Andy Murray defeated Novak Djokovic for only the second time in 14 matches since the 2013 Wimbledon final to win his first Rome Masters title 6-3 6-3 on Sunday and will now head to Paris with hopes high for the French Open.
In a rainy, cloud-covered mist that would not have looked out of place in the Scottish Highlands, Murray and Djokovic played a match that lasted an hour and 35 minutes. It must have seemed twice as long for the loser, who was carrying not only fatigue from a three-hour semi-final against Kei Nishikori the night before, but a bruise on his left foot, self-inflicted near the end of that match as he tried to loosen dirt from his shoe. Murray, who will return to No 2 in the world rankings tomorrow, had lost all four of his previous clay-court encounters with Djokovic, but if ever the situation was favourable for the Scot when facing his old rival, this was it. Djokovic, who still leads their head-to-head record by 23 wins to 10, had been involved in lengthy physical battles on each of the previous three days – against Thomaz Bellucci, Nadal and Kei Nishikori – while Murray had enjoyed a relatively straightforward passage against Jeremy Chardy, David Goffin and Lucas Pouille.
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Murray went 40-15 up when he served for the first set at 5-3, only for the rain to start falling again. Djokovic saved a first set point but on the second Murray followed up a thunderous forehand with a drop shot winner. Djokovic had break points in Murray’s first two service games of the second set, but the Scot hung on. At 2-2 it was Djokovic’s turn to feel the pressure, with a different outcome. Murray forced a break point when Djokovic netted a backhand and converted it with a volley winner after a well-constructed point.When Djokovic served to stay in match at 3-5 he went 15-40 down with a double fault. The stage was set for Murray to complete his victory in sensational fashion. Djokovic had what appeared to be an easy “kill” at the net, but Murray chased the ball down and from way out beyond the tramlines hit a sensational winner down the line. It was a wonderful way to finish a great week.
Earlier, world number one Serena Williams beat her 21-year-old American compatriot Madison Keys 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 to win her fourth Rome title. She will head next to Roland Garros, intent on defending her title and equalling Steffi Graf’s open-era record of 22 grand slam titles.