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The 2 Best ATP World Tour Matches Of 2011

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Djokovic, Nadal© Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal contested an exhilarating final at the Sony Ericsson Open.

ATPWorldTour.com reviews the two best ATP World Tour matches of the year.

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2. Novak Djokovic d. Rafael Nadal, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), Miami Final
You know it’s been a special contest when the runner-up declares, "I was there fighting until the last point… nothing left in my body right now, so that's the sport. I love these kinds of matches." Those were the words of Rafael Nadal after falling to Novak Djokovic in an electrifying Sony Ericsson Open final, two weeks after also losing to the Serb in the BNP Paribas Open championship match.

Djokovic came from a set down and prevailed in a decisive tie-break to turn up the heat on the Spaniard in the battle for the No. 1 South African Airways ATP Ranking and improve to a 24-0 match record in 2011.

Appearing in his third Miami final, Nadal raced to a 5-1 lead, ending Djokovic’s streak of 41 consecutive service holds at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, and although Djokovic cut the deficit, Nadal held on to close out the opener in 57 minutes. The high intensity and level of play carried over into the second set, but it was Djokovic who upped the ante on his groundstrokes, creating a 3-0 advantage after saving a break point in the third game and going on to level the match.

Nadal and Djokovic received a standing ovation from the sell-out 14,625 crowd as an intense third set went to a tie-break, with neither player engineering a break point chance. After five successive mini-breaks, Djokovic took control as he established a 6-2 lead and after being denied on his first two match points, converted his third to win the Sony Ericsson Open for the second time in five years.

"It was one of the closest and best finals that I have played ever," said Djokovic. "I think it was a very high level of tennis today. I think everybody enjoyed it, even us playing. It was very close, and up to the last stroke we really didn't know which way it's going to go."

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Djokovic1. Novak Djokovic d. Andy Murray, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(2), Rome SF
After witnessing what we have labelled the best ATP World Tour match of the 2011 season, Bob Bryan felt compelled to tweet: "Just watched some of the greatest displays of shot-making & guts I have ever seen. Thank u @andy_murray & @DjokerNole. You are both champs."

It was in the semi-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia that Andy Murray came so close to ending Novak Djokovic’s then-37-match winning streak, but was ultimately denied by the Serb, who had simply forgotten how to lose.

Two of the best backhands in the game went head-to-head under the lights at the Foro Italico in an exhilarating semi-final defined by long, gruelling points. After losing serve three times to surrender the first set to an inspired Djokovic, Murray stationed himself behind the baseline, hurting Djokovic with his crisp ball striking and plentiful drop shots. The Scot, who came of age on clay in the 2011 European swing, levelled the match after breaking in the sixth game of the second set, and rallied from a 1-3 deficit in the decider to break for a 5-4 lead after excelling in the pair’s punishing exchanges.

However, when 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 point as the Scot double faulted. In the subsequent tie-break, Djokovic made Murray rue his missed opportunity as he stepped up a gear and claimed the dramatic victory in just over three hours.

"I’m one of the best closers in tennis and I very rarely, especially against the best players, lose matches when serving," lamented Murray, who would later go on to reach the Roland Garros semi-finals for the first time.

"Andy played a really good match tonight. He was unfortunate not to finish it out," said Djokovic. "It’s an amazing achievement... a great effort from both of us." The Belgrade native went on to stun defending champion Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the final.

Read Full Match Report | Watch Highlights 

Coming Wednesday: The Best Grand Slam/Davis Cup Matches of 2011

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