Ten Years Later, Djokovic Proud Of Murray Rivalry
It was 10 years ago, on the indoor hard courts of the Madrid Arena, that a pair of 19-year-olds - World No. 17 Novak Djokovic and No. 19 Andy Murray - squared off for the first time on the ATP World Tour.
Already friends from their junior days, the Scot and the Serb would kick-start what would become a burgeoning rivalry. Djokovic rallied from a set down to take that initial encounter in the third round of the 2006 Mutua Madrid Open, and 10 years and 32 meetings later they would clash once again in the Spanish capital. Same match-up, same dramatic battle. Djokovic claimed an unprecedented 29th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown with a highly-entertaining 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Murray on Sunday and the top seed reflected on how far they have come.
"Ten years later, we are the two best players in the world," said Djokovic. "At that time maybe it seemed like something that will be very challenging for us to achieve. But we both strive to be at the top and we've known each other since we were 12. I think you can see already in those junior days that both of us have serious intentions to conquer the tennis world and try to make a serious mark."
"I'm very pleased that I have developed a great rivalry with somebody that I've known for a very long time and somebody that I have a very good and friendly relationship with on and off the court."
Their strong relationship was never more evident than midway through the third set on Sunday, with Djokovic serving up 4-2 30/30. The eventual champion received a time violation warning, to which Murray interjected, defending his longtime rival: "I was the one keeping him waiting. I made him wait. He was ready five seconds ago." The act of sportsmanship in such a critical moment revealed their mutual respect for one another and Djokovic was quick to point it out.
"It was truly something that is unusual, honestly, to see at the highest levels," Djokovic added. "I always like to look back at those moments and take that as a highlight rather than only results and rivalries and who wants to beat who more and stuff like this.
"I think it's nice to see in the midst of this important match that you're showing your human side and expressing your character values that unfortunately in this sports society are not seen often. I'm glad we have done that and send the right message to many young kids and tennis players."
Djokovic went on to extend his FedEx ATP Head2Head edge over Murray to 23-9, having claimed 12 of their previous 13 encounters. Another final encounter could be in the cards next week at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome, where they are the top two seeds once again.