Sir Andy Murray believes there is more to come from him in 2017 as he switches focus to success at the Australian Open following a dramatic three-set defeat to Novak Djokovic in the final of the Qatar Open.
Defending champion Djokovic appeared to be heading for a straight-sets win in Doha, but Murray saved three match points before taking the tie to a decider.
The Scot, who received a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours, had the first opportunity to break in the final set.
But he failed to take it and then could not hold a subsequent service game as Djokovic dug in to put himself on course for a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 success in a match which lasted almost three hours.
Murray, though, saw plenty of positives, despite coming off second best in the first meeting between the two players since the Briton knocked his rival off the world No 1 spot . “Physically it was a good test to start the year, and I did good there. Obviously I am disappointed not to win, but I played pretty good the last couple of the matches,” said Murray.
“My body feels all right just now, so that’s positive. It was a little bit sore earlier in the week after the first couple of the matches, but I felt better each day and I think it is positive.
“I still think there are things I can do better, because I wasn’t that clinical on break points this week, which maybe comes with playing a few more matches.”
It was a first defeat for Murray following a remarkable run since losing to Juan Martin del Potro when playing for Great Britain in the semi-final of the Davis Cup in September. The 29-year-old added: “I still think I have a chance of winning the Australian Open after tonight. I don’t think that changes.”
Djokovic is focused on wrestling back that No 1 slot from Murray in what looks like being a fascinating contest ahead. The Serbian said: “We both felt like if every match we are going to play against each other is going to be this way this season, we are going to have a fun time.
“This was the best scenario I could ask for the beginning of the season, playing all five matches in this tournament and then three hours against the number one of the world, biggest rival, and winning in a thrilling marathon match.
“It is something that definitely can serve as a positive incentive for what’s coming up in Australia.”
Elsewhere, Grigor Dimitrov claimed his first title since 2014 by battling past Kei Nishikori 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 to land the Brisbane International.
The Bulgarian added Nishikori’s scalp to victories over top seed Milos Raonic and Dominic Thiem as he continued his resurgence.
Dimitrov reached the heights of world No 8 in starting to realise his rich potential, but his career had stalled since his previous tour win – at Queen’s in 2014.
The 25-year-old finished 2016 ranked 17th having dropped as low as 40, and revealed his delight to end his wait for a tour triumph.
“It’s been a pretty emotional past year, so this trophy means a lot,” said Dimitrov. “These ten days have been the most fun I have ever had on a tennis court.”
Dimitrov will now move onto the Apia International in Sydney, where he finished as runner-up last year, as continued preparation for the Australian Open.
In the only first-round clash in the Sydney tournament yesterday, Nicolas Mahut edged out Thomaz Bellucci 6-2, 7-6 (7/2).
Britain’s Naomi Broady crashed out of qualifying for the Apia International after losing to the fifth-seeded Kateryna Bondarenko.
The 26-year-old struggled with her serve, winning only one game, and was broken six times by the Ukrainian who raced to a 6-1, 6-1 victory in just over an hour.