Djokovic dropped his serve twice in each set to lose 6-2, 7-5 in 82 minutes. He had his chances in the second set when Murray failed to serve out the match at 5-3, but the world No 1 could not capitalise, his erratic serve letting him down again at 6-5.
“I was fighting for it, but Andy played a great match,” Djokovic said. “He was the better player today. He was serving really well.
“I made a lot of unforced errors when it was important. But, look, this is sport. It’s normal that in some matches you can’t pull out your best when you need to.”
Djokovic never looked at his best and he decided to charge Murray at the net in the first set, but the ploy did not work. In the second set, he stayed back, but Murray, the man the Serb had defeated in an epic four hour and 50 minute Australian Open semi-final in January, had absolute control of the points.
“I tried to be more aggressive … because I didn’t feel really comfortable from the baseline,” he said. “I wasn’t really moving well; yeah, I didn’t have much rhythm.”
Dubai is the first tournament for both Murray and Djokovic after Melbourne and the world No 1 was looking for a record fourth consecutive title here.
“It’s been a great tournament here in Dubai,” Djokovic said. “I lost to somebody that’s a top player, top quality player. I move on. I take the best out of it and hope to play better next week.
“I am looking forward to Indian Wells and Miami [the two Masters events]. I think I have more than enough time to get ready for it.
“It’s just the start of the season, some 1,000 events coming up which are really important and I need to get ready.”
Meanwhile, the doubles final on Saturday will be contested between the Indian pair of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, and the Polish duo, Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski.
Bhupathi and Bopanna beat Julian Knowle and Alexander Peya, the Austrians, 7-6, 7-6. Fyrstenberg-Marcin Matkowski defeated the Israeli pair Jonathan Elrich and Andy Ram 6-4, 3-6, 10-4.