By Jane Voigt
Up in the dark. DownTheTee did start, with coffee perking in the pot. The Australian Open for men was about to start. Get a blanket, a pillow and keyboard to touch.
It didn’t go five like last year’s marathon, but that thought came alive.
Nonetheless, Novak Djokovic prevailed in four and won his fourth Australian Open. It’s three in a row for the Serbian, an Open Era record Down Under. The final score, 67(2) 76(3) 63 62.
Yet right from the start, the boredom set in. Even though they were faster and stronger. It went too long in the end … the match was who would lose first.
“[The] priority for me right now us to enjoy this victory,” he told the press. “In life you don’t get many ops to win Grand Slams.”
Djokovic was always the expected winner, in his too tight UniGlo shorts. But Murray was not far behind in his adidas gear. Tell me, did Serena’s cat suit come to mind?
Silver shoes and squeaky strides. The work they did was nothing to hide. A hit-and-run affair, who would miss was constantly in the air.
Murray’s mouth ran mad, as Djokovic frowned – a single slight sent him fussing. At the end of the first. The score was tied six-six. No breaks. They toyed with each other off the ground.
The rallies dragged on in the tiebreak. Both needed oxygen, after a 33-shot rally. Murray was in command. At 6-0 the sides reversed. Two points later Murray took the first. One set. One-hour-twenty-minutes. Who would blink first.
The predictions arrived — 14 out of 17 win the match when they have won the first set. Twenty-five unforced errors from Novak. Tsk tsk. Half that for Murray. Three cheers for the Union Jack.
Had the tables turned?
Murray ran down ten balls that should have been winners according to the look from Novak. His box shook them off, pesky bugs. Keep going they prompted. But down he went love-forty.
Novak would lose, that’s what we thought. But his anger foreshadowed his intent. A tough task at last. And he snapped back like a snake. One-one.
In came the tweets. David Law — BBC sport commentator — relayed a sense of how intense the match was from his seat, ‘faces contorted with effort, violence of ground strokes.’ Was this tennis at its best?
Fitness ruled, the commentators mused. New guys haven’t a chance. Five years they could struggle, but chances will pass them by if they don’t have muscles by which to measure their wits.
The lengthy rallies continued. Their bodies did sweat. No breaks of serve yet.
Andy came close, break him fans thirsted. But Novak bit back in a verse. Andy quickened his pace. Minus strokes he might have thought would do the trick in time. And hold he did, the set tied 4-4 nonetheless.
Greg Sharko, the ATP’s stalwart stat’s man, wrote Andy doubled his double faults for the tournament in the second set. So with the two, his total was four. Think about that. Don’t get upset. Andy’s serve had been smooth as a jet.
Another hour passed before a tiebreak we again faced. If Federer were here he’d win it with a cheer. Who knew what these two would endear?
“It is logical to expect top four players to always be contenders to win trophy,” Novak espoused. “But never want to underestimate others.”
Stop and think we said. Why the tiebreaks?
It’s a game of attrition. Our tennis today. Sit back. Buckle up. Refill that coffee cup.
Oh my, you said. We’ll be here all day. Tied a set each and all. No breaks and 24 games had passed.
A peak at some light. Djokovic lead with might, 5-0, when they had split the first two sets. Thank you Steph Trudel, another stat man at his best.
Take a crack at a winner, we urged them silently. An angle as severe as a storm. Get out of your cocoon, shoot for the moon. Ah what the heck.
But onward it went, three-all in the third set.
Thirty-six shots, one rally extended. The oxygen sat nearby if needed.
Love-30 for Murray — who’s in a hurry. A shot at a break we thought. Can Murray’s serve dig him out because his lungs looked spent. Novak edged closer at Love-40.
Alas the scoreboard woke us up. Novak nudged ahead 5-3 to serve for the third. Another hour this match had met. His confidence grew and he knew. A weighty lead would take him down the stretch.
What had made the difference, we asked? Brad Gilbert expounded the positive aspects of Novak’s second serve — 66%. Murray’s reactions were spent.
“In first two sets,” Novak explained. “I served better against him than in any tournament in past two years.”
The Briton struggled with blisters we followed. They treated him once. Murray stretched his big leg muscles, winced and went on. His movement certainly hampered. He was on his way down.
“He just returned a little bit better,” Andy explained. “But it was surprising that there was so few breaks the firs three sets.”
Another break chance for Andy! Early in the fourth. He needed the point. But could not convert.
Murray stumbled from point to point. He grabbed his right buttock; it must have hurt. How much remained in his tank? His semi with Federer went five while Novak waited two days on the side. Neil Harman from London Times tweeted, ‘I fear that Andy Murray is officially buggered.’
“That’s what happens when you play rallies like we did tonight,” Murray explained. “Along with the match with Roger.”
Murray’s serve slowed. Djokovic came in for the kill, moved him left to right. We thought Andy might take a spill. The tide rolled in. Hurry up, why wait for the fifth set.
‘That’s it folks, all over,’ Mike Dickson, London’s Daily Mail tennis correspondent, tweeted.
“No one’s ever won a slam, the immediate one after winning their first one,” Murray reminded the press. “Not easiest thing to do. I got extremely close.”
Djokovic went up two breaks in the fourth. He could picture his worth. Three straight Australian Open wins — an Open Era first — and four total, one behind Andre Agassi. That should make the Serbians grin.
“[I] knew it would be physically demanding,” Novak began. “Few turning points in match. He missed a few shots.”
The British sigh. Djokovic up high. He’s out in front 5-1. Poor Andy they though; he wasn’t in the pink. That five-setter hampered our guy.
Djokovic went on a tear. Drop shots evoked thoughts of humiliation in the air.
Then Novak approached the baseline at 5-2; her served for the championship. Was this his game? Could we be done?
When he won, a sigh and a grin, followed by screams; my goodness they sounded grim.
Hot dog, a winner at last. Djokovic did a little dance pretty fast. He had made history. Djokovic now had six Major titles. At 25, he did impress. In France he goes for his very own Nole slam.
“His record here is obviously incredible,” Murray told the crowd. “A well deserved champion. Well done, again.”
Djokovic kissed the Norman Brooks Challenge Cup. A big smile he beamed.
“What a joy. It’s an incredible feeling this trophy once more. My most successful Grand Slam. I love all the crowd here. See you next year.”
Djokovic has now won titles in 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013.
Thank you Australian Open. You’re the best. Another Happy Slam comes to a rest.