Nole downs Murray in thriller, faces Rafa in Rome finals!

Photo: AP

The Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic is still unbeaten in 2011!

No.4 seed Andy Murray got really close to ending Nole’s run, but the Serb prevailed in a thriller 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (2) on Saturday evening to progress into the finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, his seventh ATP final of the season.

The world no.2 started strong breaking Murray in the second game of the opening set. The Scot broke back immediately, but Nole converted two more breaks of serve in the fourth and sixth games, and served it out to 15 for 6-1.

Djokovic hit 11 winners to Murray’s 4, and made 8 unforced errors to the Brit’s 14.

The statistics pretty much changed in the second set in Murray’s favour. He was making less errors, while the level of Novak’s game dropped. Murray won the opening game to love closing it with an ace. A break in the sixth game was enough for the no.4 seed to take the set 6-3 and level the match up at one set all.

Djokovic broke his opponent’s serve in the fourth game of the decisive final set, but couldn’t keep the advantage. Murray fought back in the fifth converting his break point with a fantastic return and held to equalise the result to 3-3. The Brit made another break in the seventh game, but this time Nole broke back to level at 4-all. The 23-year-old Belgrade native was broken again in the ninth game, but he came back into the match when Murray double-faulted on a break point. The set went into a tie-breaker, Novak made two mini-breaks and won it 7-2.

“It’s an amazing achievement, a great effort from both of us,” Novak said in an on-court interview after the match. “Andy played a really good match tonight. He was unfortunate not to finish it out.”

The statistics show how close the match was: aces (4-6), double faults (2-4), winners (36-36), unforced errors (33-37).

Novak previously eliminated Poland’s qualifier Lukasz Kubot 6-0, 6-3, no.14 seed Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 6-1 and world no.5 Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-3, 6-0 en route to the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament finals.

Djokovic is off to the best start (36-0) since 1984 when John McEnroe went 42-0. He increased his overall winning streak to 38 wins in a row, dating back to last December’s Davis Cup final.

Nole will face world no.1 Rafael Nadal on Sunday at 4.15 pm. The Spaniard beat no.16 seed Frenchman Richard Gasquet 7-5, 6-1 earlier today.

“Obviously I’m a bit exhausted after this match but I’m going to do my best to recover for tomorrow,” the no.2 seed said. “It’s another final and I will just go out on the court and try to play my best.”

“Right now… he is the favourite, and probably he is playing a different league this year but we will see,” said Nadal. “If he plays better than me and he wins then I am going to go home another time and practise more and keep fighting to be ready for another match.”

Nadal leads their head-to-head 16-10, Djokovic won their last three encounters, finals of Indian Wells, Miami and Madrid 2011. The last victory is Novak’s first win over the Spaniard on clay.

Good luck Nole!

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