Novak Djokovic has claimed his sixth Australian Open title after defeating Andy Murray 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3).
The world number one was in a different class for much of the fortnight at Melbourne Park, and he was again on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night, needing two hours and 53 minutes to down the second-seeded Murray and extend his grand slam winning streak to 21 matches.
Murray came into the match looking to avoid losing his fifth Australian Open final, but against Djokovic – a man who held a 21-9 head-to-head advantage over him – he was always going to be up against it. After making a slow start, that task seemed almost insurmountable.
As was the case against Roger Federer in the last four, Djokovic was out of the blocks quickly. After seeing off some pressure on his first service game, Djokovic made the most of his first look at the Murray second serve, setting up two break points before completing the job to go 2-0.
A sumptuous drop shot out of nowhere in the third game was a signal that Djokovic was well and truly in the zone now.
Murray tried to mix things up a bit, taking some pace off the ball at times – a tactic that had served Gilles Simon so well when he met Djokovic in the fourth round. The Scot seemed aware that he wasn’t going to win a slugfest, and even early on it was Djokovic who was winning the baseline battle.
Unforced errors and an unlucky let cord saw Murray surrender a second break, and it wasn’t until the sixth game that Murray was able to get on the board. Djokovic would make no mistake when serving for the set, taking the opener 6-1 in 30 minutes.
It had been all too easy for Djokovic in the first set, and Murray came into the match more in the second and he survived a marathon 18-point third game in which Djokovic had three break points.
The top seed went into something of a lull midway through the set, but even when not at his best he was able to defend those periods. However, as soon as Murray stuttered he was broken, with Djokovic going 4-3 up. Murray bounced back well to reclaim the break immediately though.
Murray had his chances to make inroads on the Djokovic serve, but time and time again he forced the issue in long rallies to his detriment. Well aware that he couldn’t wait for Djokovic to make errors – they were unlikely to come – Murray looked to try and take control, but it was not getting him anywhere.
From 40-0 up at 5-5, Murray missed a routine forehand, and his failure to shut Djokovic out proved costly, with the Serb surging back into the game to take the break. Once again with the set on his racquet, he made no mistake – despite giving Murray a big opening with successive double faults.
Djokovic saved the shot of the night for the crucial moment of what would be the final set. With a break point chance in Murray’s opening service game, Djokovic, on the stretch, somehow produced a backhand passing shot that kissed the line and handed him all the momentum. He would then hold to love; it was relentless.
Murray would not go quietly though and broke back, fighting to extend the match. He pushed the set into a tiebreaker, but then it all fell apart once more. A double fault from Murray started the breaker, Djokovic responded with an ace. A second Murray double saw Djokovic handed five Championship points. He only needed three.
Djokovic joins Roy Emerson as the only player to win six Australian Open titles and with 11 grand slam crowns he is now in equal fifth place with Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver on the all-time list for most major title winners.