Murray exacts revenge as he overpowers Djokovic

Briton ensures there is no Melbourne hangover by setting up intriguing final showdown with Federer

Dubai

It appears that the phrase "post-Melbourne slump" can be safely deleted from Andy Murray's vocabulary in 2012. Murray came here believing there would be no repeat of the prolonged Australian Open hangover he suffered in the past two years, and the 24-year-old Scot proved his point yesterday with an emphatic 6-2, 7-5 victory over Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Championships.

In becoming the first player to defeat the world No 1 this year, Murray showed commendable determination to maintain the renewed focus he had displayed in Melbourne. In today's final he will face Roger Federer, four times a champion here, for the first time for nearly 16 months.

Yesterday's victory was a reminder of the progress Murray made in Australia following the appointment of Ivan Lendl as his coach. Apart from a nervous wobble as Djokovic broke when the world No 4 served for the match, Murray maintained a high level throughout. A couple of early grimaces when he clutched a sore knee were the only times Murray looked anything other than positive. There were no running conversations with nobody in particular at the back of the court and no gesticulating towards his entourage.

"I fought for every single point and made it really, really tough," Murray said, remembering how close he had come to beating Djokovic by playing with similar intensity in Melbourne this year and in Rome last year. "In the second set he started going for more and making mistakes because of that."

Murray added: "I'm sure Novak knows that if he wants to beat me, he's going to have to fight 110 per cent and play long, long points. That's why you need to go in against the top guys every time with that attitude."

The match, played in considerably cooler conditions than Murray had experienced in his previous three matches, generated a lively atmosphere. A clear majority of the capacity 5,000 crowd were behind Djokovic, who was going for a fourth successive title here. Nevertheless, the frequent chants of "Nole! Nole!" usually brought a good response from Murray's supporters.

Given the quality of the two players' returns, Djokovic had identified their serves as a key to the outcome. Murray was immediately into his rhythm, hitting big first serves on his first four points. By the end he had lost only six of the 40 points played when his first serve found the target.

Aggressive throughout, Murray forced Djokovic into a steadily increasing flow of mistakes. The match turned after Djokovic had hit two aces at 2-3 to go 30-0 up. The world No 1 had won the first 10 points on his serve, but made four unforced errors in succession to give Murray the first break. The Scot took the set by breaking again two games later in a blaze of attacking strokes.

A third successive break gave Murray the early advantage in the second set. The only time he faltered was when he got nervous and was broken at 5-3. The last time he had failed to serve out for a victory was against Djokovic in Rome last year, but he kept any thoughts of that defeat firmly out of his mind.

Having gone 6-5 up courtesy of four unreturned serves, Murray secured victory in the following game with his fourth break. It was his first victory over Djokovic in a completed match for nearly three years, the Serb having retired with an injury when trailing in the second set as Murray won their Cincinnati Masters final last year. "He was the better player today," Djokovic admitted. "He was serving really well. I made a lot of unforced errors when it was important. He always makes you play an extra shot. He was returning really well."

Murray said he hoped the win would "set me up well for the year". He added: "Confidence in tennis – and almost any individual sport – is so important. A win like tonight will do that no harm."

The Scot feels he is still some way off his best but looked better prepared than Djokovic. Both men returned to competition this week following the Australian Open, but while Murray came here from an 11-day training block in Miami, Djokovic spent much of last month skiing, catching up with friends and collecting an award in London.

Federer, who saved the only one break point against him this week in his opening match, beat Juan Martin del Potro 7-6, 7-6, winning the second tie-break 8-6 despite having trailed 6-2.

Murray had said he would prefer to play Federer. He has beaten the Swiss in eight of their 14 matches. It was after Murray beat him in the first round here four years ago that Federer said he was surprised the Scot had continued to play so defensively. "He's going to have to grind very hard for the next few years if he's going to keep playing this way," Federer said at the time. On yesterday's evidence, Murray is in the mood to keep grinding for as long as it takes.

VIDEO
Life & Style
tech
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal
sport
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
News
news
Arts & Entertainment
film
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Arts & Entertainment
Homer meets Lego Marge in the 25th anniversary episode of The Simpsons, set to air on 4 May
tv
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal