Melbourne: Andy Murray spent four hours to beat Roger Federer for the first time in a Grand Slam match. The Scot admitted that he would need decent rest to recover from the fractious finish in the semifinal if he is to take the Australian Open title away from Novak Djokovic Sunday.
Murray is bidding to become the first player since Lew Hoad in 1956 to win a second major title immediately after his maiden, which he secured against Djokovic four months ago in New York. But he had little time for history after surviving a physical and mental examination by Federer Friday night, reports Xinhua.
Djokovic just eased past David Ferrer in the semis. He has one more day of rest than Murray, who finished an emotional five-set win against Federer. There should be no excuses for Djokovic being the more tired player.
After Friday`s semifinal, tennis`s biggest rivalry no longer features the Swiss champion and injured Rafael Nadal. Instead, Djokovic versus Murray will determine the supremacy of the sport.
For the past few years, Djokovic and Murray had taken a backseat to the epic rivalry between Federer and Nadal. Things began to change as Djokovic roared ahead in 2011-12 as the top player in the world, defeating Nadal in three consecutive Grand Slam finals with their mini-rivalry.
By summer 2012, Djokovic held five Grand Slam titles and Murray still carried the title of the "best player never to win a major". Murray then took his career to new heights in the summer of 2012.
Though Murray lost a gritty four-set final to Federer at Wimbledon, he bounced back to defeat Federer for the gold medal at the London Olympics. He then prevailed in a five-set triumph against Djokovic at the US Open. He fought off windy conditions and held off his Serbian rival after dropping the third and fourth sets.
It was his first Grand Slam title and the perception about Murray had changed. Tennis fans now speak of a `Fab Four` instead of the `Big Three`.
It was also the official genesis of the new emerging rivalry: Djokovic vs Murray is now serving up an encore here to determine who will seize the first major of 2013. Djokovic still leads the head-to-head 10-7, with an 8-6 advantage on hardcourts. Murray has a 4-3 edge in finals.
History is on the line. Djokovic can win a fourth Aussie Open to tie Federer and Andre Agassi for the maximum in the Open era. He would be the new King of Australia and it would be his sixth Slam overall.
Djokovic learned how tough it was in 2012 to repeat his masterful dominance of 2011. He last won a Grand Slam title here a year ago. It`s been harder to hold onto his No.1 ranking but he wants to reassert the form that led him to three Slams in 2011; the Djokovic who had a 43-match winning streak and flirted with holding all four Slams.
He needs this title to take the clear advantage over Murray and Federer and to try and pull away from his rivals. A loss would drop him behind Murray in the eyes of the tennis world. It could signal a change of guard if Murray wins a second straight Slam. The Serbian must win this title to hold the undisputed claim as the best player.
On the other hand, a second straight Slam will remove all doubts to Murray`s status as a superstar. Though he trails in head-to-head, Murray can turn the corner here and set his sights on the No.1 ranking.