
“I just managed to play the third set the way I was supposed to.”
– Djokovic stronger at the end –
Even though Murray makes Miami his training base, he said he struggled physically late in the two-hour, 46-minute match.
“I played very well for a couple of sets. Maybe I could have done a little bit better in the tiebreak in the first set, but, yeah, that was it,” he said of his fast fade in the third.
Murray said he wasn’t sure what he could do differently to avoid the problem.
“I’ve trained as hard as I can,” he said.
“Maybe I could have hydrated a little bit better or whatever, but I don’t think that I can do a whole lot more physically to get in much better shape.
“I just have to try and keep working hard and see if there are a few things I can do differently which might help. He was stronger than me at the end for sure.”
Nevertheless, the performance gave Murray more to be pleased about than his loss to Djokovic in less than an hour and a half at Indian Wells a fortnight earlier.
“I felt like I did many things better,” Murray said. “I made the match a lot harder for him.
“I felt like I was going for my shots a little bit more. I did pretty much all of the things that I wanted to do tactically on the court, so I felt like I played a good match tactically.” – Agence France-Presse