ROME: Britain’s Andy Murray celebrated his 29th birthday in style Sunday by winning his maiden Rome Masters title with a hard-fought win over disgruntled world number one Novak Djokovic.
Murray, the number two seed who suffered defeat to Djokovic in last week’s Masters final in Madrid, prevailed 6-3, 6-3 in one hour, 35 minutes.
From a total of 32 previous meetings it is only Murray’s 10th win over tennis’s man of the moment.
“Well done Andy, you did a great job today. You were just too good,” Djokovic said on court after the final.
It is only Murray’s third clay-court title, after his maiden victories on the red dirt in Munich and Madrid last year, but comes in timely fashion just two weeks before the start of the French Open at Roland Garros.
Murray, who cruised into the final with an easy semi-final win over French lucky loser Lucas Pouille early on Saturday, came into the match fresher after Djokovic was forced into a three-hour epic by Japan’s Kei Nishikori later on Saturday.
It was the third three-set match he had played leading up to the final, and amid the challenging circumstances of intermittent rain, it did not take long for nerves to fray.
Murray piled the pressure on from the start, earning a trio of break chances in Djokovic’s first service game.
Djokovic saved them all, but two games later Murray grabbed the first break of the match when he forced Djokovic into a backhand error for 3-1.
The slippery conditions were not to Djokovic’s liking and Murray, who had no complaints about the weather, tried to capitalise.
He won 16 of his first 19 service points, taking a 5-2 lead with an ace down the T, and then wrapped up the opener with a sublime forehand drop-shot winner to wrap up the set in 46 minutes.
Djokovic’s game, and nerves began to come apart in a second set that saw umbrellas come out and hoods pulled up due to the occasional spattering of rain.
Leading 2-1, Djokovic complained to the referee about the lack of a rain stoppage and minutes later, still battling to win the fourth game, he began remonstrating with himself.
The Serbian skimmed his racket off the ground in another angry gesture after Murray got the first break of the set in game five.
From then on, Djokovic’s game fell apart as Murray built on his noticeably superior serve, adding variety with drops shots and volleys at the net.
Murray broke in the seventh game of the second set for a 4-3 lead, prompting Djokovic — from his chair — to start demanding a halt to the game due to rain.
He was heard saying he “don’t want to play any more”, adding: “My friend, it’s been raining for an hour.”
Djokovic underlined the threat of injuries playing in such conditions, but his pleas went unheard.