Murray defends title at SAP Open

Defending champion Andy Murray won his second career ATP title, beating Ivo Karlovic's 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the SAP Open final on Sunday.

updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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San Jose, California:

Defending champion Andy Murray won his second career ATP title, neutralising Ivo Karlovic's big serve to win a thrilling SAP Open final 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (2) on Sunday. Murray proved to be the only player who had an answer for the difficult serve of the six-foot-10 Karlovic, who lost his serve only once in 51 games and had a tournament-record 87 aces heading into the final. Despite Karlovic's 26 aces on Sunday, Murray did an outstanding job on his return game in the final two sets, forcing Karlovic to hit more shots that he needed in previous matches. "He has the best serve in tennis. There's no question," third-seeded Murray said. "Guys can serve harder or more accurately but you just don't see a serve coming from that angle. He can hit spots in the court that guys can't even see. It's physically impossible for other guys to hit those spots." After losing the first-set tiebreaker and the opening game of the second set on his own serve, Murray rallied back. He closed the match with a 220-kph ace. After the match, Murray thanked coach Brad Gilbert, who joined his team last summer and has now coached three winners at this event, including Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi. "They've worked with me for seven months. It's been hard work," Murray said. "It hasn't always been fun but I've already been to two finals. It feels good to win it." Murray, ranked 13th in the world, is off to a fast start in 2007, finishing as runner-up in Doha and making the fourth round of the Australian Open before losing to Rafael Nadal. San Jose lucky Both of Murray's career titles have come in San Jose, where he also beat Lleyton Hewitt in a third-set tiebreaker a year ago. He also won a challenger event in nearby Aptos in 2005. "I don't think it's anything in particular," Murray said. "Maybe I've just been more lucky than in other tournaments." The key game in the match might have been the one just after Murray's serve was broken to open the second set. Karlovic had found his rhythm on his serve, winning 11 straight points. Murray forced Karlovic into two errors at the net with strong returns off second serves and then converted on break point with a backhand passing shot off a 215 kph (134 mph) first serve. "I've never played anybody like him. There's nobody else as big as him on the tour or anywhere near ... ," Murray said. "You just have to hang in. He's probably the best server in the game but he's not the best returner. So you have to focus on your service games and try and keep it tight. Once it gets close in a set anything can happen." Murray hit three straight forehand passing shots off second serves from Karlovic to close out the set. In the third, Karlovic saved one match point with a 232-kph-service winner at 5-6, but faltered in the tiebreaker. Murray won the last five points. "I thought I'm going to win," Karlovic said of his outlook heading into the game. "Maybe it was a little bit too early in my head. I started focusing on things that aren't important." Karlovic, ranked 103rd in the world, failed in his attempt to win his first career title but served notice that he is recovered from a knee injury that shut him down for much of the second half of last year. Karlovic beat three seeded players on his way to the final, No 2 James Blake, No 5 Mardy Fish and No 6 Benjamin Becker, serving 113 aces in the tournament. In his only previous final, he lost at Queen's Club to Roddick in 2005. This proved to be a big day in the Murray family. Andy's older brother, Jamie, teamed with American Eric Butorac to beat Chris Haggard and Rainer Schuettler 7-5, 7-6 (8) in the doubles final. The Murrays became the first brothers to win the singles and doubles titles at the same event since Emilio and Javier Sanchez at Kitzbuhel in 1989.