(photo credit: REUTERS)
Novak Djokovic made an immense statement in his bid to rule men’s tennis again when he defeated Andy Murray, the man who deposed him as world No. 1, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in an epic Qatar Open final in Doha on Saturday.
Looking back to near his peerless best at times in a game of searing quality, the Serbian missed out on three match points and had to repel a roaring Murray comeback before ending the Briton’s 28-match, five-tournament winning streak.
In their first meeting since Murray won their season-ending climax at the ATP World Tour finals, the Briton ran into a rejuvenated Djokovic who, despite having problems with his racket hand and receiving two warnings for his behavior, prevailed thrillingly in their 36th contest.
It was a perfect tonic for the world number two in his buildup to the defense of his Australian Open title later this month and provided food for thought for Murray, who lost for the 25th time against his old rival.
In Israeli news, Dudi Sela, ranked No. 96 in the world, came tantilizingly close to reaching his first ATP Tour final in more than two years on Saturday, squandering a match point before losing 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2 to 21-year-old Russian Daniil Medvedev (99).
The Israel No. 1 served for the match in the 10th game of the second set, but failed to convert a match point and Medvedev forced a tiebreak and a decisive third set, which he dominated.
Sela was playing in his first ATP Tour semifinal since Atlanta in July 2014, when he went on to reach the second final of his career before losing to John Isner.
Medvedev will face Roberto Bautista in the final.
Elsewhere, Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov upset top seed and defending champion Milos Raonic of Canada at the Brisbane International on Saturday to set up a title clash against Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
Seventh seed Dimitrov saved a set point in the opener on his way to a 7-6 (7), 6-2 win over world number three Raonic in 88 minutes in the second semifinal at the Pat Rafter Arena.
World number five Nishikori had an almost identical win against Swiss US Open champion Stan Wawrinka, who went down 7-6 (3), 6-3 in the first semifinal of the warmup event for this month’s Australian Open.
On Friday, Roger Federer overwhelmed Richard Gasquet 6-1, 6-4 in under an hour at the Hopman Cup to signal his return to form following a long injury layoff.
Returning after six months out of action, the Swiss 17-times Grand Slam champion beat Briton Dan Evans before suffering a three-set loss to German teenager Alexander Zverev at the mixed team event in Perth, Australia.
Federer’s 58-minute masterclass against Frenchman Gasquet in front of more than 13,000 spectators, however, should reassure his fans ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam at Melbourne Park later this month.
“It was completely different to the previous two [matches],” said the 35-year-old, with Switzerland ultimately losing the tie to France 2-1.
“Every opponent makes your life difficult in a different way, trying to make it as hard as possible.
Today was great, I had many more swings on the ball...had a bit more time.
“It’s the third match into the year, I started to feel the ball better and better, and just moving around the court better.
“I’m surprised how I’m playing already. Could not be more happy right now.”Reuters contributed to this report.