MELBOURNE -- No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated No. 6 Andy Murray 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-0 on Sunday in Melbourne to win his fifth Australian Open title. The win was Djokovic's eighth major title, moving him alongside the likes of Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Fred Perry and Ken Rosewall at eighth on the list of all-time Grand Slam men's singles titles. Djokovic has now won the title in Melbourne in five of the last eight years.
What started as an explosive and incredibly high-quality match ended in a fizzle. Djokovic rallied to take the first set tiebreak to take the lead after a key double-fault from Murray at 4-2 up in the tiebreaker sent him spiraling. But it was Murray's turn to flip the script in the second set, where he came back from 2-4 down in the set to take it in a tiebreaker. It took over two-and-a-half hours to complete the first two sets, with both men swinging big through 20-plus shot rallies that left them gasping for air. Djokovic appeared to be struggling physically in the second set and Murray looked the far fitter player heading into the third, where he quickly grabbed a 2-0 lead.
That's when Murray blinked. Instead of making the fatigued Djokovic play rallies, he played a lazy return game to let Djokovic on the board. He followed that up with an error-ridden game to get broken to 2-all. It all unraveled quickly from there. Distracted by everything that was happening on the other side of the court, Murray would go on to lose 10 of the last 11 games of the match. The struggling Djokovic began to rip winners from the baseline to keep the points short -- he finished the match with 53 winners to Murray's 41 -- and Murray found himself on his heels. After failing to convert a break point at 4-3 thanks to a fantastic volley from Djokovic to save the point, Murray didn't win another game. The loss was his third in an Australian Open final.
"The third set was frustrating because I got a bit distracted when he fell on the ground after a couple of shots," Murray said. "It appeared that he was cramping, and then I let that distract me a little bit. That's what I'm most disappointed about, not so much the fourth set because I think, especially at the end of it, he was just going for everything, and it was going in."
Djokovic never called a medical timeout because he says he did not have a legitimate reason to. He simply felt weak and lethargic through the match. There were times it looked like his legs were buckling underneath him and his balance eluded him. He took a bad fall in the first set and appeared to hurt his thumb and also took a tumble early in the second.
"You could see that I had a crisis end of the second, beginning of the third," Djokovic said. "Just felt very exhausted and I needed some time to regroup and recharge and get back on track. That's what I've done. I started hitting ball and trying to be a little bit more aggressive coming to the net, shortening the points." Djokovic blamed the physicality of the first two sets for his "physical crisis" in the third.
"It's normal to expect that you can't always be at your 100%," he said. "So you go through some particular moments that you can call crises during matches like these. This is what I had in these 15, 20 minutes. After that I felt better."
Murray couldn't get his head around what was going on and it cost him the match. "If it was cramp, how he recovered from it, that's a tough thing to recover from and play as well as he did at the end," Murray said. Djokovic denied he was cramping. "I'm frustrated at myself for letting that bother me at the beginning of the third set, because I was playing well, I had good momentum, and then just dropped off for like 10 minutes and it got away from me. "
Murray blamed only himself for his lapse in concentration. "I play enough matches to be able to handle that situation better," he said. "That's what I'm saying. For me, that third set was what was disappointing because I feel I could have done a bit better."
This post will be updated.