ANDY Murray’s bid to claim back-to-back grand slam titles ended in disappointment after the Scot was beaten in the Australian Open final by Novak Djokovic.
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.
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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.
Murray praised the champion in the post-match presentation.
‘‘I would like to congratulate Novak. His record here is incredible.
Very few people have managed to do what he has done here.
He is a very well-deserved champion,’’ he said.
‘‘To his team... I know you can’t do this on your own and he has great people around him. I’d like to thank my team – they’ve done a great job with me.’’ Djokovic said:‘‘We have played so many thrilling matches over the last few years. Bad luck tonight and I wish you luck for the rest of the season.
‘‘What a joy. It’s an incredible feeling winning this trophy again.’’
ANDY MURRAY dismissed suggestions a toe injury was a key factor in his Australian Open final defeat to Novak Djokovic – and instead blamed a failure to take the few chances which came his way.
Murray required a medical time-out at the end of the third set to treat a nasty-looking blister and he went on to lose the next two as Djokovic claimed his third successive Melbourne crown with a 6-7 (2/7) 7-6 (7/3) 6-3 6-2 success.
The Scot put the injury down to wear and tear and felt missing the opportunity to hammer home his superiority at the start of the second set was more damaging to his hopes of recording back-toback grand slam triumphs.
Of the toe, he said: “It’s just a pretty large blister. You get them – it happens.
“It was just a bit sore when I was running around. It’s not like pulling a calf muscle or something. It just hurts when you run, but it’s not something which stops you from playing.
“Ninety per cent of the players on tour will have played this tournament with some sort of blister or problem.
It had no bearing on the result.’’ More frustrating for the world number three, who had been hoping to become the first man in the Open era to win his second major immediately after claiming his first, was his inability to take one of three break points immediately after edging the opening set.
“At this level it can come down to a few points here and there,’’ he added.
“My biggest chance probably came at the start of the second set but I didn’t quite take it.
“When Novak had his chance at the end of the third he got his.’’ A final which was absorbing without being a classic was dominated by serve for the first two sets.
Djokovic had the openings in the first without converting and Murray made him pay by winning the tie-break.
It was role reversal in the second as Murray wasted that triple chance for an early break as Djokovic held on for a tie-break he won, thanks largely to a Murray doublefault 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.
“I could have served,’’ he explained. “But it just caught my eye before. I thought it was a good idea to move it. Maybe it wasn’t.’’ It was all Djokovic needed to level the match and the momentum appeared to swing further in his favour when Murray had to call for the trainer.
There was no immediate deterioration 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.
From there there was no way back as Djokovic broke twice more in the fourth to extend his winning run in Melbourne to 21 matches and take revenge for his defeat to Murray in the US Open final in September.
“I knew it was going to be physically demanding,’’ the Serbian said following the three-hour, 40-minute contest.
“So I needed to hang in there.
“There were a few turning points in the match. Maybe one of them was the second game of the second set when I was 0-40 against the breeze.
He missed a few shots and I managed to get a crucial hold.
“After that I felt mentally a little bit lighter and more confident on the court than I had done in the first hour or so.
“I went for my shots in the third and fourth and came to the net quite often.
“I needed to be the one who dictated the play and I’m really glad that I played my best.’’