Djokovic is Australian Open favourite after beating Murray
Serb triumphs in first final of the year, but Murray will begin his quest for first Melbourne title as world number one
Novak Djokovic has overtaken Sir Andy Murray as favourite for this month's Australian Open after he beat the British world number one in the first men's final of the year at Doha.
The Serb beat Murray 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in just under three hours on Saturday to claim the title and gain revenge for his defeat at the ATP World Tour Finals last year.
It was an "immense statement in his bid to rule men's tennis again", says The Guardian. "Looking back to near his peerless best at times in a game of searing quality, the Serb let three match points slip and had to repel a roaring Murray comeback before ending the Briton's 28-match, five-tournament winning streak."
Murray will not be too downhearted by the result, although others on the circuit may be. "If Saturday's Doha final proved anything, it was how narrow the margins are between Sir Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. And thus, by extension, how tough this year could be for everyone else in the field," says Simon Briggs of the Daily Telegraph.
Some have declared "the reign of Sir Andy to be at an end, only two months after he snatched the throne in Paris", says Briggs. "But the bookmakers paint a more nuanced picture. Before Saturday, they had Murray fractionally ahead in the odds for next Monday's Australian Open. Now Djokovic is back in front – but only by a nose."
The Serb will have a "spring in his step" after beating his arch-rival and claiming his first title since July, but he cannot reclaim the world number one spot unless Murray fails to make the semi finals at the Australian Open.
"Murray may be disappointed that the longest winning streak of his career has come to an end after 28 matches, but this defeat will not have much of an impact on his mindset before another tilt at claiming an elusive Australian Open title," says Stuart Fraser of The Times. "He left Doha generally content with how he had performed in the first week of the new season and will spend this week training at Melbourne Park as he reunites with coach Ivan Lendl."