Live Blog: Australian Open Men’s Final, Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray

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Will Murray’s momentum from last summer give him the last laugh against the Djoker?

Follow our live blog on the Australian Open men’s final, updated at each changeover.  Will Djokovic complete the first three-peat of the Open era here, or will Murray become the first man to win his second major title in the next major after his first?

Djokovic 2-1*:  Although Murray wins the first point with an impressive forehand, Djokovic sweeps the next four behind some solid first serves that leave him in control of the points at the outset.  A handful of groundstroke errors from the Serb provides the Scot with a love hold as the match starts uneventfully.  At 15-15 in the third game, Djokovic correctly judges that a Murray lob will float long, which it does by a less than comfortable margin.  Still looking a bit casual, perhaps almost too relaxed after his long semifinal, Djokovic cruises to another hold.

Djokovic 3-2*:  Murray finds a cleaner rhythm on his first serve and holds at love again, this time punctuated with an ace.  Although he starts with a 30-0 lead, Djokovic finds himself pegged back to 30-30 with two routine errors.  A crushing inside-out forehand and a nonchalant miss on a drive volley move a game to deuce for the first time.  From there, a brave net approach draws an error from Murray on the pass, and then Djokovic delivers his own scintillating backhand pass down the line off a drop volley that looked out of his reach.

Djokovic 4-3*:  His normally trusty backhand spraying a few early errors, Murray soon faces the first two break points of the match.  A sturdy first serve and a penetrating cross-court forehand do just enough work to avert them.  He then saves a third break point that Djokovic had created by carefully massaging the rally, and a fourth break point escapes on an uncharacteristic backhand error from the Serb.  Two points later, Murray escapes the game with a first serve down the center stripe.  With that potential momentum swelling his sails, he wins the first point of his return game.  But a stunning recovery from Djokovic after a sprawl behind the baseline allows him to rip off a backhand down the line that wins the point anyway.  The quick hold leaves him within range of the first set without having faced any serious pressure.

Djokovic 5-4*:  After some passive groundstrokes, Murray falls behind break point on a cross-court backhand that narrowly misses the edge of the sideline.  Able to save the fifth break point on his serve, he unleashes a first serve and a bold drive volley that takes away vital time from Djokovic’s defense.  Two points and another drive volley later, he stays even in the set.  Although Djokovic loses two points in his next service game, he closes out the game with a confident ace that forces Murray to hold for his survival in the set.

Djokovic 6-5*:  Starting to improve his first-serve percentage, the Scot holds routinely after some court-stretching rallies.  That game departed from the script of their final here two years ago, when a Djokovic break at this stage opened the floodgates for his routine triumph.  Djokovic continues to hold  as well, opening the court with crisp, flat angles that thrust his opponent off balance.  He did not face a break point in this set.

Murray 7-6:  After 15-15, which they reached by trading netted groundstrokes, the Serb unleashes a massive cross-court backhand to set up a comfortable approach and move within two points of the first set.  A pair of backhand errors from Djokovic let Murray off the hook, and a strong first serve clinches the hold.  Neither man dropped serve in this set, although Murray faced greater pressure during it.  A double fault starts the tiebreak ominously for Djokovic, and Murray battles to win the next rally several times over before finally finding the winner.  With a wild forehand, the Serb falls behind 0-3, and Murray soon leads by a double minibreak at the changeover.  Disinterested in the proceedings, Djokovic tosses away the rest of the tiebreak in a deflating finish to a tense set.

Murray 7-6 2-1*:  Holding at love, Murray ranges all over the court to retrieve everything that Djokovic flings at him  before drawing errors in a series of long rallies.  The streak of points reaches eight for Murray, and seventeen of the last nineteen, as he reaches triple break point on the top seed’s serve.   Djokovic recovers to save all three, suddenly transitioning back into offense.  Capitalizing on that miniature surge, he starts to open his shoulders more freely on his groundstrokes and dodges what might have looked like a formidable deficit.  After a massive return for an outright winner, Djokovic reaches 30-30 on the Murray serve following a strangely sprayed backhand wide that his opponent mistimed.  But Murray records the 15th straight hold of the match.

Murray 7-6 3-2*:  Consecutive aces help Djokovic pull ahead to 40-15, only to see a fine return by the Scot and a careless error pull the game back to deuce.  Murray again fails to exploit the opening, though, and allows his opponent to stay hopeful in this set.  The front-runner then delivers an ace of his own to start and another to finish a strong hold.

Murray 7-6 4-3*:  A sluggish start to the next game from Murray offers an easy hold to his opponent.  And a diffident return game from Djokovic allows Murray to do the same.

Murray 7-6 5-4*:  After the Scot challenges on a close volley near the baseline and receives the bad news from Hawkeye, Djokovic fires down first serves that allow him to take command of the rally immediately.  Charging to 40-0 with pinpoint groundstrokes highlighted by a backhand down the line, Murray skirts a double fault to hold serve without a tremor.  He will attempt to break for a two-set lead.

