KEY BISCAYNE (AP) — Andy Murray erased a championship point Sunday and rallied past David Ferrer 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1) in a grueling, dramatic final at the Sony Open.
One point from defeat in the last set, Murray skipped a forehand off the baseline to stay in the match. He then dominated the tiebreaker, while Ferrer appeared to cramp and collapsed to the court after one long exchange.
The match was filled with grinding baseline rallies, including at least a dozen of more than 20 strokes and one lasting 34. Murray and Ferrer dueled for 2 hours, 45 minutes, and as a result, the 11:30 a.m. start on Easter turned out not to be early enough for CBS.
The network cut away from the final when it went to the tiebreaker, switching to the tipoff of the NCAA tournament game between Michigan and Florida. Tennis Channel televised the end of the match, and CBS later showed a replay of match point.
“We stayed with tennis as long as we could,” a CBS spokeswoman said.
Tournament director Adam Barrett said CBS officials had a commitment to show the basketball.
“They stayed with our match for as long as possible, forgoing their pre-NCAA tournament coverage and delaying the start of the Michigan-Florida tipoff in an attempt to complete its broadcast of the match,” Barrett said in a statement. “Although we wish the match could have been shown in its entirety, we understand that these situations do arise.”
CBS viewers missed a dramatic finish. Murray became the first Key Biscayne men’s champion to save a championship point.
“Both of us fought as hard as we could, both struggling physically at the end,” Murray said. “I just managed to come through.”
Murray also won the title in 2009. His path to this year’s championship was made easier because Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal skipped the tournament and Novak Djokovic lost in the fourth round.
Murray made a breakthrough last year by winning an Olympic gold medal and his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open. He’ll now move ahead of Federer to No. 2 in the rankings behind Djokovic.
The No. 3-seeded Ferrer, who was seeking the biggest title of his career, fell to 0-13 against top-five players in finals. Spaniards are 0-6 in the Key Biscayne men’s final, with Nadal losing three of those matches.
But Murray sang the praises of Ferrer, a frequent practice partner.
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Murray said. “Every time I play against him, people expect me to win. I say it’s so tough against him. He has a great attitude and is a great fighter.”
Murray lives 15 minutes from the tournament site, near downtown Miami, and trains in South Florida. But the sellout crowd was firmly behind Ferrer.
“Playing here in Miami is like when I play in Spain,” Ferrer said during the trophy ceremony.
“I’m sorry,” he added, managing a chuckle. “I’m so sorry. One point. Next time.”
Playing in sunny, 80-degree weather, Murray and Ferrer both appeared drained in the third set, which started with six consecutive service breaks.
Murray was a point from defeat serving at 5-6. When he hit a forehand on the line, Ferrer stopped to challenge the call. A weary Murray leaned on his racket while replay confirmed the ruling to make the score deuce.
“That’s the beauty of the challenge system,” Murray said. “In some matches, it would have been over. Luckily it just dropped in.”
He won the game to hold two points later, then raced to a 4-0 lead in the tiebreaker. At 4-1, a 28-stroke exchange ended with Ferrer pulling a backhand wide, and he then crumbled to the concrete, apparently from leg cramps.
Ferrer limped through the final two points. When Murray hit a return winner for the victory, he quickly dropped his racket, eager to call it a day. The two exhausted finalists then met at the net to trade pats on the back.
The final match of the men’s tournament was the longest.
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