MELBOURNE, Australia — His legs are stronger than in the past, but Andy Murray still could not beat Novak Djokovic on Sunday at the Australian Open.
But then Murray, who beat Djokovic at the U.S. Open Final, is hardly alone. Nobody has beaten Djokovic at Melbourne Park since 2010 when he lost in five sets in the quarterfinals to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Since then Djokovic has reeled off three straight titles on the true-bouncing blue court, generating squeak after squeak with his quick-moving feet and innumerable breaches in his opponents’ morale with his ability to contort and extend his body in pursuit of others’ best efforts.
“What a joy,” Djokovic said in his post-match remarks in Rod Laver Arena. “It’s an incredible feeling, winning the trophy once more, and it’s definitely my favorite Grand Slam, my most successful Grand Slam. I love this court.”
Murray, his boyhood friend and one-time doubles partner, knows Djokovic’s strengths as well as anyone. He shares many of them, but on this clear night in Melbourne, Murray gradually faded after more than holding his own in the early phases of the match — suffering from blisters on his feet and from his opponent’s strengths — as Djokovic put the finishing touches on his 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-2 victory.
Djokovic is now the first man in the 45-year Open era to win three consecutive titles at the Australian Open. Only two other men have won three or more Australian Championships in a row: Jack Crawford from 1931 to 1933 and Roy Emerson from 1963 to 1967.
But neither of those men nor perhaps any other man has covered the corners quite like the elastic-limbed Djokovic.
“His record here is obviously incredible,” Murray said. “So well done again.”
Murray had said before the match that he was “ready for the pain” but he was presumably not referring to foot pain. He was treated for blisters after losing the second set and when the match was over and Djokovic celebrated on court, Murray sat down, removed his shoes, tossed them aside and raised his racket high as if to smash it in frustration.
He refrained but he has experienced nothing but frustration against Djokovic at Melbourne Park, losing all three of their matches. He was soundly beaten 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 in the 2011 final, beaten last year in a five-set thriller of a semifinal that was a harbinger of Murray’s greater performances to come.
Murray had defeated Djokovic on the grass at Wimbledon on his way to the Olympic gold medal in London and then beat him in another epic final to win his first Grand Slam singles title at the United States Open. But he could not use that for leverage in Australia.
News and image: nytimes.com/2013/01/28/sports/tennis/djokovic-murray-australian-open.htm