Murray beaten by Djokovic at Madrid Masters
Defeat sees Scot slide to third in the world, but he will take heart from epic clash ahead of Roland Garros
Andy Murray has lost his number two world ranking after yet another bruising defeat at the hands of Novak Djokovic at the Madrid Masters.
The Scot could not defend the title he won last year, which means he loses ranking points and falls behind Roger Federer, even though the Swiss did not play in Spain due to injury.
Defeat in the final would not have come as a surprise. Murray has beaten Djokovic only once in 13 meetings since his Wimbledon triumph in 2013.
Victory gave the Serbian his 64th career title, putting him level with Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras. Murray's record against Djokovic now reads won nine, lost 23.
Despite that, "there were distinct signs that the Scot is not far away from beginning to redress the balance after making the world number one fight as hard as he has ever done to claim victory", says Barry Flatman of The Times.
"Perhaps a scoreline of 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 is not the perfect illustration of an engrossing struggle that was fought over more than two hours. However, a closing game that stretched over 14 minutes, featured two match points for Djokovic and seven break points for Murray saved, and immensely tested the inner resolve of both players, was a sporting contest good enough to rate as one of the finest this year."
The French Open now looms – the only grand slam Djokovic has never won and his "struggles to land this one elusive title have become a saga to match anything written by the Celtic bards", says Simon Briggs of the Daily Telegraph. The quality of the clash in Madrid whets the appetite for Roland Garros, where Djokovic was beaten by Stan Wawrinka in the final last year.
By the time the tournament begins on 16 May, Murray is likely to have reclaimed second spot in the rankings from Federer and will hope to be seeded second, meaning he will not have to face his Serb rival unless they meet in the final.
Federer is defending 600 points at this week's tournament in Rome and will need to reach the final to do so. Murray, on the other hand, only won 90 points at the event last year and will improve on that if he goes past the second round.