Djokovic completes Australian Open hat trick
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MELBOURNE, Australia — No shirt ripping or bare-chested flexing this time.
Novak Djokovic completed his work before midnight, defeating Andy Murray in four sets for his third consecutive Australian Open title and fourth overall.
It also was the second time in three years Djokovic had beaten his longtime friend in this final. So the celebration was muted — a small victory shuffle, raised arms, a kiss for the trophy. No grand histrionics, although that's not to say the moment was lost on him.
“Winning it three in a row, it's incredible,” Djokovic said after his 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 victory Sunday. “It's very thrilling. I'm full of joy right now. It's going to give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season, that's for sure.”
Nine other men had won consecutive Australian titles in the Open era, but none three straight years. One of them was Andre Agassi, who presented Djokovic with the trophy.
A year ago, Djokovic began his season with an epic 5-hour, 53-minute five-set win over Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open, the longest Grand Slam final. He tore off his shirt to celebrate, the TV replays repeated constantly at this tournament.
He mimicked that celebration after coming back to beat Stanislas Wawrinka in five hours in a surprisingly tough fourth-round victory this time.
Since then, he's looked every bit the No. 1 player. He said he played “perfectly” in his 89-minute win over fourth-seeded David Ferrer in the semifinals Thursday night. Murray struggled to beat 17-time major winner Roger Federer in five sets in the semifinals Friday night and still had the bad blisters on his feet to show for it in the final.
In a final that had the makings of a classic when two of the best returners in tennis were unable to get a break of serve in the first two sets that lasted 2:13, the difference may have hinged on something as light as a feather.
Preparing for a second serve at 2-2 in the second set tiebreaker, Murray was rocking back about to toss the ball when he stopped, paused and then walked onto the court and tried to grab a small white feather that was floating in his view. He went back to the baseline, bounced the ball another eight times and served too long.
After being called for a double-fault, Murray knocked the ball away in anger and flung his arm down. He didn't get close for the rest of the tiebreaker and was the first to drop serve in the match — in the eighth game of the third set. Djokovic broke him twice in the fourth set, which by then had turned into an easy march to victory.
Murray didn't blame his loss on the one distraction.
“I mean, I could have served. It just caught my eye before I served. I thought it was a good idea to move it,” he said. “Maybe it wasn't because I obviously double-faulted.
“You know, at this level, it can come down to just a few points here or there. My biggest chance was at the beginning of the second set — didn't quite get it.”
Djokovic had five break-point chances in the opening set, including four after having Murray at 0-40 in the seventh game, but wasn't able to convert any of them.
Then, he surrendered the tiebreaker with six unforced errors. Murray appeared to be the stronger of the two at the time. He'd beaten Djokovic in their last Grand Slam encounter, the U.S. Open final, and had the Serb so off balance at times in the first set that he slipped to the court and took skin off his knee.
Murray held serve to open the second set and had three break points at 0-40 in the second game, but Djokovic dug himself out of trouble and held.
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