Wednesday 17 January 2018

Novak Djokovic continues Australian dominance after Andy Murray collapse

Andy Murray looks on as Novak Djokovic holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after he won the 2015 Australian Open at Melbourne Park
Andy Murray looks on as Novak Djokovic holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after he won the 2015 Australian Open at Melbourne Park

Andy Murray suffered more Melbourne misery at the hands of Novak Djokovic on Sunday, losing the pair's third Australian Open final with a late collapse.

After the first two sets were split in two hours and 32 minutes, Murray looked to be in command against an ailing Djokovic when he broke for a 2-0 lead in the third.

However, from then on the 27-year-old Scot won just one of the next 13 games as a rejuvenated Djokovic raised his game to secure a fifth Australian Open title and eighth grand slam crown with a rollercoaster 7-6 (7/5) 6-7 (4/7) 6-3 6-0 win in three hours and 39 minutes.

Murray, who also lost to Roger Federer in the 2010 final, said: "I would like to congratulate Novak on his fifth Australian Open, a fantastic, incredible record and thoroughly deserved, so well done.

"It's probably my most consistent grand slam throughout my career, I've just not been able to win but the support I've had has been amazing.

"I'd also like to thank my team. We put in a lot of hard work to try and get back in this position after a difficult year last year and unfortunately could not quite do it tonight, but I am little bit closer than I was a few months ago I and I will keep working hard to get there.

Novak Djokovic celebrates during his men's final victory over Andy Murray at Melbourne Park.
Novak Djokovic celebrates during his men's final victory over Andy Murray at Melbourne Park.

"I will try and come back next year and hopefully have a slightly different outcome in the final."

Djokovic was twice a break up in the opening set and served for it at 5-3, only for Murray to battle back and force a tie-break.

The Scot led 4-2 before serving a crucial double fault and a forehand volley which sailed just beyond the baseline allowed Djokovic to convert his first set point as Murray netted a backhand return after 72 minutes.

Djokovic beat Murray in the final here in 2011 and 2013 and had won their last four matches, while Murray was looking to become the first man in the open era to win the title after losing three finals and had never beaten Djokovic after losing the first set.

The top seed was struggling with his footwork and appeared to have injured his ankle in the first game of the second set, so much so that he made a signal to his box that could have been interpreted as meaning "it's over".

The 27-year-old was moving "like a newborn horse" according to TV commentator Jim Courier and Murray took advantage to break for a 2-0 lead, only to immediately lose his serve as he dumped a forehand into the net.

From looking in real trouble Djokovic suddenly sprang to life and, after holding serve, broke Murray to love and held serve again to make it four games in a row.

A double fault from Murray then made it 13 points lost in a row but he held serve to trail 3-4 before play was disrupted by two protesters jumping onto the court and others unfurling a banner which read 'australia open for refugees'.

The protesters were swiftly removed and security personnel surrounded the players, but the delay seemed to work in Murray's favour as he came out and broke serve to get back on level terms.

Djokovic had to save a set point at 4-5 and Murray three break points in the next game but eventually another tie-break was required and Murray raced into a 5-2 lead before taking it 7-4.

Djokovic won the longest grand slam final in history here in 2012, defeating Rafael Nadal in a match lasting five hours and 53 minutes, but again looked exhausted at the start of the third set.

Murray took advantage to break in the opening game but soon squandered the advantage as he appeared distracted by Djokovic's fluctuating physical condition, shouting: "Don't worry about him, he does it all the time" at his box.

Djokovic had Murray screaming at himself again when he fell 0-40 down on serve and although the Scot saved the first break point, a double fault on the second gifted Djokovic a 5-3 lead.

The world number one had previously wasted such chances but made no mistake this time, serving out to take the set after 39 minutes and a two sets to one lead.

The momentum was firmly with Djokovic and he broke serve in the opening game of the fourth set as Murray suddenly began to look seriously fatigued.

Djokovic sensed his chance and pounced on a weak Murray second serve to put away a backhand return winner for a second break and 3-0 lead.

A fifth Australian Open title was now firmly in the Serbian's hands - only Roy Emerson, with six, has won more - and a disheartened Murray lost his serve for the third time to trail 5-0.

And there was no way back for Murray as Djokovic served out to complete a victory that had looked in doubt for so long.

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