Old friends know all your secrets. And thus when Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray met in the final of the Australian Open on Sunday, it was expected to be a neck-to-neck fight. The duo, who were born a week apart and have been playing together and against each other since the age of 12, know each other’s game better than anybody else.
Both are great returners of serve, have a good backhand, an attacking forehand and are consistent with their serves.
Even though the Serb had won eight of their past nine matches, considering the way Murray had played throughout the tournament, spectators thronged to the stadium anticipating a thrilling contest between the former buddies.
The duo entertained fans with incredible tennis in the first two sets which lasted for 2 hours and 32 minutes. The crowd was on its feet sensing another gruelling five-hour long five-setter. In the latter part of the second set, Djokovic was seen struggling physically, not for the first time in the tournament. Murray made him stretch to his limits in the first two sets as a result of which he fell on the court multiple times.
But as he has done on numerous occasions in the past, Nole regained his composure and went for the kill at 3-3 in the third set, a point from where he went on to win nine successive games and eventually the match.
What initially looked like an intriguing contest ended in such a manner where one was left thinking what went wrong with Murray. While Djokovic displayed incredible mental strength to overcome precarious situation, his opponent was nowhere in the match in the last nine games.
After the match, Murray said he was distracted by Djokovic’s physical struggle on the court. "He was just ripping everything. Returns he was hitting on the baseline, this far from the line all the time. Once he got up a break, he just loosened up and was just going for his shots. I couldn't recover," Murray said at the post match conference.
In modern day tennis, when players are trying their best to improve their game, such a statement shows why despite having known Djokovic for over 15 years now, Murray isn’t close to being the player the Serb is today.
While Djokovic has a 5-0 record in the finals at the Rod Laver Arena, the Briton has lost all his four matches in the final. In total, Murray has now lost in six Grand Slam finals. The Scot, who was seeded sixth in the Australian Open, will find his way back as the World No. 4 on Monday. But he for sure, has once again left his fans baffled, who want to see him win more Majors rather than making it to the finals and watch another player lift the heavier trophy.
While he has all the shots in his repertoire, Murray possibly lacks the mental strength when it comes to raising the game in the business end of a crucial match. Djokovic, on the other hand, is extremely strong mentally, and it’s something which sets him apart from the rest of the lot. Just like he did against Stanislas Wawrinka in the semis, he raised his game in the final set even against Murray who was mere a spectator in the fourth set which he lost 0-6.
Djokovic is now behind stalwarts like Roger Federer (17), Rafael Nadal (14), Pete Sampras (14), Roy Emerson (12), Rod Laver (11), Bjorn Borg (11) and Bill Tilden (10) on the all-time grand slam leaderboard.
Though Djoker had already won seven titles, the eighth has to be extremely special as it’s his first as a father. The 27-year-old married long-time partner Jelena Ristic in July last year and the couple had their first child, Stefan, in October 2014.
While critics would continue to find the loopholes in Andy Murray’s game, it’s time for the Serb to relish the new title with his family.