The defending champ rallies from two sets to one down to go past the hapless Scot
Defending champion Novak Djokovic moved into an Australian Open final against Rafael Nadal after struggling past Andy Murray in a five-set, almost five-hour semifinal on Friday. Despite appearing tired and sore from the second set on, Djokovic rallied to beat Murray 6-3, 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-1, 7-5 in a rematch of the 2011 final at Melbourne Park to reach his third consecutive Grand Slam final.
After wasting a chance to serve out the match at 5-3 in the fifth and letting Murray back into the contest, Djokovic cashed in his first match point when the Scot missed a forehand after four hours, 50 minutes.
Djokovic dropped onto his back, fully laid out on the court. He got up and shook hands with Murray, before jogging back out onto the court like a boxer, dropping to his knees and crossing himself.
It was already after 12:30 a.m. on Saturday when he got up again and pumped his arms triumphantly.
“Andy deserves the credit to come back from 2-5 down. He was fighting. I was fighting,” Djokovic said. “Not many words that can describe the feeling of the match.
“Evidently it was a physical match...it was one of the best matches I played. Emotionally and mentally it was equally hard.”
“To be honest, I think I matured as a player. I started to believe on the court I could win majors,” he said, when asked about what had changed for him in 2011. “Rafa and Roger are the most dominant players for the last seven, eight years. ... It was very hard to take away the titles from them. They will not give you the titles. You have to earn it.”
He is now aiming to be only the fifth man in the Open Era started in 1968 to win three straight majors — only Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Federer and Nadal have achieved it before him, with only Laver going on to complete the Grand Slam by winning all four majors in a season.
Ebb and flow
Both players had their form dips, but Djokovic's were more obvious. He led by a set and a break before Murray started coming back at him. Then Djokovic started walking gingerly and appeared to be struggling for breath just as he had been in his straights sets quarterfinal win over No.5 David Ferrer.
At one point, he pointed to his nose and seemed to indicate to his support group that he was having trouble breathing.
He stayed in the points, despite Murray scrambling and trying to get him involved in long rallies.
After losing a tight tiebreaker and virtually conceding the fourth set, Murray rallied again after slipping behind 5-2 in the fifth. He broke Djokovic at love when the Serb was serving for the match on a three-game streak that put all the pressure back on the defending champion.
But Djokovic composed himself and seemed to be gathering energy as the match wore on. He held serve and then broke Murray to finish it off.
“I'm extremely delighted to be in the final,” Djokovic said. “What can be a bigger challenge than playing against Rafa Nadal, one of the greatest players ever.
“I'm going to try to recover. Obviously it's going to be physical as well. So I need to do some push—ups tonight.”
Earlier, Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva won the women's doubles final on Friday with a 5—7, 6—4, 6—3 victory over the Italian duo of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.