Djokovic denies Murray in Australian Open final
Andy Murray's bid to claim back-to-back Grand Slam titles was ended by Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final in Melbourne.
The first two, serve-dominated sets were decided on tie-breaks before Djokovic claimed the first break of the match late in the third.
It proved a pivotal moment with US Open champion Murray, who was struggling with blisters on his right foot and a hamstring problem, unable to mount a fightback as Djokovic cruised through the fourth to complete a 6-7 (2/7) 7-6 (7/3) 6-3 6-2 success.
His triumph handed the Serbian a place in the history books as the first man in the Open era to win three successive Melbourne crowns.
The first two sets were similar with very few opportunities offered to the receiver. Djokovic had the better chances in the first with five break points split between the sixth and eighth games only for Murray to serve his way out of danger.
The world number one's frustration at failing to convert, coupled with irritation with his footwear, boiled over in the tie-break as his game capitulated. It was Murray who was the aggressor in the second as he looked to double his advantage.
He had three chances to leap into a 2-0 lead but Djokovic changed tack, charging the net to escape immediate danger. It remained on serve until another breaker which was tight until Murray threw in just his third double fault of the tournament at 2-2.
He put his first serve into the net and was shaping up to deliver the second when he noticed a feather dropping on to the court out of the corner of his eye. Having removed it, he promptly put the second serve long.
It was all Djokovic needed to level the match and the momentum appeared to swing further in his favour when Murray had to call a medical time-out for blisters at the change of ends with television pictures showing the extent of the damage to his right foot.
There was no immediate change in his movement although there was the definite sense the match was now Djokovic's for the taking. And the top seed needed no second invitation as he set up three break points for a 5-3 lead.
Two poor forehands saw the first two come and go but Murray could not escape a third as Djokovic claimed the first break of the match before serving it out. Murray was clearly upset at umpire John Blom for not doing more to quieten the crowd and in particular one heckler who had forced him to halt his service action twice at important points of the third set.
Yet he started the fourth on the front foot, setting up his first break point chance since the second game of the second set only for Djokovic to close the door with a booming serve out wide. By now, Murray was also clutching his left hamstring and it was no surprise that Djokovic broke again for 2-1, winning a long rally at 30-40 after a tired-looking Murray jammed a backhand into the net.
The match was slipping away from Murray and he dropped his serve once more on a double fault as Djokovic established a 4-1 lead.
The effort was certainly there as the world number three continued to chase down every ball despite being in obvious discomfort but there was no let-up from Djokovic as he completed his 21st consecutive win in Melbourne and gained revenge for his defeat to Murray in the US Open final last September.
match commentary --------------------------------------------------
Djokovic bts Murray 6-7 (2/7) 7-6 (7/3) 6-3 6-2
3-6: DJOKOVIC CROWNED CHAMPION! It's all over! Djokovic comes from 0-30 down to hold his serve and clinch his fourth Australian Open title. He also becomes the first player to win three in a row since Roy Emerson won five from 1963-1967. More heartbreak for Murray in Melbourne. It's the third time he's finished runner-up here and his fifth Grand Slam final defeat. Thanks for following our coverage. Stay tuned for a full report.
2-5: It's not over just yet. Murray holds to 30 but remains a double break down and must win three games on the trot if he is to deny Djokovic a fourth Australian Open. The Serb is now serving for the Championship...
1-5: Murray threatens to get a break back as goes 0-30 in front. But Djokovic nails his 42nd winner of the final with an effortless cross-court forehand, his second of four successive points as he moves one game away from the title.
1-4: Djokovic is on the brink! Murray is in a spot of bother at 0-30 as Djokovic goes for the kill. Murray fights back to take a 40-30 lead before Djokovic levels at deuce when a wild swing from Murray almost takes his opponent's head off. Murray is given a warning when a ball accidentally drops out of his pocket mid-rally, leading to the point to be replayed, and Djokovic then secures a double break when Murray double faults.
1-3: A perfectly-placed drop shot by Djokovic catches the top of the net and drops over to Murray's side. The Serb apologises but that sums up how things are going. Murray levels at 30-30 before Djokovic holds to stretch his advantage.
1-2: Crucial break for Djokovic! Murray double faults at 15-15 and a devastating forehand from Djokovic leads to two break points. Murray saves the first with a whopper of a first serve, but Djokovic comes out on top of an exhausting rally when Murray sprays a backhand into the net. Djokovic is closing on his third successive Australian Open title and fourth in total.
1-1: Break point goes begging for Murray! Djokovic levels at 30-30 after losing the opening two points on his serve. A wide forehand from the world number one gives Murray a break point at 30-40, but Djokovic saves it with a bullet first serve which Murray returns long. Djokovic takes the next two points from deuce to survive.
1-0: Big hold for Murray at the start of this fourth set. He falls 0-30 down but pockets the next three points, including a superb pick-up shot at the net. Djokovic ties at deuce but Murray sees it out.
third set -------------------------------------------------------------
3-6: DJOKOVIC ONE SET AWAY! Easy hold for Djokovic as he sails through a love-service game to clinch the set. He's stepped up a gear over the last couple of games to take control of this final. Murray is now having a few words with the umpire. He's not happy with a minority in the crowd who have been calling out just before a player is about to serve. I think he's just frustrated with how Djokovic has turned this match around.
