Djokovic defeats Murray to claim Doha crown
Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray in the final of the Qatar Open to claim early-season bragging rights in the battle for world supremacy.
Murray finished last year the stronger of the two, taking over at the top of the world rankings and beating Djokovic at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals, but Djokovic's performance in Doha on Saturday suggested he is far from a spent force.
Murray battled manfully, saving three match points in the second set to force a third, but ultimately went down 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 as Djokovic successfully defended the title he captured for the first time last year with a straight sets win over Rafael Nadal.
Murray was the first to exert some pressure on his opponent's serve, earning a break point in the third game of the match, but Djokovic saved it before breaking himself in game eight, holding serve from there to take the first set.
Another break followed at 3-3, allowing Djokovic to serve for the match a few games later.
A straightforward victory seemed on the cards, but Murray refused to go quietly, saving three match points before snatching the break to level at 5-5, and then breaking again two games later, converting a set point on Djokovic's serve to tie the game up at one set apiece.
The third set was evenly matched until Djokovic pounced in the seventh game, breaking a tired Murray to love before holding on from there to complete the victory, forcing one final error from his opponent to convert match point.
Afterwards, Djokovic admitted the victory was a perfect start to the season.
"Definitely one of the best ways to start a year," he said.
"All the way, to the last shot, you never know with Andy. It's no strange occurrence for both of us to play three sets for three hours. It's a very physical battle. We're both going to need a little time to recover.
"To win here, against the biggest rival, is a dream start."