MIAMI: Former world number one Novak Djokovic defeated reigning Wimbledon champ Andy Murray 7-5, 6-3 to book his semi-final berth at the Miami ATP Masters.
The 26-year-old Serbian recovered from an early break in the second set to notch the victory in one hour and 29 minutes on the hardcourts at Crandon Park.
It was the first meeting between the two since Murray defeated Djokovic in the Wimbledon final to become the first Briton since Fred Perry in 1936 to win the All England Club’s men’s singles title.
“I tried to move him around, change the pace of the ball, mix it up with the slice, with different depth, angles and just stay tough out there,” Djokovic said. “Our styles are quite similar. We are same generation. We know each other’s game very well.
“I was ready for long rallies. I was ready for physical match.”
Djokovic, going for back-to-back Masters titles after his triumph at Indian Wells, next faces either Swiss fifth seed Roger Federer or Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who were playing later Wednesday. He beat Federer in a blockbustre final to take the Indian Wells tournament last week.
The second seeded Djokovic also won this title in 2011 and 2007. He was runner-up in 2009.
Djokovic hammered seven aces and broke Murray three times and is now 12-8 lifetime against Murray, including a 3-1 record in Miami.
Djokovic settled into the match quickly and when he did lose his concentration he used his strong serve to rescue the points.
In the second set, Murray broke Djokovic in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. In the next game he double faulted twice and Djokovic went on to win four straight games to wrap up his ninth consecutive win.
Murray, who underwent back surgery on September 23, struggled for consistency sometimes on his backhand in the windy conditions. Other times he moved well enough to keep Djokovic on his back foot.
“I had many opportunities today like 30-all games and love-30s on his serve, and I didn’t serve so well when I went ahead in the second set,” said Murray.
“I would have liked to have done that better, but I was hitting the ball better from the back of the court. I was playing aggressive. I was taking the ball early. I was trying to come forward a bit. My game is not far from where I want it to be.”
Serving and down 5-6 in the first set, Murray thought Djokovic’s racquet was over the net when Djokovic hit a winner. Murray argued with the umpire but couldn’t get the call reversed.
“I was right to complain and that’s it. I was correct,” said Murray, who went on to drop his serve. “It is a hard one for the umpire to call. That’s just frustrating.”
Djokovic says he thought the shot was legal as long as he didn’t touch the net. He says he now knows better.
“I did pass the net with my racquet and I told Andy that,” Djokovic said. “I told him that I did not touch the net.
“My bad. I thought that it’s allowed, to cross, you know, the racquet on his side without touching the net. That’s why I thought I won the point.
“I did not know that the rule is that I’m not allowed to cross the net. That’s all I can say.”
Djokovic said he apologized to Murray at the end of the match when they shook hands at the net.
“It might be the turning point, might not. Anyway the match is over,” Djokovic said. “Now that I know differently I am going to know for the future.”
Two other quarter-finals will be played Thursday, when current world number one and three-time Miami runner-up Rafael Nadal takes on Canadian Milos Raonic and seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych meets 22nd-seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov.