World number one Djokovic had lost only one of his previous 13 meetings with Murray, but was finally forced to settle for second best in the Italian capital as Britain’s number one produced some of his very best tennis to subdue an opponent who was still recovering from the exhausting effects of a three-hour semi-final on Saturday night.
It is hard when you play a night match, and have to come back the following day, but congratulations to Novak,” said Murray in acknowledging the physical demands placed upon his opponent to return so soon after such a hectic semi-final.
This was also a sweet measure of revenge for Murray, celebrating his 29th birthday, who played well in losing in three sets to Djokovic in the Madrid Masters final a week ago.
Amid the gloom of a rain-threatened final in Rome, Djokovic seemed stressed at times, but has a week to regroup before beginning his latest campaign in Paris.
Murray is the first British winner of the traditional Italian Open title since George Patrick Hughes defeated Henri Cochet in 1931. It is his 12th Masters title, and his second on clay after he overcame Rafael Nadal in Madrid a year ago.
Djokovic remains 23-10 clear of Murray in career head-to-heads, but Murray knows he can beat the Serbian player on any surface having previously suffered losses to him on clay in their previous four matches, including the semi-finals of the Rome Masters in 2011 and the French Open a year ago.