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By Chris Oddo | Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic played some amazing tennis to defeat Andy Murray in straight sets on Wednesday, but a controversial call got all the attention.

Photo: Christopher Levy

Andy Murray looked to finally be putting his best foot forward during Wednesday's Sony Open quarterfinal with rival Novak Djokovic, but when a controversial call didn't go his way late in the first set he stumbled, losing a 7-5, 6-3 decision to the Serb. With the victory Djokovic keeps his bid to become the first man since Roger Federer to claim the Indian Wells-Miami double alive.

>>>How About Martina Navratilova as Andy Murray's Coach?

The controversy came late in the first set with both players looking to grab the momentum. When Djokovic reached over the net with his raquet to put away Murray's soft lob, there was some indecision as to whether or not the Serb had made contact with the ball on Murray's side of the net or whether he had simply gone over the net with his follow-through.

After a brief tête–à–tête at the net with Djokovic that left him unsatisfied, Murray proceeded to get broken at love for the set, and he was never the same again. (see video below – h/t @fortydeuce)

Later, Murray would say that Djokovic told him that he was over the net, alluding to the fact that his frustration was with the umpire who missed the call.

"For me, it's impossible to tell from where I was,” Murray said, “but I knew it was close. So that's why I went and asked Novak, and he told me he was over the net."

Djokovic, in an on-court interview with Brad Gilbert of ESPN after the match, admitted that he may have deserved to lose the point. “It might be my mistake,” he said afterward, before explaining that he wasn't exactly sure what the rule is (something that would ultimately lead to him being called out by ESPN's Darren Cahill on air for not knowing the rule).

Unlike Tuesday, when Djokovic eagerly conceded a point to Tommy Robredo in the second set of their round of 16 match, the Serb was in no mood to incriminate himself during his close match with Murray (in his defense, he appeared to be unclear about whether or not he had done anything against the rules). He deferred to the umpire, who ruled in favor of Djokovic.

"I'm going to be completely honest with you," Djokovic told reporters after the match, "I did pass the net with my racquet and I told Andy that. I told him that I did not touch the net. My bad. I thought that it's allowed, to cross, you know, the racquet on his side without touching the net."

Replays later showed that Djokovic had clearly made contact with the ball on Murray's side of the net, but by then Murray was already in the process of quickly getting broken to love to lose the set, and more important, his frustration with the incident appeared to carry over.

In the second set Murray would find himself up a break at 3-2, but he haphazardly dropped the final four games of the match to Djokovic, losing for the 12th time in 20 career matches against his rival and friend.

Murray will drop to No. 8 in the rankings after failing to defend his Miami title, but last year's Wimbledon champion feels that he isn't far from where he needs to be after spending the first three months of the season searching for his form on the heels of the back surgery that ended his 2013 campaign.

“I think my game is just about there,” Murray told reporters. “It's not far off. I had many opportunities today, like 30-all games and love-30s on his serve, and I didn't serve so well when I went ahead in the second set. I would have liked to have done that better, but, I mean, I was hitting the ball better from the back of the court. I was playing aggressive. I was taking the ball early. I was trying to come forward a bit. And, yeah, my game is not far from where I want it to be.”

Djokovic will move on to face Kei Nishikori, who defeated Roger Federer, in the semifinals. He is two matches from becoming just the third player in tennis history to win the Indian-Wells-Miami double twice.


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