© AFP/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic retains his Doha crown.

Djokovic: Best Scenario I Could Ask For To Start Season

Serbian notches 67th tour-level crown in Doha

Revenge was sweet for Novak Djokovic on Saturday at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. Just six weeks removed from relinquishing the year-end No. 1 throne and ATP Finals title to Andy Murray, the Serbian notched a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory in the Doha final.

Djokovic successfully defended his title in the Qatari capital, improving to an impressive 20-0 against his rival when winning the first set. After watching Murray wrestle away the top spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings, the World No. 2 was eager to make an early statement to open 2017.

"Best scenario I could ask for at the beginning of the season," said Djokovic. "Playing all five matches in this tournament and then three hours against the No. 1, 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.

"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."

The final was a thrilling exhibition of power and defensive prowess, with Djokovic and Murray exchanging bludgeoning blows from the baseline. The Serbian and the Scot took their rivalry to the next level last year and it continued soaring in their first encounter of 2017. Djokovic now leads the FedEx ATP Head2Head 25-11, but he acknowledges that the gap is narrowing.

"You might as well put a lot of hours in training and recovery, because every single point is a rally," Djokovic added. "I did not expect anything else, to be honest. I knew that the only way to win against Andy is to work your way through him basically.

"He's such a great defender and he is fighting so much and always gets the ball back. All the way to the last shot I didn't know if I won the match. It was really, really thrilling performance from both of us. Just a great way to start the year.

"Every match we play is a huge challenge. You have to accept it and expect a great battle. Whether it's a 250 or 1000 event or a Grand Slam final, it doesn't change much, to be honest. You saw tonight how much we both wanted to win. Playing against your biggest rival always adds a little bit more flavour to the game and to the match."

Djokovic will next head to Melbourne Park for the first Grand Slam of the year at the Australian Open. He is looking forward to reuniting with two other longtime rivals - Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The Swiss and the Spaniard are returning to action after injuries hampered their 2016 campaigns.

"Tennis missed them," Djokovic said. "We missed them, to be honest. Because these guys are legends of our sport. They are the guys that have done so much for the game on and off the court.

"They are stars. Anywhere they show up, people love them. They're very important assets to our game. It's great to have both of them back and to have Andy and myself and Wawrinka, of course everybody playing after a long time at the one Grand Slam together. I'm looking forward to competing with these guys and to see them. We'll see what happens."

More stories like this in: