- Australian Open, Day 14
Djokovic denies Murray for Australian Open hat-trick
Andy Murray failed in his bid to win back-to-back majors as Novak Djokovic made history of his own with a third successive Australian Open title.
Seeking to become the first man to follow up his maiden grand slam title with a second at consecutive majors following his victory at the US Open last September, Murray was beaten 6-7(2) 7-6(3) 6-3 6-2 at Melbourne Park.
The world No. 3 won the opening set, but his five-set semi-final victory over Roger Federer began to take its toll as Djokovic roared back to secure his sixth grand slam title.
Djokovic and Murray may be two of the best returners of serve in the game, but there were few openings for either players as the two sets went with serve; Murray winning the opening tiebreak before Djokovic hit back to level.
Murray appeared to run out of steam as Djokovic finally grabbed the first break late in the third set before streaking away to victory after three hours and 40 minutes on court.
After opting to receive, Murray won the opening point of the match with a blistering forehand, but it proved to be the only success of the first game as Djokovic held comfortably. It set the tone for the early encounters as Murray continued his excellent service form, winning his opening two service games to love.
It was Djokovic who had the first glimmer of a break in the match, but Murray dug deep to fend off four break points, before sealing the game with an ace. The Serb continued to defy belief - diving full stretch to get his racket to the ball before leaping back up to retrieve Murray's drive volley before winning the point with an exquisite drop shot.
He had a fifth chance to break after a successful HawkEye challenge - stopping midpoint to appeal when he felt Murray's shot was out, but once again Murray held on as the opener headed for a tiebreak.
Djokovic emitted a scream of frustration as he opened the tiebreak with a double fault, and Murray consolidated the mini-break with some huge groundstrokes from the baseline forcing his opponent scampering around the court.
Murray, who had never come from a set down to beat Djokovic in 17 previous encounters, played the aggressor in the tiebreak and it paid dividends as a 25th unforced error from Djokovic handed the Scot the opener.
With the momentum firmly in Murray's favour, the Scot romped through his opening service game to love before forging three break points as Djokovic looked jaded. In what proved to be one of the pivotal moments of the match, Djokovic dug deep, and after a brutal rally fashioned a sensational drop shot to level the scores at 1-1.
Murray looked poised to strike as Djokovic twice served to stay in the set at 5-4 and 6-5, but he was unable to find a breakthrough as a second breaker was necessary to separate the pair.
At 2-2 in the tiebreak, Murray halted midway through his second-serve routine to pick up a feather that had floated onto the court, and it disrupted his rhythm as he double faulted before a sloppy forehand handed Djokovic the advantage and he levelled the scores.
After nearly three hours of play and 31 successive service holds, Djokovic finally grabbed the first break of the match for a 5-3 lead before a love service hold saw the Serb move within sight of a fourth Australian Open title.
Murray, who received treatment for blisters on his foot after the second set, looked to be struggling but showed real intent early in the fourth set to battle back from 0-30 down, with a stunning retrieval low to his left to scoop the ball over the net to keep his hopes of victory alive.
The Scot then saw a break point pass him by but Djokovic dug himself out of trouble with a pair of big serves before taking control of the match when he broke for a 2-1 lead.
Djokovic demonstrated superb athleticism to keep the ball in play before turning defence into attack for the chance of a double break, which he was gifted with a double fault as the match began to run away from Murray.
The Scot battled hard, but he was unable to find a way back into the match as Djokovic kept his nerve to seal victory and justify his status as the best player in the world.