3-5: Djokovic breaks! The Serb produces some scintillating shots as he hammers a forehand winner into the corner on his way to going 0-40 clear. Murray saves two break points but then blasts a forehand into the top of the net, giving Djokovic the first break of this final after nearly three hours. Djokovic is now serving for the set.
3-4: Murray fails to put away a volley at 40-15 and then slaps a forehand wide as Djokovic holds to move back ahead. The standard has dropped slightly in this set which is hardly surprising given the quality of tennis on show in the first two sets.
3-3: Murray charges into a 40-0 advantage. It looks to be another comfortable hold, but a scooped forehand into the corner from Djokovic, followed by a wide Murray shot keeps the reigning champion in it. Murray, though, pulls out a big first serve at 40-30 to take the game. Too early to call tie-break?
2-3: They're rattling through these games in this third set with neither player troubling their opponent against serve. Djokovic holds to 15 again.
2-2: Perhaps I was worrying a little too soon as Murray dominates on his serve. Djokovic attempts a deft drop shot - which we've not seen too many times today - but fails to clear the net.
1-2: For the first time in this final, I'm starting to worry a little for Murray. He's not threatening on Djokovic's serve after two brutal sets and I don't think his badly blistered foot is helping. The world number one holds easily to 15.
1-1: Solid reply from Murray as he fires an effective first serve into Djokovic's body to hold. Nick from Bacup says, "Come on Andy! All this 'win the last point' business is inspiring, but it would be doing my heart rate a favour if you won every other point too!"
0-1: Now the momentum's with Djokovic, who leads the final for the first time since the opening set after strolling through a comfy service game.
1102: Murray calls for the trainer. He yanks off his sock and reveals a painful blister on his foot. There's a gasp of disgust from the crowd as it's shown on the big screen. It's not affected his movement so far, though. Djokovic will serve first in this third set...
second set ------------------------------------------------------------
6-7: DJOKOVIC LEVELS THE MATCH! At 2-2, Murray's second serve is interrupted by a white feather which drops in his eyeline. I think he's supposed to make a wish - but it's not worked because he double faults to drop the first point in the tie-break. Djokovic holds twice to take a 5-2 lead and then breaks again before clinching it 7-3. Murray will be kicking himself and will look back on those three break points he failed to take at the start of the set. He was the better player over the set and lost, but then Djokovic can say the same about the first.
6-6: A nervy Djokovic double faults at 30-15, meaning Murray is just two points away from taking a two set-lead. But Djokovic refuses to lie down and wraps up the game with a couple of volleys. Time for another tie-break. Djokovic will have a mountain to climb if he doesn't win this.
6-5: Murray has served superbly in this second set - he's yet to concede a break point - and holds to 30 to edge back in front. One game away from another tie-break.
5-5: Murray makes the perfect start with a wonderful passing forehand from the baseline. However, Djokovic keeps it together and serves well for the remainder of the game, taking four points on the trot to level once more.
5-4: Identical patten to Murray's last service game. He cruises into a 40-0 lead, double faults and then holds. Now would be a nice time to break...
4-4: Murray takes the first point and blows a good chance to go 0-30 clear after hitting an overeager forehand wide. Djokovic then wins a ping-pong battle at the net, the ball just clipping the baseline, leading Murray to challenge the call but it was in. Djokovic holds to 15.
4-3: A determined Murray rushes through another service game. The only black mark being his first double fault of the final. But he can afford to do that at 40-0.
3-3: For the first time in this set, Djokovic isn't under pressure on his serve as holds comfortably. Murray's only point is a delicious curling forehand down the line from behind the baseline. Jane from France adds, "Come on Murray! You can do this, he needs to dig deep and believe."
3-2: What a volley that is from Djokovic - but it's with his left boot and not his racket. The ball loops towards the Serb after being called out and he lashes it into the crowd. He's smiling but it's another sign of frustration as Murray holds to 15.
2-2: Murray gives away a couple of cheap points as Djokovic opens up a 40-15 lead. Murray then slams a superb return winner down the line to reduce the deficit, before another unforced error from Djokovic takes the game to deuce. Murray is piling the pressure on his opponent but Djokovic sticks in there to level the set. Paul from Cambridge says, "Come on Murray do us proud! Freedom!"
2-1: Djokovic has a sniff at 30-30 but Murray crashes down an ace before holding. Mentally, Murray looks the far more positive player.
1-1: Missed opportunity for Murray. He storms into a 0-40 lead and has three break points early on in this second set. Djokovic appears to be crumbling, but after Murray wastes a good chance with a long forehand from the middle of the court, Djokovic flicks on a switch and battles back, squaring at deuce before holding. That was a Jekyll and Hyde game from Djokovic but he just about crossed the line.
