Andy Murray celebrated his birthday in style by beating Novak Djokovic 6-3 6-3 in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final in Rome.
Murray, turning 29 and the first Briton to win the Italian crown in the Open era, was in scintillating form against world number one Djokovic, who had won 12 of his 13 matches against the Scot since the 2013 Wimbledon final.
Four-time champion Djokovic was second best against Murray, who beat the Serb for the first time on clay and clinched his 12th ATP Masters 1000 title.
Murray needed less than an hour to overcome Frenchman Lucas Pouille in his semi-final on Saturday, while Djokovic required more than three hours to see off Japan’s Kei Nishikori in a game which finished at 11.13pm local time.
Unsurprisingly Murray made the better start, forcing a trio of break chances in Djokovic’s first service game that he was denied.
But with rain threatening at Foro Italico, Djokovic was off target with a backhand two games later and Murray, who returns to world No 2, broke to lead 3-1 lead.
Djokovic beat Murray in last week’s Madrid Open final to lead the pair’s head-to-heads 23-9, but failed to adapt to the slippery conditions as well as his inspired opponent, who opened up a 5-2 lead before wrapping up the opening set 6-3 in 46 minutes with a brilliant forehand drop shot.
Murray fired 11 winners in the opening set and began the second in similar vein with the confidence to open up with his full repetiore of shot-making that had Djokovic, bidding for his 30th ATP Masters 1000 title, on the backfoot.
The British No 1 broke Djokovic again in the fifth game of the second set and a superb overhead backhand volley helped him hold serve in the next game to go 4-2 up.
Djokovic, who would have passed the $100m-mark in prize money with victory, looked weary after his late-night triumph against Nishikori and continually conveyed his displeasure at the conditions with several stares and expletive exchanges with the umpire.
He held serve to trail 4-3 in the decider, but was broken again by a rampant Murray, who claimed the second set 6-3.