Djokovic Wins Australian Open & Best Actor Award

By Jane Voigt

February 1, 2015 — Novak Djokovic won it in a big way. His fifth Australian Open title, and his 8th Major overall. But it wasn’t without scars. 

Serving up a Sunday-evening bagel to Andy Murray in the fourth set, the match completely mirrored their 2013 final. 

Today’s score, of course, does not tell the whole story: 76(5) 67(4) 63 60. But it does point to the dominant arm of The Big Four, as they remain firmly ensconced at the top. 

Djokovic vs. Murray AO 1 31 2015 GE 0012

The look of a champion. Novak Djokovic defeats Andy Murray to win fifth Australian Open. The match was marred by gamesmanship from the No. 1 seed, Djokovic. Photo credit Gillian Elliott tennisclix.com

Djokovic won both the semifinal and final with supremacy. First he took it to Stan Wawrinka, the last set 6-0. Then today Murray obliged the thumping, as he faded physically and mentally. 

As the fourth began, Darrin Cahill of ESPN said, “This is the toughest challenge ever [for Murray]. If he comes back from this forget Wimbledon, the U. S. Open, and the Olympic Gold Medal.” The foreboding message materialized frame by frame over the next 28 minutes, the shortest set of the match that timed out at just under four hours.  

“Andy improved a lot, is close,” Amelie Mauresmo, Murray’s coach, told L’Equipe. “But still not enough against Djokovic in a Grand Slam final.” 

Both Djokovic and Murray looked as if they were attending a funeral, awaiting their trophies. Djokovic probably didn’t want to offend his friend. Murray upset with himself, and his failure to hang on to the multiple break chances he earned and, finally, realizing he can’t get roped in by his friend’s on-cout hanky-panky, which began in the eighth game of the first set. 

Scene one … Set one … Score 5-3, Djokovic. He fell as he attempted a quick switch-a-roo at the net and scraped his right thumb, his hitting hand. He shook out his arm, looked down at the shaking injured digit and barked at the ball kids, as millions were drawn into the scene. Murray steadied himself, though, back on serve 4-5. Novak called a trainer who, we presume, gave him a thumbs up because Djokovic returned to court to blast the living daylights out of the ball, taking the set to a tiebreak which he won bravely. 

Scene two … Set two … Murray went up 2-0 while Djokovic began stumbling. He caught the edges of his shoes here and there, looking down as if to blame them or Adidas, the shoe maker. Many thought the guy was a bit tipsy and wondered what he sipped at the changeover. Nope … in another ten minutes, Djokovic was in control, 3-2. 

“Was it a bit of gamesmanship,” Chris Fowler said, calling the match for ESPN.

Scene Three … Set Three … Murray goes up 2-0, his best deja-vu imitation. Djokovic can’t be upstaged so he started to limp and wobble and wince. He didn’t run for a getable backhand. But he held to 2-1. Still wobbling, Djokovic broke to bring the set even. 

“Mind games,” Cahill termed the behavior, as he called the match for ESPN.

Such a show. 

Three times the Serb played his gamesmanship card. And three times Murray fell in line with the ruse. Novak should be considered for an Oscar. 

In Miami last year, Djokovic did the same thing against Murray; this time in a quarterfinal. 

Djokovic came running into the net to grab a short ball, and hit it after his racquet passed over the net. Murray asked the chair umpire if his friend had reached too far. The official said no, he hadn’t. On cue, Djokovic put up his hands as if he had nothing to do with the effort to get ahead. Fans objected loudly, the better barometer than the chair-umpire at that moment. Per usual in the digital, can’t hide anything era, the encounter was then displayed on the jumbo-tron screens around the stadium. Djokovic had clearly hit the ball on Murray’s side. To add insult to injury, he reinforced his mistake by later telling the press he didn’t know it was against the rules. 

Call this cynical, but too many times this Grand Slam champion has acted in ways that draw this unnecessary conversation to the surface. With all the initiatives to shape Djokovic as an internationally loved sports hero, dropping this act would accelerate that plan more than making up for his rude displays with consolatory comments, like the one he spoke at the podium.

“You played well, tough luck,” the newly crowned champion said, looking downward. “I want to congratulate you and Kim on your engagement. I want to wish you a wonderful wedding and many kids.” This is Novak’s first Major as a father. 

Murray, too, should be complimented for his performance, though his was authentic fall from grace.  

As he opened the match, commentators and fans went silent. He was aggressive. Dictated points. Ran like the wind and swung away at forehands, his backhand always being his stronger side. The crowd was firmly behind him. But in the first-set tiebreak, he brought out the old Andy. Up 4-2 he doubled faulted and Novak notched his buckle. “Djokovic is 11-0 at Australian Open when he wins the first set,” the tournament tweeted.

Murray’s second-serve percentage proved his undoing, though. For the match it landed at 37%. Against the best returner in the game, the number-six seed signed his own death warrant. Both men were even-steven at the net, each winning 70% of those points. Now, if Mauresmo, a serve-and-volley expert, can impart more of that tactic to Murray, he might edge closer to victory, by eliminating those long drawn-out, and frequent, rallies.

“Once he got up a break [in third], he just loosened up and was going for his shots. I couldn’t recover. So, then, the fourth set wasn’t as frustrating for me.” Murray told the press. “The third set was frustrating because I got a bit distracted when he, like, fell on the ground a couple of shots. He appeared like he was cramping; and, then, I let that distract me.”

This memory was Murray’s biggest disappointment. He let his friend take the lead. 

Djokovic described the match as a ‘cat and mouse’ encounter, adding, “I had a crisis in the end of second, beginning of third.”

Bigger yet, he has a crisis of sportsmanship. 

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013