Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (7-2), 6-3, 6-0 in a gruelling encounter that lasted 3 hours 39 minutes, winning his fifth Australian Open title after an emphatic encounter. The victory, his fifth in five Melbourne Park finals, means he becomes only the second player to win five Australian Opens, one behind the great Roy Emerson.
With the roof retracted from the Rod Laver Arena, it was the Serb who drew first blood, breaking the Murray serve in the fourth game before Murray fought back to break at 4-2 down, before Djokovic took a tumble, appearing to injure his right thumb. However, this didn’t dampen the quality of the match with both players striking the ball fantastically well, there was nothing to separate the pair so a tie-break was no surprise. In the breaker, despite two ‘mini-breaks,’ Murray was pegged back by his determined opponent who claimed the tie-break 7-5 as Murray netted a backhand.
The second set started with Murray breaking the Djokovic serve early on, as the Serb appeared to be marginally hampered by a troubled ankle. But as he always does, Novak fought back with four straight games, as the tension escalated, pushing the Scot to his limits. Again, Murray fought back to take the set to another tie-break, which he blitzed through to take it 7-2, levelling the match. Two pulsating sets had clearly taken their toll on the incredible athletes, with both evidently pushing one another to their absolute maximum, after an astonishing two and a half hours!
In the third, again Murray took a 2-0 lead but, yes you guessed it, Djokovic fought back! From this point onwards, it was all about the world number 1. The best it got for Murray from this point onwards was his solid service game to level the set at 3-3. However, Djokovic had the ascendancy and was not prepared to let it go; stepping it up gear after gear as the Scot allowed his mental deficiencies to get the better of him. This was an area of his game that improved dramatically under the guidance of former coach Ivan Lendl, but could this be creeping back in after the scrutinised appointment of Amelie Mauresmo last year? Djokovic continued to get better and better; hitting winner after winner, whilst making fewer errors. Murray did otherwise… From 3-3, there was only one man in the match. Djokovic wrapped up the third set with three straight games, taking it 6-3 in 39 minutes, putting himself just a set away from an eighth career grand slam.
By this point, Djokovic was cruising, with his opponent looking weaker and weaker as the match progressed. It was with little surprise, therefore, that the champion was able to wrap up the fourth set in little over 20 minutes, completing his work with a bagel set to end Murray’s hopes of a first Australian Open for the third time. Djokovic appeared incredibly pumped, yet still professionally collected, as he swept away the sixth seeds pathetic fourth set challenge on his path to lifting the Norman Brookes Cup once again. A rather pitiful end countered a pulsating start, resulting in a bit of an anti-climax, with the opening two sets suggesting the match had all the ingredients for an absolute classic.
Murray’s inability to overcome his mental struggles may continue to haunt him throughout his career as he looks to build upon his two grand glam titles. He will now rise up in the rankings, regaining his place in the top four once again. There will still be serious questions asked, though, as to how he allowed Djokovic to win 12 of the final 13 games of the match, ending a positive tournament in bitterly disappointing, all-too-familiar, circumstances. For the Serb, however, he moves onto eight grand slams, level with the likes of Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Fred Perry. Not a bad group to be amongst, especially considering the brilliance of rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both of whom had disappointing tournaments. Djokovic will surely now be looking towards Roland Garros – this may be his best shot at the grand slam that has eluded him thus far in his career. With Nadal far from 100%, he will be backing himself to complete the career grand slam – one would have to say that this is his best shot at the French Open, but never, ever write off the fighting spirit of Nadal.