Novak Djokovic suffered his first loss of 2011 on June 3. His first defeat of 2012 came three months earlier.
The world No. 1 was defeated on Friday by Andy Murray, 6-2, 7-5, in a Dubai semifinal. It was his first loss since last season and only the fourth time since 2010 that he failed to make a tournament final of a main-draw tour event.
He was a three-time defending champion at the event.
Murray took command of the match early, earning an early break and cruising to an easy first-set win. He took a 5-2 lead in the second and looked well on his way to scoring his first true victory over Djokovic since Miami in 2009. But Djokovic evened the match at 5-5 and that 2011 feeling -- the one where Novak was invincible, even with his back against the wall -- was coming back.
But the world No. 4 put an end to it quickly. He held serve at 5-5, then broke Djokovic to win the match and advance to Saturday's final. He'll play the winner of Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro.
Djokovic made uncharacteristic mistakes throughout, sailing forehands, overplaying returns and looking sluggish on the court. Much of that was due to Murray's play. The Scotsman played the aggressor and found himself playing ahead in points as a result.
The late-winter victory is a change for Murray, who spent the last two post-Australian Open stretches reeling from tough losses in Melbourne. There were flashes of that Murray during his first-round struggle against Michael Berrer but no traces since.
Let's not get too excited though. Andy Murray is still Mr. 500/1000. Until he does this in a Grand Slam, consider our expectations curbed.
Ask for Djokovic, his goals are different than they were one year ago. Perfection in regular tournaments is a fine goal. Perfection in Grand Slams is a better one.