Rafael Nadal has had his resurgence this year on the red dirt, but world No. 1 Novak Djokovic showed that he remains the King of Clay.
Djokovic outlasted defending champion Andy Murray 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 on Sunday for the Mutua Madrid Masters title, in the process overtaking Nadal for the most Masters-level titles won at 29.
“It was a great match to be a part of,” Djokovic said. “Congratulations to Andy for a big fight. It was all decided by just a few points at the end. I don’t know how I dug my way out, but that’s how it happens when you play against one of the best in the world. I’m just happy to have overcome this challenge.”
In the third set after the two exchanged breaks, Djokovic broke again then fought off seven break points at the end.
Murray has won only two of their last 16 meetings, has lost 12 of the last 13 to Djokovic, and will drop to No. 3 behind Roger Federer on the ATP rankings after raising the Madrid trophy last year.
“It was a fantastic win for Novak, congratulations to him,” Murray said. “I’ve had a lot of success here the last two years. It’s a shame I could not come back and defend the title — it wasn’t to be today. But Novak showed that he is doing great things.”
Murray took a number of upsides out of the match approaching the French Open.
“It’s been a positive week for me this week overall,” he said. “A few years ago I wouldn’t have thought I’d be winning against Rafa and then pushing Novak this close on a claycourt.”
Djokovic has won five of the past six Masters-level titles, 10 of the last 14, and his 64 career titles now tie Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg.
“This came at the right time,” Djokovic said. “I had an amazing opening four months of the season. Then an early exit in Monte Carlo, but it happened for a reason, because I needed some time to really recharge my batteries. Three weeks was more than enough to get some freshness and new breath and get ready for Madrid. I came here early, got used to the conditions, and played a really fantastic tournament that will definitely serve as a great confidence boost before Rome and the French Open.”
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