1-0: The momentum is certainly with Murray as he kicks off the second set with a clinical love-service game. Djokovic is showing signs of frustration. It must have been a real body blow to lose that tie-break. Especially as he spurned five break points earlier on in the first set.
first set --------------------------------------------------------------
7-6: MURRAY CLINCHES THE FIRST SET! I said earlier that if you're going to make a double fault then do it at 40-0 - but not at the very start of a tie-break. Djokovic throws away the first point and quickly loses his way. Murray holds twice and then pinches another point off the Djokovic serve. The US Open champ leads 4-1 and then again wins both points on his serve to earn five set points. Djokovic saves one but is only delaying the inevitable as he drags a backhand wide on the next point. The first set goes Murray's way after 68 minutes. That was probably the worst eight minutes Djokovic has played in a good few years.
6-6: Djokovic stands two points away from winning the set after taking a 15-30 lead. But a backhand from the Serb clips the top of the net and drops down on his own side before Murray holds his nerve and forces a tie-break after about an hour of play.
5-6: If you're going to make your first double fault, then do it at 40-0. That's what happens to Djokovic and it's the only point Murray wins. Pressure back on Andy.
5-5: That's much more convincing from Murray. After a couple of shaky service games where he was forced to save a flurry of break points, the Scot holds to 15 to level as we edge closer to a tie-break.
4-5: Djokovic is looking a lot more comfortable on his serve. He makes an unforced error by slamming a routine forehand into the middle of the net at 40-15, but fires down an ace to move back in front. "Murray in four sets now he has the confidence after the US Open," says Richard from Yeovil. "Andy will need to serve well to have any chance," adds Sheila. He must win his next service game to stay in the set.
4-4: Djokovic takes a gamble at 30-30 as he stops mid-rally to challenge a Murray stroke. There was no call, but Hawk-Eye shows that the world number one was spot on. Break point for Djokovic for the fifth in two games, but Murray is undeterred as he volleys down a winner to level at deuce before taking the next two points. Still on serve in this first set.
3-4: Unbelievable stuff from Djokovic! The Serb is on the floor after diving to stay in a rally at 15-15, but he reads Murray's return, hops back to his feet and wins the point! A huge grin appears across Djokovic's face and he serves out the game with minimal fuss.
3-3: Murray is in trouble on his serve for the first time as Djokovic races into a 0-30 lead. The world number one spreads a forehand wide but then forces the first break points of the final at 15-40 after Murray goes long. The US Open champion, though, digs in as he presses Djokovic into mistakes and ties at deuce. A third break point is presented to Djokovic after he fires a backhand past an outstretched Murray in the 24th shot of a punishing rally, but a strong first serve keeps the Scot in it. Djokovic hits back to earn a fourth break point, but still he can't get the job done. Murray then plucks out two cracking first serves to wrap up the game after saving four break points. Gutsy. Djokovic also lost a challenge at the end of that absorbing game.
2-3: For the first time, there's a bit of pressure on the serve as Djokovic is pegged back to deuce after he mistimes a volley. Murray has a chance on the next point with a passing shot but buries his forehand into the net. Djokovic then follows up with the best point of the final so far as he tucks a backhand down the line after spending most of the rally on the back foot.
2-2: Murray thunders down his first ace in another dominant service game. He's not dropped a point on his serve. Plenty of squeaking going on as Djokovic slides all over the court.
1-2: Superb tennis from Murray at 40-15 as he pulls Djokovic across the court before rushing forward to dispatch a ruthless forehand beyond his rival's reach. However, Djokovic responds with an ace to wrap up the game. Murray challenges but the ball was in. "I think Djokovic will win it in four sets as he will lose the second," predicts Anna from Chesterfield. You can send in your throughts by using the box below.
1-1: Perfect start for Murray as he dishes out a love-service game. He's looking comfortable on the baseline with Djokovic spraying a couple for forehands off target.
0-1: Murray wins the first point of the final with a forehand winner into the corner, but Djokovic responds by taking the next four and holds to 15 to settle any early nerves.
0844: Here we go then. Djokovic will open proceedings. Murray is aiming to become the first British man to win the Australian Open since Fred Perry in 1934.
0836: The players are introduced to the crowd in a rematch of their 2011 final, which Djokovic won in straight sets here in Melbourne. I can't see that happening today. Djokovic loses the toss and Murray chooses to receive. I don't think the Scot cares too much. He picked ends against Federer!
0815: Born just a week apart (Murray is seven days older) in May 1987, these two have risen through the ranks together and their rivalry is now starting to dominate the sport. Murray got the better of his childhood friend at the US Open to break his Grand Slam duck over four months ago, but Melbourne is Djokovic's territory. He's won this tournament three times already and is hoping to become the first man to clinch three titles in a row since Roy Emerson won five on the trot from 1963-1967. The only other male player to win three successive Australian Opens is Jack Crawford from 1931-33.
0800: Welcome to our live coverage of the Australian Open final as Andy Murray bids to win back-to-back Grand Slams against world number one and three-time champion Novak Djokovic.