A sun-soaked tennis crowd spent Easter Sunday witnessing another day of dominance by a world No. 1 at the Miami Open. But the men’s final — unlike the women’s a day earlier — kept fans riveted for nearly three hours.
Novak Djokovic took 2 hours 47 minutes to overcome the high afternoon sun, a mini temper tantrum and a strong two sets by part-time Miami resident Andy Murray before prevailing 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 6-0 to win his fifth title on Key Biscayne.
It was Djokovic’s seventh win in a row over Murray (10 consecutive on hard courts), and he improved his record this year to 25-2, including titles at the Australian Open and Indian Wells, California.
On Saturday, many fans spent more time battling traffic on Rickenbacker Causeway than watching Serena Williams’ 55-minute lopsided win over Carla Suarez Navarro. Sunday was a different story. The Stadium Court crowd got a fiery, dramatic match that featured spectacular shots and long rallies, including one that went 35 strokes.
“It was very tough, brutal conditions for both of us,” said Djokovic, who has spent 141 weeks at No. 1. “In these conditions, you just want to extend the punching exchange and try to wait for the opportunities.”
Murray, 27, was playing his last match as a bachelor. He is moving up a spot to No. 3 in the world rankings Monday, and had hoped to fly back to Scotland for next Saturday’s wedding to Kim Sears with a winner’s trophy for his bride-to-be. Instead, he will board the plane wondering why he can’t seem to get past his Serbian rival.
He started off as the aggressor on Sunday, dictating points and forcing Djokovic to lunge from corner to corner to retrieve his well-placed shots. The Serb was twice down a break in the first set, but as he so often does, managed to battle back to win the tiebreaker.
Both players struggled to serve on the sunny side of the court in the first set. In fact, nobody held serve on that side until the 11th game of the match.
“I would say until the end of the first set it wasn’t an advantage serving because it’s one thing obviously hitting the first serve significantly slower, but then you also sort of try looking at the bright light and the first shot of the rally, when it comes back, your sight is still a bit off,” Murray explained.
The sun shifted at the start of the second set, and Murray continued to give Djokovic fits. It appeared the defending champion was beginning to unravel. At the end of the second set, having just been broken at love, Djokovic rudely grabbed his towel from an alarmed ball boy as he barked something not-so-nice at his coaches, among them legend Boris Becker.
When he got to his chair, he was issued a code violation from umpire Damien Dumusois.
“I’m sorry, because I didn’t pay attention to the ball boy, and I just screamed at my box,” Djokovic explained later. “As a matter of fact, I haven’t cursed at all in my language, but I was yelling in frustration.”
He spent the next few minutes regaining his composure.
“Even though I lost the second set, even though it’s frustrating, when I sat down on the set changeover, I had another inner talk and kind of switched to a positive encouragement and stimulation,” Djokovic said. “I gathered my thoughts and all the energy in the right direction, and that helped.”
Djokovic summoned his physical stamina, as well, and that proved the difference.
He immediately broke Murray in the first game of the final set and broke again in the third game on the sixth break point when Murray returned his lob into the net. He rolled the rest of the way, and Murray seemed to lose his legs and his fight.
“It has been a good start to the year for me so far,” Murray told the crowd. “I’m not quite there where Novak is at, but I feel I am getting there. I just need to keep working hard.”
Later at the news conference, Murray added: “I am training the best I can. I can try to do more, but I do push myself hard. I obviously know Novak is a very fit guy, and sometimes in these conditions he has struggled a bit in the humidity. He handled it extremely well [Sunday] and deserved to win the match because of that.”
And so, for the fifth time, Djokovic headed out to the Crandon Park beach for the customary photo shoot with the trophy.
“This is truly one of the better tournaments on the tour,” he said. “All the best players are participating. It’s a beautiful city, offers a variety of options, to have fun, to have a nice relaxing time at the beach and Key Biscayne is a very special place for tennis. Hopefully, we’re going to have many more great years to come.”