Andy Murray vs Novak Djokovic Awards Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2017

Andy Murray’s sequence of 28 consecutive victories was ended by Novak Djokovic in the most heartbreaking of circumstances on Saturday night, writes Simon Briggs. Playing the Doha final, Murray fought back from three match points in the second set to take the match into a decider. In the end, though, his old nemesis proved too strong.

The result will reshape expectations going into the Australian Open, which starts a week on Monday. Murray seemed to have broken Djokovic’s psychological hold over him when he won their most recent meeting in the final of the ATP World Tour Finals in November. But Djokovic – who survived five match points against Fernando Verdasco in Friday’s semi-final – was hugely impressive on Saturday. In a flashback to the world order that has applied for most of the last five years, he outhit Murray from the back of the court as he closed out a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win in 2hr 54min.

“Definitely one of the best ways to start a year,” said Djokovic. “When Andy turned it around I thought it ‘I hope this is not payback time’ [for the Verdasco comeback]. All the way to the last shot, you never know with Andy. It’s no strange occurrence for both of us to play three sets for three hours. It’s a very physical battle. We’re both going to need a bit of time to recover and get ready for Melbourne.”

The match sparked some debate on social media over Djokovic’s body language, which once again suggested he was physically struggling for much of the match. This has been a point of controversy since the 2015 Australian Open final, after which Murray said that he had been distracted by Djokovic’s apparent attack of cramp early in the third set.

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Andy Murray vs Novak Djokovic Awards Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2017

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