Tennis

Murray: I'm still the man to beat

World No. 1 insists he can win Australian Open despite loss to Djokovic in Qatar

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 by Novak Djokovic in the final of the Qatar Open.

Defending champion Djokovic appeared to be heading for a straight-sets win in Doha yesterday morning (Singapore time), but Murray saved three match-points and took 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 tonight, but I played pretty good the last couple of the matches," Murray said at a press conference.

"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."

FIRST DEFEAT

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-finals 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."

I still think I have a chance of winning the Australian Open after tonight. I don't think that changes.Andy Murray

Djokovic is focused on wrestling back the No. 1 slot from Murray in what looks like being a fascinating contest ahead.

The Serb 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 for the beginning of the season, playing all five matches in this tournament and then three hours against the 
No. 1 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."

Djokovic also admitted that he did not intentionally hit a ball into the crowd during the final, an incident which threatened to take the gloss off his victory.

The incident happened in the sixth game of the first set when Djokovic, upset at losing a point, fired a ball into the stands which then flew into the crowd, apparently striking a female spectator.

The Serb received a warning for the incident, and a further warning for smashing his racket in the second set saw him deducted a point.

Djokovic said that he was unaware that the ball had hit someone and said it was an accident.

"It was not intentional at all," he said. "Of course, people get hit, especially in the first rows, from big serves and so forth."

Pressed on whether it was acceptable behaviour, the world No. 2 said "no" and added: "I definitely didn't want to hit the ball at anybody.

"I have to be more careful, I guess, in the future." - WIRE SERVICES

tennisANDY MURRAYnovak djokovic