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Djokovic beats Murray to successfully defend Qatar title

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) Novak Djokovic successfully defended his Qatar Open title by beating top-seeded Andy Murray 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in the final on Saturday.

The dramatic match showcased the best of men’s tennis for 2 hours, 54 minutes. Djokovic needed four match points – three in the second set and one in the third – to prevail. He was also fortunate not to be defaulted for accidentally hitting a woman in the stands with a ball hit in anger.

“Best scenario I could ask for for beginning of the season,” Djokovic said.

“Playing all five matches in this tournament and then three hours against No. 1 of the world, (my) biggest rival, and winning in a thrilling marathon match is something that definitely can serve as a positive incentive for what’s coming up in Australia.

“It’s only the beginning of the season, so we had a little laugh at the net actually about it. We both felt like if every match we’re going to play against each other is going to be this way this season, we’re going to have a fun time.”

Murray’s loss ended his 28-match winning streak that dated to Sept. 18.

Djokovic had three match points in the 10th game of the second set, but couldn’t prevent Murray from making it 5-5 and eventually winning the second set.

Murray finally capitalized on his fourth break point – second in that 10th game – with an inside out forehand winner.

Despite going up 0-30, Murray wasn’t able to come up with the same magic when Djokovic served for the match a second time at 5-4 in the third set. Murray also failed to take advantage of a break point in the sixth game of the set.

“Physically, it was a good test to start the year,” Murray said. “My body feels all right just now, so that’s positive.

“Still think there are things I can do better. I wasn’t that clinical on break points this week, which maybe that comes with playing a few more matches.”

Djokovic’s frustration got the better of him twice, which caused umpire Carlos Bernardes to hand the Serb two warnings, including the loss of a point on the second warning.

The second warning resulted when Djokovic smashed his racket in frustration at 40-30 to end the 11th game of the second set prematurely.

The first warning came in the sixth game of the first set. Annoyed at losing a point, Djokovic angrily smacked a ball to the ground that accidentally flew into the stands and hit a woman. While that could have resulted in a default, Bernardes just issued Djokovic a warning.

“I definitely didn’t want to hit the ball at anybody,” Djokovic said. “Just happened. Fortunate not to get a bigger fine. I have to be more careful I guess. I accept that I made a mistake. It was not intentional at all.”

The top-ranked Murray has lost all 20 matches he’s played against Djokovic when he’s lost the first set.

Overall, Djokovic held a 25-11 career record over Murray.

“Playing against Andy, somehow it feels like playing the mirror image of (me) because we have very similar styles of game,” Djokovic said. “I can’t recall out of the 35-plus matches how many were kind of one-sided really. Most of the matches we play it’s always going down to the very last few points to decide the winner.”

Murray won their last encounter 6-3, 6-4 in the ATP Finals in November. That victory catapulted Murray ahead of Djokovic to the year-end No. 1 ranking for the first time.

Murray recalls shingles struggle after Australian Open exit

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Top-seeded Andy Murray said Sunday he is back to his best ahead of the Dubai Tennis Championships after recounting his struggles with shingles following his early exit from the Australian Open last month.

Shingles is a common, painful skin rash.

“I was a bit sick for 10 days, a couple of weeks, after I got back from Australia,” said Murray, who will play Malek Jaziri of Tunisia in the first round in Dubai. “I feel fresh and ready to go here.

“I had shingles,” he added. “It’s not terrible, but it’s not great. I had to go easy for a little while, so I wasn’t able to push that hard in training when I got back into it. But I’m fine now and have been training flat out the last two weeks.”

Murray said he’s not sure if the illness had already started developing while he was playing in the Australian Open.

The British top-ranked player was upset in a four-set, fourth-round encounter with Mischa Zverev at the first major of the year.

“I didn’t play particularly well at the Australian Open,” Murray said. “I started to play a bit better as it went on, but not as well as I would’ve liked.”

This marks Murray’s sixth career appearance at the Dubai tournament. His best result was reaching the 2012 final where he lost to Roger Federer.

Tsonga wins all-French final at Open 13

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MARSEILLE, France (AP) Second-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won a second title in as many weeks by defeating fellow Frenchman Lucas Pouille 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Open 13 on Sunday.

The 11th-ranked Tsonga put on a nearly flawless performance on his serve to win his 14th career title at the indoor event. Tsonga hit seven aces, dropped only three points on his first serve and did not face a single break point.

The former Australian Open runner-up broke once in each set and added a third Marseille trophy to his collection after victories in 2009 and 2013.

Tsonga, who defeated defending champion Nick Kyrgios in the semifinals, captured the Rotterdam title last week to end a two-year trophy drought.