Andy Murray took the honour of winning his first ever Italian Open title with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over arch-rival Novak Djokovic.
It was a fitting birthday present for Murray, as he broke serves once in the first set and twice in the second in Rome to win the tournament as well as his place in the world rankings – returning to second right before the Roland Garros.
A drop shot sees Murray take the opening set with ease amidst drizzles. He then fought back from break point down to hold serve in the second set, before staving off another two in his next service game.
Pressure mounting, the Serb double faulted to hand Murray match point and the Scot duly closed out the win with a fantastic backhand winner from well out of court.
The match lasted an hour and 35 minutes but Djokovic looked significantly tamed after a three-hour semi-final against Kei Nishikori the night before. Fatigue plays it part just as the Serb self-inflicted a bruise on his left foot towards the end of the match as he tried to loosen dirt from his shoe.
“It’s hard coming back from a long match the night before,” he said, acknowledging Djokovic. “And he fought hard all the way to the end.”
The world number one had also begged the chair umpire, Damian Steiner of Argentina, to suspend play “for five minutes” to clean up a surface. Djokovic had nearly tumbled heavily three times on the rain-soaked clay of Foro Italico, which had been unreliable all week after numerous downpours.
But Steiner turned him down as Murray kept quiet.
Match conditions notwithstanding, his was a first win on clay for Murray over Djokovic in five attempts. It was also a rare victory, as the Scotsman had only won twice in 14 matches since winning the 2013 Wimbledon title.
It was also a feather to be added to Murray’s cap; the British player was the first to win in Rome since the Open Era began. The last British player who managed to won here was one George Patrick Hughes back in 1931, after he had prevailed against French legend Henri Cochet for a quick 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory.