Novak Djokovic has defeated Andy Murray in Madrid to win a record 29th career Masters title, a decade after the pair first played each other there as promising teenagers.
Djokovic defeated 6-2 3-6 6-3 in the Madrid Open final on Sunday, 10 years after their rivalry started in the round of 16 of the tournament in Spain.
“Ten years (later) we are the two best players in the world, which at that time maybe it seemed like something that will be very challenging for us to achieve,” said the 28-year-old Djokovic, who beat Murray in three sets in that 2006 meeting.
“But we both thrived to be at the top, and we’ve known each other since we were 12. I think you can see already in those junior days that both of us have serious intentions to conquer the tennis world.”
Djokovic saved seven break points in the final game and converted on his third match point of the night to secure the win.
“I’m very pleased that I have developed a great rivalry with somebody that I’ve known since very long time and somebody that I have a very good and friendly relationship with on and off the court,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic has won 12 of the last 13 matches against Murray since 2014, and is 23-9 overall against the 28-year-old British player.
The win leaves the Serb tied with Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras for sixth on the Open Era titles list with 64.
“It’s obviously very flattering to be alongside such legends of the sport, tennis players that I was looking up to,” Djokovic said. “It’s an achievement that I’m very proud of.”
Djokovic dominated the first set but it was even from then until the end, with both players faltering on decisive moments.
The thrilling last game finally ended when Murray sent a forehand into the net, giving Djokovic his 15th straight win against top-10 opponents, a streak in which he has lost only two of 35 sets.
“That’s why he’s No. 1 just now,” Murray said. “He fought very hard in that game and served well when he was a bit nervous. At the end he came up with some big serves and got himself some free points and did well.”
Djokovic has won five of the last six Masters titles, including three this year. He had already won in Indian Wells and Miami, and had also clinched the Australian Open in a final against Murray.
His next tournament will be the Rome Masters next week, and then he plays at the French Open, where he lost the last two finals.
Murray is still expected to be considered one of the main favourites at the French Open, where he lost to Djokovic in last year’s semifinals.
“It’s been positive from where I was a few weeks ago going into Monte Carlo,” Murray said. “I’ve played some really good stuff. See what happens the next few weeks.”