For two hours and 13 minutes there was nothing to choose between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray as they thrilled the crowd in Melbourne with another pulsating final clash.
Slowly but surely, however, the world number one reminded everyone
why he is so hard to beat, as his epic defensive skills ground Murray
down into an exhausted wreck.
There was little more Murray could do as he sought to become the
first player to win his second Grand Slam title immediately after
winning his first.
The Scot will perhaps rue getting worked up over the little details:
serving a double fault at a crucial time in the second set tie-break
after becoming distracted by a feather falling on to the court, for
example, or getting irritated with the crowd late in the third set for
calling out between first and second serves.
In the end, Djokovic just looked as though he could continue on in
the same vein for hours more, while exhaustion was etched over Murray’s
face for much of the last set and a half.
Okay, so the Serb had an extra day to recover after his semi-final,
courtesy of playing in the top half of the draw. And okay, so Djokovic
crushed David Ferrer in straight sets in that semi-final while Murray
only had 48 hours to recover after being pushed to five gruelling sets
by Roger Federer.
But that’s the nature of Grand Slam tennis and Djokovic had been
forced to recover from a five-set epic against Stanislas Wawrinka
earlier in the tournament before taking on Tomas Berdych 48 hours later,
while Andy Murray had barely been tested before that last four clash
It was Djokovic who channelled his inner Energiser bunny, however,
combining his boundless energy with metronomic ground-strokes and
moments of such quality that the crowd gasped in delight regularly. Even
Murray was left smiling in admiration at times.