Another Australian Open has come and gone, and just as it was in 2011 and 2012, the closing images were of Novak Djokovic lifting the trophy. The World #1 defeated Andy Murray 67(2), 76(3), 63 62 to capture his third consecutive title Down Under, which hadn't been done in the Open Era.
Djokovic looked like the better player in the first set by a slim margin, but it was the Scot who came through clutch in the tiebreak. At the start of the second, Murray had a 0-40 lead and a chance to stretch his lead, but he could not convert. That would prove to be costly as Djokovic ran away with the tiebreaker to even things up at one set all. After the tiebreak, Murray received a visit to the trainer, which would be a sign of what was to come
Djokovic and Murray are the two best returners in the game, but the match featured 31 consecutive holds before the Serb broke at 4-3 in the third. He'd go on to hold and took a one-set lead. Murray was struggling physically in the 4th set and Djokovic rode his momentum like a wave, en route to a pretty undramatic finish, unlike last year's 5 hour 53 minute final.
Djokovic confirmed that his best (and favourite) surface is the hard court on Rod Laver Arena. He did not drop serve in the final, and wasn't broken in the tournament after Tomas Berdych broke him in the second set of their quarterfinal clash. The final wasn't the cleanest of matches, as Murray hit 29 winners to 46 errors, while Djokovic hit 47 winners to 61 errors. A key number was 35/41, the amount of points won when the #1 came to the net.
Djokovic and Murray play such a similar style that the match wasn't the most exciting to watch, but it was incredible to see them hold serve for two and a half sets, considering their amazing returns. It wasn't as if they were serving lights out, either - for the match, Novak only served at 63% and Andy served at 60%.
In the end, the turning point came in the second set tiebreaker, when a feather came onto the court before Murray was about to serve a 2nd ball. He stopped to pick it up, and then he double faulted. He also apparently suffered from blisters on his foot and didn't seem to be moving well in the fourth set. Combine his poorer movement with Djokovic raising the level of his game, and it's no surprise the Serb won 9 of the last 11 games of the match.
Not an unexpected result in the end. Djokovic is the best player on the Australian Open plexicushion and Murray needed to be much better than he was if he was going to stop the three-peat. Sure, he played a solid first two sets and had he broken at the start of the second, things could have been different, but I knew the longer the match went, the more it favoured the defending champion. Why? Because Andy was two days removed from a physical and tiring 4-hour match with Federer.
Even though Andy was the better player throughout his semifinal match, it still took everything Andy had to get by Roger - a less than stellar Roger, no less. Even though Andy was dominating on serve and controlling many of the baseline rallies, he was still worn down by Roger's complex and varietal game, as so many are.
Playing Roger is a unique experience because he has so many options out there on the court. As an opponent, you not only have to worry about moving side to side, as is the case in many baseline-oriented matches today, but you also have to be wary of moving forward and coming off the baseline. When he's at his best, Roger is always giving his opponents different looks, and he rarely gives a guy any opportunity to find any rhythm.
Now, I understand that in the Fed/Andy semifinal, it was not Roger who has playing his best game - far from it. However, it was a 4-hour match, and the physicality of the contest was still a major factor during Murray's physical struggles in the final. It came to the point where I thought that Roger would have given Novak a better fight because Andy was in no shape to handle the long baseline exchanges after the second set.
Anyway, Djokovic has proven once again that he's the best in the world right now and is undeniably the best hard court player. Murray established himself as the second best on hard courts, although I think he's second-best on slow courts whereas Roger is probably the best or at least on par with Djokovic on faster courts (yes, Novak is great on faster courts as well).
I am looking forward to the rest of the year and it should be very intriguing no matter whether you are a fan of Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Nadal, or even guys like Tsonga, Ferrer, and del Potro, who will all still be there to push the top guys and hopefully improve and break through (Tsonga and Delpo especially).
Anyway, congratulations to Djokovic, whom I have gained a lot of respect for in the last year. He is a great champion and handles himself very well. He is a worthy ambassador to the game and everyone else should be scared if he can continue to improve his already imperious game.
An Australian Open wrap-up will come soon,
This is my tennis blog, Lefty Advantage. Tennis is my biggest passion in life and I started this site to discuss the great game. I mainly follow the career of Roger Federer, but I truly love watching all tennis, whether it be the final of a Grand Slam or a junior tournament on the other side of the world.
I have played tennis for 13 years. If you ever met me, I could talk your head off about all things tennis for hours on end if you would let me. Welcome, and enjoy the writing!