Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic made an immense statement in his bid to rule men’s tennis again when he defeated Andy Murray, the man who deposed him as world number one, 6-3 5-7 6-4 in an epic Qatar Open final in Doha on Saturday.

Looking back to near his peerless best at times in a game of searing quality, the Serbian missed out on three match points and had to repel a roaring Murray comeback before ending the Briton’s 28-match, five-tournament winning streak.

In their first meeting since Murray won their season-ending climax at the ATP World Tour finals, the Briton ran into a rejuvenated Djokovic who, despite having problems with his racket hand and receiving two warnings for his behaviour, prevailed thrillingly in their 36th contest.

The world number two said it was “the dream start” to 2017 in his build-up to the defence of the Australian Open title later this month and defeat provided food for thought for Murray, who lost for the 25th time against his old rival.

“It was close, a very physical battle. All the way to the last shot, you never know with Andy. It’s no strange occurrence for us to play three sets for three hours,” Djokovic told Eurosport.

“It means a lot. For the last three months of 2016, I haven’t felt that confident on court and didn’t play that consistent. But to start 2017 with a win over the world number one and my biggest rival was a dream start so I’m hoping I can get the best out of it.”

Djokovic had looked out of sorts as he struggled to tame Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in Friday’s semi-final and he started inconsistently again, also requiring treatment to a bleeding right thumb in the third game.

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