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Serbia’s Novak Djokovic reacts after his victory over Britain’s Andy Murray during the men’s final at the Australian Open in Melbourne, yesterday. RIGHT: Djokovic kisses his trophy. The Serb became the first man in the Open era to win three straight titles (2011, 2012, 2013) in Melbourne. Yesterday’s triumph was the world number one’s sixth Grand Slam title. Djokovic also won the 2008 title in Melbourne and the Wimbledon and US Open titles in 2011.
MELBOURNE: World number one Novak Djokovic wore down Andy Murray in an attritional four-set final to clinch a historic hat-trick of Australian Open titles and reaffirm his tennis supremacy yesterday.
The Serbian world number one lost the opening set in a tiebreaker but got progressively stronger to dominate the battle-weary Murray and win 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-2.
The punishing victory, fought out over 3hr 40min at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena, brought Djokovic his fourth Australian crown and his sixth Grand Slam title overall, and confirmed him as the game’s best and toughest player.
Djokovic, unbeaten in Melbourne since 2010, hammered Murray in straight sets in the 2011 final and outlasted Rafael Nadal over 5hr 53min to claim last year’s trophy in the longest Grand Slam decider ever played.
The 25-year-old became the first man in the Open Era and only the third ever to win three consecutive Australian Open titles, joining Australians Jack Crawford (1931-33) and five-time winner Roy Emerson (1963-67).
“What a joy, it’s an incredible feeling winning this trophy once more and it’s definitely my favourite Grand Slam, my most successful Grand Slam. I love this court,” Djokovic said.
Murray, the British world number three, began strongly but he battled a left hamstring injury and blistered feet as Djokovic stepped up, winning the important points and most of the lung-busting long rallies.
“I congratulate Novak. His record here is absolutely incredible and there are very few people who have managed to do what he’s done here. He’s a very deserved champion,” Murray said.
“When you go two sets to one down, you know you really need to get off to a good start to the fourth set because most of the guys at the top of the game, when they get a lead and momentum it’s tough to stop them.
“I played a good second set. I created quite a few chances, didn’t quite get them. But that was the difference.”
It was Djokovic’s second win over Murray in a Grand Slam final after the 2011 Australian final, and ended the Scot’s unbeaten 13-match run in the majors since he beat the Serb in September’s US Open decider.
Djokovic, who received the trophy from four-time winner Andre Agassi, confirmed his standing as the number one ranked player while Murray will remain in the third position.
It continued Djokovic’s dominance on the Melbourne hardcourts and capped an impressive fortnight where he recovered from a draining, five-hour win over Stanislas Wawrinka to emphatically beat Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer to reach the final.
Djokovic outscored Murray 139 points to 126, grabbed the only three service breaks of the final the first coming after nearly three hours and had 47 winners to the Scot’s 29. In a tight opening set, Murray saved five break points over two service games before it was decided by a tiebreaker.
The Scot played virtually the perfect tiebreaker with three mini-breaks against the wavering Djokovic to go one set up after 68 hard-fought minutes.
And the Serb had to fight off three break points on his opening service in the second set as Murray remained in control.
Yet again both players held their serve and the final went into a second tiebreaker, but this time Djokovic was the steadier player winning 7/3 to level the match at the 2hr 13min mark.
The turning point came in the eighth game of the third set when Djokovic won a psychologically important point off an exhausting 36-stroke rally, leaving the Serb smiling and the Scot gasping.
Djokovic turned up the heat and got the first service break of the final, after 2hr 51min, on his third break point and then served out for a two sets to one lead.
Murray was having problems with his left hamstring and was troubled going to his forehand side as Djokovic began to take the ascendancy early in the fourth set.
He got two break points in Murray’s second service game and the top seed again came out on top after a sapping 26-stroke rally, breaking the Scot’s serve a second time and consolidated for a 3-1 lead.
Murray double-faulted on break point in his next service game, handing Djokovic a 4-1 with the finish line in sight.
Djokovic served out for the championship and clinched it on his first match point when Murray netted a backhand during the final. AFP