There were certainly many happy returns for Andy Murray and there plenty of first for the soon-to-be-reinstated world No.2 as he claimed the ATP Masters 1000 in Rome at the stunning and historic Foro Italico.
In a rare treat for Murray he won a major match on his birthday. It was his 29th birthday as he defeated Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-3, turning the table from the week before when Novak beat Andy for the Madrid title. The Murray win prevented Djokovic from an unprecedented 20th ATP Masters 1000 and stopped him from becoming the first tennis player to pass $US100million in official earnings.
The victory saw Murray ended a four match losing streak to Djokovic and in doing so broke a nine month drought against the world No.1.
His win marks the first time in 85 years that a British male has won Rome.
“Like obviously the history part is nice,” Murray said, “but for me, you know, more important, looking at the players that have won here, you know, some of the best players of all time have won this event. There’s very few years where there’s been, like, a surprise winner, almost.
“It’s mostly great players have won this event. So I’m very proud to have my name on the trophy. Today against Novak is nice. I know, you know, he didn’t play his best today. But, you know, still some tough moments for me in the second set. I saved the break points well and held strong. And, yeah, overall it was a great week for me. I didn’t lose a set.
“Winning a clay court Masters Series, last year I certainly didn’t think I’d be doing that multiple times over and giving myself a lot of opportunities to do that. So it’s been a good week.”
The win was Murray’s first title of the year and the first as a father.
“Obviously that’s nice. It wasn’t something I was really thinking about or concerned about at all, but, yeah, it’s been a big change in my life,” he said. “And now, you know, I’m very, very positive about that. I think that it’s just going to have a positive effect on my tennis and the rest of my career. Gives me a bit of extra motivation, something more to play for.
“Yeah, the last thing I looked at before I went on court today was a picture of my daughter, so yeah, that’s — yeah, I feel like that’s what I’m playing for now so that, yeah, in a few years hopefully, you know, she can be proud of what I have achieved.”
Djokovic was not comfortable with his left ankle. Early in the semi-final match against Kei Nishikori, he used his racquet to shake the clay from the soles of his shoes, just like every player does, and like he has done a million times, but on this occasion he missed his shoe and instead his racquet hit him on the ankle. Djokovic was concerned after the semis match but played it down.
“I think you’re training your mind to tell yourself things that are very positive, and so you’re kind of deflecting and neglecting the tiredness and whatever wrong sensation you have in your body,” Djokovic said.
“So I didn’t really think about it, even though it’s present. And it’s obvious, I mean, I had a long couple of weeks, especially last couple of days. I knew it’s going to be very hard for me, an uphill ride against Andy today, who was playing throughout the week on a very high level.
“And, you know, to compete with him in long exchanges and rallies that we do have in our encounters, they required a lot more energy and, you know, better performance from my side which didn’t happen.
“Not taking anything away from Andy’s win. On contrary, I think he deserved to win and deserved to win entire tournament, because he was the best player. He was the player that played in the best form throughout the entire tournament.”
Murray meanwhile has shown he can play on all surfaces something that was questioned in the early part of his career and he quite likes it now so his feelings for Roland Garros are very positive.
“To be honest, I mean, now I’ve played well on all of the surfaces. I mean, the last couple of years, clay has probably been my most successful surface, which, you know, I never, again, never expected that to be the case, but not complaining about it,” he said.
“And, yeah, going to Roland Garros, like I said, with a lot of confidence and, you know, really, really good preparation, you know, slightly different conditions there. You know, over best of five, as well, takes a little bit more physical and mental strength. But I feel like I’m on the right track. So hopefully I can have a good run there.”
The doubles title went to Bob and Mike Bryan, they defeated Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock 2-6, 6-3, 10-7. It was their fourth title in Rome and after a slow start to the season by their standards, the Bryans have now won a title at every level of the ATP World Tour 250 (Houston), 500 (Barcelona) and now1000.