Murray Wins Cincinnati

August 3, 2008 06:41 PM

MASON, Ohio (AP) -- One point away from his first Masters series championship, Andy Murray let the moment get to him.

Britain's top player wasted four match points with an uncharacteristic show of sloppiness in the second set. Forced to play another tiebreaker, he pulled off the best shot of the game -- an in-the-corner backhand -- that set up a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) win over Novak Djokovic for the Cincinnati Masters title.

The 21-year-old Murray crouched in exultation when he finished it off, swatted a ball into the stands and hunched over, trying to catch his breath.

"At the end of the match, there were some long, long volleys that took a toll on both of us," Murray said. "Both of us were really tired."

His 2-hour, 22-minute victory ended a $2.6 million ATP Western & Southern Financial Group Masters that will be remembered more for what it did to the world rankings.

Rafael Nadal lost to Djokovic in the semifinals, but piled up enough rankings points during the week to finally wrest the No. 1 spot from Roger Federer in two weeks. Federer has led the rankings since Feb. 2, 2004, with Nadal right behind him for the last three years.

While the quest for No. 1 overshadowed the week, the world's third-ranked player had a week that's about as good as it gets -- until he met Murray for the second time in two weeks. Djokovic hadn't lost a set all week.

Last week, Murray changed tactics and beat Djokovic in the quarterfinals at Toronto, his first career win in five matches against the 21-year-old Serb. Murray got past his nerves and got the better of another close match.

Serving with a 5-3 lead in the second set, he wasted four match points, allowing an apparently down-and-out Djokovic to get back into it. Djokovic twisted his left ankle while planting for a shot, was moving tentatively and looked vulnerable.

Given those four reprieves, he forced it to the tiebreaker. They went back-and-forth on one point, running each other around the court until Murray put a crosscourt backhand right in the corner. Both players pulled up in near-exhaustion, and Djokovic patted his racket in applause.

Then, Murray finished him off.

It was a highlight of the best summer of Murray's career. He also reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon. When the next rankings come out on Monday, Murray will move up to No. 6, the best of his career.

It was something of a surprise for Murray, who has an abnormal right kneecap and was bothered by soreness and inflammation. It was so troublesome that he had a medical scan when he got to Cincinnati to start the week.

Reassured that there was no significant injury, Murray put together an all-around solid week. He was steady at returning serves -- he had broken his opponents 17 times in 40 games heading into the final. He also used a lot of ice, packing his troublesome right knee after each match to keep the inflammation down.

It worked.