Andy Murray mows down Novak Djokovic

AP

A Masters Series event, it is considered the biggest title outside the four Grand Slams, and Murray's calm and carefully constructed performance was initially more than good enough and eventually just about good enough to live up to the accolade. By Richard Jago.

Andy Murray, taking the final by the scruff of the neck and then letting it worryingly slip before grabbing it back with a startling finishing fivegame sequence, won the biggest title of his career by beating Novak Djokovic in the Sony Ericsson Open final.

A Masters Series event, it is considered the biggest title outside the four Grand Slams, and Murray's calm and carefully constructed performance was initially more than good enough and eventually just about good enough to live up to the accolade. But sharp changes of fortune, caused perhaps by the blazing heat, by a brief distraction while Djokovic saw the trainer and by some attendant swings in self-belief, maintained uncertainty and excitement right till the end of his 6-2, 7-5 triumph.

"The conditions were difficult, run ning around was tricky," Murray said. "He came to the net more in the second set and I lost my timing a little bit, but I found it again at the end."

He is the first man to win three titles this year, and has equalled Tim Henman's achievement of 11 titles at age, 21 years and 11 months, when Henman had not yet won any. Murray was also the first British player ever to win the title in Miami. Asked if that was satisfying, he said: "No, not really," which brought laughter.

"It's not about Britain all the time for me," he said. "If Tim (Henman) and Greg (Rusedski) never got to No. 3, it's not about that either. It's about wanting to win the biggest titles in the world."

Two years ago Murray was swamped for the loss of only one game by the Serb. The fact that the bookies made him favourite against the world No. 3 was further testimony to how far his game has developed.

Murray could not have got away to a quicker start, even though he had started quickly three times previously in this tournament. In less than a quarter of an hour he was 4-0 up and in little more than half an hour he had won the set.

Part of Djokovic's problem was that Murray had found a good way to return his best serves. Standing as far back as eight to 10 feet to receive, the Scot would move forward as Djokovic tossed the ball up, enabling him to move more quickly sideways while cutting down the angle of the serve, often taking the ball no more than three feet behind the baseline. Murray would also roll and slice the ball around patiently, waiting for Djokovic to make mistakes, overpress, or leave openings for counter-attacks.

But Djokovic broke back for 1-1 immediately after seeing the trainer about his knee, and began to attack more in the forecourt rather than from the baseline. Murray dropped serve for 1-3 and was twice within a point of going to 1-5, moments which were crucial for avoiding an exhausting three-set struggle.

Djokovic held a one-break advantage from 4-2, to 5-2, and 5-3 but when serving for the set and twice reaching set point, he faltered. Once Murray punished a second serve, and then Djokovic double-faulted.

The break back could not have been more exasperating for Djokovic. He appeared to have made a brilliant inside-out winner which clipped the sideline - only for Murray to appeal to Hawk-Eye, which showed the ball was a tantalising millimetre wide. That appeared to shake Djokovic's belief. When he served again, he did not win a point, twice getting caught at his feet as he came in, and once enduring a disruptive net cord against him.

Murray closed it out well, as if he had been made for this occasion. Djokovic charged forward at the end, finishing as he had begun the match, by over-hitting, and Murray received the triumph with the briefest of celebrations. He put his hands to his face, he threw sweat bands and his hat into the crowd and he pointed to his team and applauded. Then he sat down, as if this was, after all, what he expected. As if it were Grand Slam titles he really had in mind.

Murray now moves to within 170 points of Djokovic, with an excellent chance of overtaking him in the next two months of the clay court season, for the Serb has to drop 2,800 points from his ranking calculation, Murray only 520 points to lose. It would cause many people to celebrate him becoming the highest ranked Briton since rankings began 36 years ago - even if he is not one of them.