Djokovic and Murray set the tone in a new tennis rivalry

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If this was a taste of things to come in 2017 then tennis fans are in for a real treat.

Novak Djokovic ended Andy Murray’s 28-match unbeaten run after a captivating near three-hour struggle under the lights in Doha Saturday to retain his Qatar Open crown.

The 6-3 5-7 6-4 scoreline tells only half the story as No.1-ranked Murray saved three match points when Djokovic served for the match in the second set before forcing the decider.

The quality of tennis in that second set was breathtaking and Murray, who beat his Serbian rival to win the ATP World Tour Finals at the end of last season, then looked favorite to come out on top again.

Britain’s Andy Murray produced stunning tennis to claw his way back into the match at one set all in Doha.

But Djokovic, who needed treatment for a bleeding finger, dug still deeper and after coming under intense pressure from the Scot on his own service crucially broke to lead 4-3.

Serving for the match at 5-4, Djokovic fell 0-30 down, but retrieved the situation and closed out the match on his fourth championship point.

Djokovic, who had produced an escape act of his own to save five match points against Fernando Verdasco in the semifinals, was pleased to return to his best after a disappointing finish to 2016 which saw him lose his top ranking to Murray.

“It means a lot to me because in the last three months of last season I did not feel confident like that,” Djokovic told Eurosport.

“To start the year like that is a dream start,” he added.

It was the 29-year-old’s first title since the Rogers Cup in Canada last July and he will go to Australia for this defense of the first grand slam title of the season in fine fettle.

Murray, who will retain his No.1 ranking, was beaten by Djokovic in the Australian and French Open finals in 2016 before winning Wimbledon, Olympic gold and the ATP end-of-season showpiece event in London to go to No.1 in the world for the first time.

He has yet to beat Djokovic in a three-set match after losing the opening set, but was pleased with his overall performance in becoming the first man to reach the final in Qatar four times.

“It was a great way to start the new year, playing like that,” he said at the trophy presentation.