Murray claims best win of his career in Cincinnati

ANDY Murray reached a new high point in his career by landing the Cincinnati Masters Series title after a hard-fought victory over Novak Djokovic last night.

The Scot won 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/5) to complete the biggest achievement of his tennis life. He will be further boosted by the fact that his exploits over the past week will see him go to an all-time high of sixth in the word rankings.

Murray believes the win and the impending rise up the rankings is just reward for a growing maturity in his game.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said: "I got very nervous and he was hitting the ball really big but I hung in well. It was tough for both of us and there were a lot of long rallies. Your legs really burn out there and they were some of the hardest conditions of the year.

"But I stayed calm throughout and didn't waste any energy – especially when I went behind in a couple of matches.

"In the past maybe I'd have let that get to me but now I'm playing top players on a regular basis and I'm better equipped."

Murray deservedly took the first set on a tie-break, 7-6 (7/4), but for the most part the British No 1 looked the stronger player against an opponent who knocked out Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals.

Murray, with two titles already this year and five in his fledgling career, raced into a 5-1 lead in the tie-break and despite Djokovic showing some resistance it was soon the Scot's set. Murray had lost his first four career meetings with Djokovic, but he halted that run in Montreal last month with a surprise straight-sets win and followed it up in style last night.

The Montreal victory galvanised Murray for the trip to Cincinnati, where he had battled past Sam Querrey, Dmitry Tursunov, Carlos Moya and semi-final opponent Ivo Karlovic to reach what was his first Masters Series final.

Murray lost in the first round in Cincinnati to Marcos Baghdatis last year but came into his sixth clash with Djokovic knowing his recent form had already carry him to a career-high world ranking, which is expected to be confirmed today.

The opening stages of last night's clash were dominated by the servers, but there was plenty of baseline jousting between the 21-year-olds. Nervy play from Djokovic allowed Murray to reach deuce four times against the Serbian's serve in the fifth game of the opening set.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He had advantage after hustling Djokovic around the court on a hard-earned point, but the game eventually went against the Scot. However, he was soon back on deuce in his opponent's next service game.

Again he established an advantage, which was saved thanks to a daring drop shot from Djokovic, and once more Murray missed out despite appearing the more on-song player. He held his nerve in later games though and Murray, due to represent Great Britain at the Olympics later this month, deservedly claimed the set.

Wearing a baseball cap to prevent the sun taking its full effect on a warm day where temperatures soared to 100F, the Scot needed to keep the pressure on at the start of the second set.

However in his second service game he gave Djokovic three break points. He saved the first with a cross-court forehand and the next with a crushing shot from the same flank, but on the third Murray went long with a backhand to concede the advantage in the set at 2-1 down. Djokovic was unable to capitalise immediately though, and Murray broke back in the very next game.

Murray got the better of his opponent's serve again in the eighth game of the set, breaking to 15. At 5-3 he was one solid service game away from the title, but Djokovic showed his survival instincts, finally producing his best tennis to break Murray once more.

Murray saw four championship points slip by, and the growing confidence of his opponent suggested at that stage that he might live to regret not taking any of them. He forced Djokovic to serve to stay in the match at 6-5 down, and at 0-30 Murray was again closing in on the title, but soon the pair were into another tie-break.

An early mini-break went Murray's way, and was soon wiped out. Another came his way, but again was lost.

Murray then won a magnificent ninth point of the tie-break with a devastating backhand across court which wrongfooted Djokovic, who immediately double-faulted again to fall 6-4 behind. Djokovic won the next point on serve, but Murray made no mistake as he served again for the title, as a bludgeoned backhand raced past his higher-ranked opponent.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He added: "It's huge because to win these tournaments is tough nowadays. I've played five days in these conditions and had eight or nine matches in the last couple of weeks. But I've put in the physical work and it's paid off."

Murray reached the final with a straight-sets (6-4, 6-4) win over Karlovic on Saturday, before Djokovic did likewise by ending Nadal's recent dominance with a 6-1, 7-5 triumph.

• German player Rainer Schuettler sent an application to the Court of Arbitration for Sport yesterday, asking world sport's highest authority to give him a spot at the Beijing Olympics.

"Rainer Schuettler claims that he should be allowed to compete in the games, considering that he has been entered by the German NOC (National Olympic Committee) and that he is eligible as a result of his position in the ITF computer ranking, due to the withdrawal of some players who were qualified for the Olympic tournament," CAS said in a statement.

The 33rd-ranked Schuettler is asking CAS to order the International Tennis Federation to enter him into the men's singles competition in Beijing. The Olympic tennis tournament starts on Sunday, two days after the opening ceremony, and will finish on 17 August. The hearing before three CAS arbitrators – Michael J Beloff of Britain, Luigi Fumagalli of Italy and Alan Sullivan of Australia – is scheduled to take place this morning in Beijing.

Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Marcos Baghdatis, Juan Ignacio Chela, Robin Haase and Stefan Koubek have withdrawn from the Games. Maria Sharapova, Amelie Mauresmo and Mary Pierce are among the women who have withdrawn.

The ITF used the ATP and WTA rankings as a guide to determine who got the 56 direct spots in the men's and women's singles competitions. Six of the remaining eight spots in each tournament were given out by the ITF's Olympic Committee. Each country, however, was limited to a maximum of six players in each tournament.