Until January 31, 2016, only man, who ever won 6 Australian Open titles, was the legendary Roy Emerson. On Sunday night, Emerson was joined by Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, who also reached the figure of 6 in defeating Great Britain’s Andy Murray in men’s singles final of 2016 Australian Open. Emerson, who is resident in Gstaad, is a regular invitee to the Melbourne Park but could not make the trip this year because of the worsening health of his son Antony Emerson. Antony died last Saturday after suffering from brain and liver cancers. In his post-match speech, however, Djokovic paid tribute to the tennis legend on equaling his record. On his current form, Djokovic’s victory was widely held as a foregone conclusion but Murray gave the defending champion a tough fight in second and third sets. The Melbourne victory takes Djokovic’s Grand-Slam win count to 11 and extends his unbeaten streak to 21 matches, after his last defeat to Stan Wawrinka in 2015 French Open final. It was at the Melbourne Park that Djokovic began his Grand Slam journey in 2008, when he defeated Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and by an interesting coincidence, 4 out of Djokovic’s 6 victories at the Australian Open have come against Andy Murray. With Sunday’s defeat, the Scot also became part of a dubious tennis history as a rare player, who reached 5 Grand Slam finals and lost every one of them at the same venue. He lost to Roger Federer in 2010 and to Djokovic in the remaining four.
When Novak Djokovic defeated Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a four-set final of 2008 Australian Open, he had scored his maiden Grand Slam victory. Since then the Serb has won 11 singles Grand Slam titles and 6 out of them have come at Melbourne. In the 2011 final, Djokovic found Andy Murray as his opponent for the first time at Melbourne and took his second Australian Open crown by beating the Scot 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Since then, Djokovic has beaten Murray three more times in 2013, 2015 and now in 2016. The other Australian Open title came when the Serb fought an epic battle with Spain’s Rafael Nadal in 2012 but not before the match drained both players completely. It was comparatively easier for Djokovic on Sunday despite facing a break point in his opening service game in the first set. Thereafter, he breezed through the set and very nearly bageled Murray. He broke the Scot’s service twice and claimed the first set 6-1 in 30 minutes.
Murray looked like tamely surrendering to the Serb’s blazing game but somehow found his shots to offer more resistance in the second set. But that didn’t happen immediately. In the third game, Murray faced four break points against Djokovic. The game lasted for 12 minutes and Murray finally held his service against an opponent, who was relentless. Murray, however, couldn’t survive longer because Djokovic finally found a break in the seventh game to lead 4-3. It was at this point that Murray shifted gears. He broke Djokovic’s service in the next game. The ninth game however was fiercely contested and Djokovic held two break points against Murray. But the Scot managed to hold and derived a psychological advantage to lead 5-4. In the tenth game, Murray held three break points against the world no.1. But he lost the golden chance as Djokovic fought back from 0-40 down and in the next game broke Murray’s service. The eleventh game also saw an unending rally featuring 36 shots before Murray committed the error and Djokovic went through to take a 6-5 lead. In the 12th game Djokovic held his service to win the second set 7-5 in a battle of 80 minutes.
Djokovic began the third set by breaking Murray in the opening game. The Scot couldn’t have won the match if he failed to take the match to five sets but being broken in the first game itself was like an early surrender. Somehow, Murray brought the third set on level terms by finding a break in the sixth game. After service holds on either side, the third set slipped into the tiebreak. Murray was already looking fatigued as he committed two doubles faults to handover cheap points to the Serb, who finally held five championship points. Murray saved two but when Djokovic produced an ace on his third match-point, it was all over.
Novak Djokovic has firmly established himself as a dominant figure at Melbourne Park by recording more than half of his Grand Slam victories at the Australian Open. The match was witnessed by past tennis luminaries though Roy Emerson couldn’t be present. But another great Rod Laver was very much in attendance. In his post-match speech, Djokovic thanked him and Laver acknowledged by raising his hand. After Melbourne, the next major is the French Open in Paris this summer. That is the one Grand Slam Djokovic has not won. Last year, he came close but Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka foiled the Serb’s bid. In his current form, Djokovic can certainly reverse that.
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