Andy Murray’s wait for a third grand slam title continues as the Scot was thwarted again by Novak Djokovic to lose his fifth Australian Open final.
Murray was blown away in a whirlwind opening set and he never recovered as the Serb proved himself the maestro of men’s tennis again to win 6-1 7-5 7-6 (7/3).
Djokovic has now won a record-equalling six times in Melbourne to draw level with Roy Emerson and he boasts 11 major titles overall, climbing joint-fifth on the all-time list alongside Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg.
Murray was far from his peak here, conceding 65 unforced errors and five service games, but he was up against an opponent who forces those mistakes by the sheer relentlessness of his hitting.
Already this year Djokovic has thrashed Rafael Nadal and trounced Roger Federer, and now he adds to that list an emphatic win over Murray, the world number two whom he has beaten 11 times in 12.
This was his 17th consecutive final, fifth in grand slams, and as a 28-year-old without serious injury, Federer’s all-time best 17 major wins is certainly within reach.
For Murray, he becomes only the second player in the Open era to lose five finals at the same grand slam and it would be tempting to conclude his off-court issues – the imminent birth of his first child and the collapse of his father-in-law last weekend – may have finally taken their toll.
It is understood the Scot was hoping to catch the 3.30am flight out from Melbourne Airport, landing at Heathrow on Monday evening, and with the match finishing at just after 10.30pm local time, he should have had time to spare.
“I feel like I’ve been here before,” Murray said in his on-court speech.
“First I’d like to congratulate Novak. Six Australian Opens is an incredible feat and also for what he’s done in the last year or so has been incredible consistency so well done to him and all of his team.”
Welling up, Murray added: “And to my wife Kim, I’m sure she’s going to be watching back home just now. You’ve been a legend the last few weeks, thank you for your support and I’ll be on the next flight home.”
Djokovic added his best wishes to Murray and his wife.
“I need to pay respects to Andy and his team for having another great tournament,” Djokovic said.
“I’d like to wish you and Kim a very happy and healthy delivery of your baby. I hope you will experience a feeling like no other because that’s what happened to me.”
Murray had earlier opened up a break point in the very first game but that was as good as it got for the Briton in the opening half hour as Djokovic stormed into a 5-0 lead.
A limp forehand into the net and then a double fault gave Djokovic the break and when the Serb feathered a delightful drop-shot, which Murray failed even to get a racket to, one fan shouted “Give him a chance Novak!” – prompting chuckles among the crowd.
The foundations were laid for a procession as his opponent raced 3-0 clear and Murray, playing like a drain, could have been 6-0 were it not for some late resistance.
Djokovic had four more break points at the start of the second set as Murray laughed at another forehand hitting the net and then glared when a sarcastic heckler shouted “Take a bit longer Murray!” after umpire Carlos Ramos had given him a time violation.
A dose of irritation may not have been a bad thing as Murray finally held with an ace and for a spell began to stretch Djokovic, dictating more rallies and making less mistakes.
The pair exchanged breaks midway through but as Murray ranted and raved, Djokovic kept his cool, clinching a decisive break at 5-5 after winning a 36-shot rally, the longest of the match.
Djokovic was serving for a two-set lead and despite consecutive double faults, he delivered, even if Murray should have challenged another wayward serve, which was shown to have been long.
The top seed’s record in five-setters is 26-8 but any feint hopes of a comeback were quickly diminishing as a superb backhand winner broke Murray in the opening game of the third.
On the brink, Murray found some fire within to force a tie-break but then his resolve crumbled as he served two double faults, his fourth and fifth of the match, to give Djokovic a 6-1 lead.
Murray pulled two Championship points back but not a third as Djokovic served out with an ace to seal the title, and when they met at the net Murray had two words for his conqueror: “too good”.