Novak Djokovic rejoices after beating Andy Murray in Saturday's final of the Qatar Open. It was Djokovic's 25th career victory over world No 1 Murray.
Wielding his racket like a magic wand, Novak Djokovic brought world No 1 Andy Murray's 28-match winning streak to an end in Doha on Saturday to retain the Qatar Open title in a three-set thriller.
Djokovic won 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in an action-packed match between the two best players in the world, lasting almost three hours.
It is Djokovic's 25th career victory over Murray and put down an early-season marker against his British rival before the Australian Open later this month.
Describing Murray as his "biggest rival", Djokovic said both players "dragged each other to our limits."
"Every match we play is a huge challenge; you have to accept and expect a great battle," he said.
"You saw tonight how much we both wanted to win.
"I had three or four match points in the second set, he turned it around and I thought: Wow! I hope this isn't payback time!
"He was close... all the way to the last shot, you never know with Andy."
Djokovic was penalized a point in the second set after destroying his racket as the tension mounted.
Despite going into the third set showing signs of frustration and weariness, he was able to claw away any momentum Murray had to secure his second straight title in Qatar and the $209,665 first prize.
A break of Murray's serve in the seventh game of the final set - when the Scot looked most likely to win - proved decisive.
Serving for the match, Djokovic secured the title on his fourth match point, having squandered three in the second set when Murray astonishingly recovered from 5-4 down and 40-15 to win three games in a row and force, at that point, an unlikely deciding set.
It was Murray's first competitive defeat since losing to Juan Martin del Potro in the Davis Cup in September.
In a typically cagey start between the pair, Djokovic landed the first blow with his only break point of the first set.
In the eighth game of the opener, he came back from 40-15 down to win four consecutive points and break Murray's serve.
Then, in the seventh game of the second set Djokovic broke Murray again despite falling over and banging his head during one rally.
It seemed to be the decisive blow, but Murray would not be easily brushed aside, rallying to take the game into the decider.
Murray said he was "obviously disappointed" to lose but was not too downbeat.
"I think physically it was a good test to start the year," he said.
He added that he lost having failed to capitalize on his chances.
"I had a break point at 3-2. In the last game I had love-30 on Novak's serve and played a couple of loose shots. I think I had the first break point in the first set as well, didn't get it.
"He had one and took it, that was the difference this evening."
Murray also dismissed any idea the defeat would have any impact in the forthcoming Australian Open.
Saturday's match was the first meeting between the pair since Murray beat the Serb at the ATP World Tour Finals in London in November, snatching Djokovic's No 1 ranking in the process.
It was also the 20th time Djokovic has beaten Murray after winning the first set.
Novak Djokovic said he did not intentionally hit a ball into the crowd during his Qatar Open final against Andy Murray, 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, who won the absorbing contest 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, told reporters he was unaware 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 behavior, the world No 2 said no, adding: "I definitely didn't want to hit the ball at anybody."
"I have to be more careful, I guess, in the future."
Djokovic said the consequences could have been far worse, in terms of the on-court penalty he received.
It is not the first time he has been involved in such an incident.
Last year at the French Open, the Serb admitted he was lucky not to be disqualified in his quarterfinal against Tomas Berdych.
During that match, frustrated at missing a break point, Djokovic went to smash his racket into the ground but it slipped out of his grasp, flying into a backwall.
Had it hit a nearby line judge, who was forced to take evasive action, Djokovic would have been automatically disqualified.