KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — As a dramatic men’s final at the Sony Open neared its conclusion in a winner-take-all tiebreaker, Andy Murray waged a 28-shot exchange with David Ferrer, who was left so exhausted by the rally he crumpled to the court.
CBS viewers missed it. They also missed seeing Murray accept the trophy after he erased a championship point Sunday and rallied past Ferrer 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1).
An 11:30 a.m. start on Easter turned out not to be early enough for CBS. The network cut away when the final went to the tiebreaker, switching to the tipoff of the NCAA tournament game between Michigan and Florida.
“It’s obviously a shame that people didn’t get to see the end of what I think was a pretty exciting match,” Murray said. “But that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
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.
The final was filled with grinding baseline rallies, including at least a dozen of more than 20 strokes and one lasting 34. At 2 hours, 45 minutes, the match was the longest of the men’s tournament, and the end ran a few minutes past the scheduled start of Michigan-Florida.
Sony Open tournament director Adam Barrett said CBS officials had a commitment to show 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.”
Coincidentally, the Sony Open’s contract with CBS expires this year. The tournament does not yet have a signed TV deal for 2014.
While the basketball game turned out to be lopsided, with Michigan winning 79-59, the tennis couldn’t have been closer. Murray became the first Key Biscayne men’s champion to save a championship point.
One point from defeat in the last set, the Scotsman skipped a forehand off the baseline to stay in the match. Ferrer appealed the call but lost, and he battled leg cramps in the tiebreaker.
“I don’t think either of us played our best tennis,” Murray said. “There was a lot of breaks and ups and downs, quite a lot of mistakes from both of us. But what I did do was fight hard.”
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 has a home 15 minutes from the tournament site, near downtown Miami, and spends three months a year 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 to a roar from his rooters.
“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 were both drained in the third set, which started with six consecutive service breaks.
“It was so tough physically and mentally that you were just trying to play each point,” Murray said.
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 panting 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 grinding exchange ended with Ferrer pulling a backhand wide, and he then collapsed to the concrete from 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 finalists then met at the net to trade weary pats on the back.