Djokovic inflicts more pain on Murray
TENNIS:Andy Murray wanted pain and he got it but it was sharper than it was long. And this time there was no dividend. He knew his best chance of taking Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open title from him was a drawn out struggle similar to the one over nearly five hours in New York four months ago, when he drained the energy from the Serb’s legs to win his first grand slam title.
On the Rod Laver Arena on a warm and gentle evening, blood and blisters first delivered the agony, then played at least a small part in cutting it short (although Murray made no excuses) as, his right foot wrapped and anaesthetised, he could not match the champion for movement in the closing stages of a four-set final that ebbed away from him.
By the attritional standards of the modern game, Djokovic took a relatively whizzbang three hours and 40 minutes to win 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2 and complete a hat-trick of titles here (the first to do so since Roy Emerson), to go with his first Australian championship five years ago.
This time, he did not want what Murray wanted: a dogfight. He wanted as quick a kill as he could devise. “All our matches in the past three years have been decided in a very few points,” Djokovic said. Here he won 139 points to 126, not a huge margin over four sets.
“So it’s really hard to say if I’ve done anything different tonight to what I did in New York. But I tried to be more aggressive. I went for my shots, especially in the third and fourth sets, came to the net quite often [winning the point 35 times in 41 visits]. It worked well for me. I needed to be the one who dictated the play and I’m really glad that I’ve played my best.”
Djokovic, naturally, loves this place. Murray does too. But maybe not so much. He suffered to the point of tears in the final against Roger Federer in 2010 and did not enjoy his three-set humiliation against Djokovic in 2011. Here he played much better than that, while not getting anywhere near the level of Flushing Meadows in September. No tears at bedtime, though. He handles defeat so much better than he once did and that is part of the process too.
Murray played down the inconvenience of having to get through the final two sets with his right foot wrapped to guard against further irritation to blisters that needed pain-freezing spray. Nor did he blame the scheduling and the rigours of a four hour semi-final against Federer, while Djokovic had an extra day’s rest after a veritable stroll in his semi-final against David Ferrer.
“I had no taping on my foot during Roger’s match,” Murray said, “and then obviously I had to have it done today. I very rarely get blisters. But 90 per cent of the players on the tour will have played this tournament with some sort of blister or problem. It had no bearing at all on the result. It just hurts a bit when you run.”
It was not the sort of suffering he had in mind before the match. While he wanted to use the enormous store of stamina built up in his winter training camp in Miami, ultimately he had to fight on a different front, as Djokovic controlled the stuttering pace.