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Djokovic Lives To Fight Another Day

Rome, Italy

Djokovic© AFP/Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic was two points from defeat.

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic fought back from the brink to extend his remarkable winning streak to 38 matches as he defeated Great Britain’s Andy Murray 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(2) in an exhilarating semi-final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Saturday night. "It’s an amazing achievement... a great effort from both of us," Djokovic said in an on-court interview afterwards.

The Serbian was two points from defeat when Murray served for the match at 5-4 in the deciding set, but rallied to claw his way back and clinch victory in a tie-break and reach his seventh final of the season. "Andy played a really good match tonight. He was unfortunate not to finish it out," said Djokovic.

For the second week in a row, Djokovic will come up against Rafael Nadal in an eagerly anticipated final at the Foro Italico. Djokovic snapped Nadal’s 37-match unbeaten run on clay with victory over the Spaniard in the Mutua Madrid Open final. He also defeated Nadal in the finals of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami. "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."

It is the first time in ATP World Tour Masters 1000 history (since 1990) that the same pair of players will contest four finals in the year. Should he prevail, Djokovic would claim his ninth Masters 1000 trophy and become the first player to defeat Nadal in a title match four times in a row.

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In a re-match of the Australian Open final, a devastating display from Djokovic in the first set saw him break Murray three times to establish a commanding one-set lead. However, Murray remained composed and as his consistency from the baseline began to draw telling errors from Djokovic, he was able to break in the sixth game of the second set before going on to level the match.

In a pulsating third set, Djokovic quickly went up 3-1, but as the Serb began to show signs of fatigue, Murray pounced and reeled off three straight games to lead with a break at 4-3. As momentum swung between the two competitors, Djokovic found a second wind to hit back and level at 4-4, only to immediately surrender his serve again in a game where Murray excelled in punishing exchanges to break and lead 5-4.

Serving for the match Murray came within two points of victory four times, but could not engineer a match point and the resilient Djokovic converted his third break back point as Murray double faulted. In the subsequent tie-break, the Serb made Murray rue his missed opportunity as he stepped up a gear and raced to claim the dramatic victory in just over three hours.

The 23-year-old Djokovic will now look to reclaim the Rome title that he won in 2008 with victory over Stanislas Wawrinka. He also finished runner-up at the Foro Italico in 2009, losing out to Nadal in straight sets.

Murray, who celebrates his 24th birthday on Sunday, was the first British male to reach the semi-finals at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia since Pat Hughes in 1932. The Dunblane native was bidding to reach the final of an ATP World Tour clay-court event for the first time.

"I’m one of the best closers in tennis and I very rarely, especially against the best players, lose matches when serving," lamented Murray. "But I played a bad game and I made two double faults. It was good match and I had chances to win. He played very well in the first set and I did not really get into it. I think after that, especially towards the end of the second and third sets, there was some very good tennis.

"I can compete with those guys and I am going to need to play like that and even better if I want to win the French Open," added the Scot. "So I am going to work hard over the next 4-5 days to build up to it. This has given me confidence going in now. What happened tonight in terms of finishing the match off, it will not let me down. It is the first time it has happened to me and I’ll make sure it is the last."

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