Monday 5 December 2016

Djokovic refuses to underestimate Murray ahead of Australian Open final

Published 30/01/2016 | 10:24

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland in their semifinal match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016.(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland in their semifinal match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016.(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Novak Djokovic knows how it feels to be on a losing streak in grand slam finals and he believes Andy Murray will be hungrier than ever on Sunday to win his first Australian Open.

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Murray is hoping to end a baron run of four defeats at the last hurdle in Melbourne, three coming at the hands of Djokovic and another against Roger Federer. But while Murray has only beaten the Serbian once in their last 11 meetings, he might take inspiration from his rival the other side of the net.

Djokovic lost five out of six major finals between 2012 and 2014, and the world number one is still yet to triumph at the French Open, losing his third final at Roland Garros to Stan Wawrinka last year.

"I've played him many times and been in the situation before where I haven't won specific tournaments," Djokovic said. "Like Roland Garros for example, against players like (Rafael) Nadal who were dominating there. So I understand the kind of desire and will to win that is present. But of course I don't underestimate him. No question about it.

"I have a tremendous respect and admiration for everything he's achieved in his career. He's one week older than me so we grew up together. We have very similar styles of game and a very similar trajectory to professional tennis, so it's nice to see that our rivalry keeps on going and we keep playing for the biggest titles."

Djokovic is gunning for his sixth Australian Open title and 11th overall while Murray is bidding to add to his triumphs at the US Open in 2012 and Wimbledon in 2013.

The odds favour the top seed, who was in irresistible form against Federer on Thursday and has lost only once in his last 34 grand slam matches. It is not inconceivable he could win all four major tournaments in 2016.

"When I hear predictions that are positive, of course it does flatter and add to your confidence," Djokovic said. "But you can't get carried away with that. It also imposes a great obstacle mentally in a way because you need to deliver. I'm expecting a battle with Andy, as it always is, a very physically demanding match. Lots of rallies, exchanges.

"It's no secret we know how we play against each other. It's two games that are very much alike, so it's basically who's going to outplay who from the baseline."

Murray's string of recent defeats against Djokovic do not tell the whole story. He was up a break in the third set in the final here 12 months ago and then outplayed the Serbian for a set and a half at the French Open. The key, he admits, is making those spells last.

"The most important thing for me is to sustain my level for long enough, not just for one set here or there, a few games here or there," Murray said. "I need to do it for a very long period if I want to get the win. That's my challenge on Sunday."

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