Murray 7-6 6-5*:  Punished for an overly meek approach, Djokovic watches a Murray forehand pass sail by him on the first point of this crucial game.  Two points later, a bold smash from deep on the court for a clean winner puts the Serb ahead.  He closes out the hold with sturdy baseline play but cannot subject Murray to much pressure as the Scot closes out a second straight set without a loss of serve.

Sets even 7-6 6-7(3-7):  Although a double fault temporarily opens the door for the Scot at 30-30, Djokovic closes out a second straight set full of holds with punishing forehands, a well-angled smash, and a cross-court backhand for a clean winner.  The two men then trade overpowering first serves on the first two points of the tiebreak.  After Djokovic had double-faulted away the first point of the first-set tiebreak, Murray double-faults away the first minibreak of this tiebreak.  A forehand error from the Scot leads him trailing 2-4 at the change of ends, and a service winner soon deepens his arrears.  Responding with a forehand error of his own, Djokovic permits Murray to stay within range. Another draining rally ends with a meekly netted backhand by the Scot, though, and his slice finds the net on the Serb’s first set point to even the match after a pair of lopsided tiebreaks in each of the first two sets.

Djokovic 6-7 7-6 2-1*:  Opening with a commanding service hold, Djokovic strikes two aces and even wins a Hawkeye challenge, a rare event.  Not much more challenging is the next service game from Murray, where the difference in effectiveness between his first and second serves surfaces.  Spreading the court with effective wide serves, Djokovic holds routinely again as his opponent’s forehand starts to falter.

Djokovic 6-7 7-6 3-2*:  A love hold for Murray quickly restores the set to level terms as the Serb struggles to find a way into rallies.  Two routine errors from the third seed late in the defending champion’s next service game remove any threat of pressure on the latter.

Djokovic 6-7 7-6 4-3*:  Considering the holds that flow so easily on both sides, 40-30 seems like a chance for Djokovic, but he lets Murray draw level by failing to corral a wide serve.  A crushing cross-court backhand highlights the defending champion’s next service hold, which ends with a spectacular series of defensive retrievals.

Djokovic 6-7 7-6 6-3:  With a forehand rocket on the first point of the eighth game, the Serb signals his intent to score a crucial break.  He then recovers a drop shot, drawing an odd miss from Murray, and rips two brutal forehands to reach triple break point.  While Murray fends off the first two, aided by his opponent, his forehand finds the net on the third for the first break of the match.  Serving for the set, Djokovic establishes his authority with massive first serves and closes out the set at love.

Djokovic 6-7 7-6 6-3 2*-1:  Down 0-30 on his serve in the first game, Murray desperately needs a hold to start this must-win fourth set positively.  He wins the next three points before floating an inside-out forehand wide to reach deuce.  A lovely backhand stab volley off a potent pass provides him the key to unlock the hold.  In the second point of his next game, Djokovic slaps a careless inside-out forehand into the alley to position Murray with a 0-30 chance, and an error on his forehand down the line presents the first break point on his serve since early in the second set.  Untroubled by the danger, Djokovic thumps down three first serves to hold.  On the second and third points of the next game, Murray cannot track down a blistering backhand return and dumps a double fault into the net.  Running around his backhand to strike an inside-in forehand, Djokovic claims double break point.  Saving the first break point with a service winner, Murray surrenders the second after a long rally with a netted forehand.

Djokovic 6-7 7-6 6-3 4*-1:  A flicker of hope shines upon the Scot when he reaches 30-30 in the next game, extinguished with a tame forehand error and a backhand pushed wearily long.  Serving in a must-hold game, Murray falls behind 0-30 but regroups to win three straight points by exploiting some wayward groundstrokes from the Serb.  Djokovic stretches the game to deuce with a forehand perfectly placed in his opponent’s forehand corner before the third seed again earns a game point.  Pulverizing groundstroke after groundstroke off the baseline, the Serb refuses to relent and returns the score to deuce.  From there, a dazzling series of defensive sprawls and a double fault from Murray leave Djokovic with a stranglehold on the proceedings.

Djokovic 6-7 7-6 6-3 5*-2:  Perhaps a little too comfortable, the Serb donates two quick errors that he erases in part with an imaginatively angled forehand.  The increasingly tired Murray shows little resistance from there.  A rather careless return game from Djokovic, aiming for form rather than function, extends the final through another changeover.

FINAL:  Djokovic 6-7(2) 7-6(3) 6-3 6-2:  With the title on his racket, Murray strikes a pair of elegant passing shots past the top speed as he approaches the net too rashly.  Three points later, Djokovic jerks him from side to side, earning a championship point.  He wastes no time in converting when Murray nets a backhand to hand the Serb his coveted Australian Open three-peat.

Murray will rue the three break points that he squandered in Djokovic’s first service game of the second set, which could have dealt a serious blow to the defending champion’s spirit.  The Serb allowed him only one break point the rest of the way in a sparkling sequence of 21 consecutive holds.  Djokovic has won four of his six major titles at the Australian Open, equaling Agassi and Federer for the most by any man here in the Open era.

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