He kissed the court, as he well should. It’s been good to Novak Djokovic, giving him that comfy cozy feel of home. Andy Murray, meanwhile, earned his own record … losing five-of-five finals at this major.
“I feel like I’ve been here before,” Murray told fans, a wry smile peeking through his obvious disappointment. “Well done to Novak and all his team. Incredible consistency.”
And from Djokovic, “I need to pay respect to Andy and his team. Tough luck today. You’re very professional. I’m sure you’ll have chances for this trophy.”
Such was the glad-handing, following Djokovic’s sixth Australian Open victory, 6-1 7-5 7-6(3), that also brought him even with Rod Laver’s and Bjorn Borg’s 11 Grand Slams. The unstoppable force that is Novak once again assured sport he is the dominator in tennis … no questions asked.
“I love you guys,” Novak said to his players’ box, his team, Boris Becker all smiles compared to his subdued student.
Djokovic’s sixth title ties him with the six Australian legend Roy Emerson has won in Melbourne. And although Rod Laver and Ken Roswall were present for the occasion, Emerson was not. Sadly, his 52-year-old son had passed away earlier in the week from cancer.
“I’m honored to be mentioned alongside legends of our sport,” Djokovic went on to say. “Mr. Laver and Mr. Roswall, thank you very much. [And] it’s a privilege to match your record, Mr. Emerson. I want to send you all my best.”
Djokovic’s overall match record now stands at 94-6, having won the last four out of five slams. Against top-ten players he commands an astonishing 36-5 record. Of the 11 majors in his trophy case, one came against Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. The other 10 have come against his brethren buddies in the Big Four: Murray, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal.
“See you next year,” Djokovic said, ending his speech with an ominous note to a field that will struggle against him for the remainder of the season and, perhaps, into 2017.
Djokovic won’t look too far ahead, yet. But we know he wants to tidy-up the history books in his favor, by winning Roland Garros and a Gold Medal at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer. They are two big prizes he’s yet to earn. Oh, and that pesky Masters 1000 in Cincinnati. It’s the only one of 9 Masters 1000 he hasn’t won, either.
Today, though, before a ball was struck no one in their right mind would have picked Murray. He had the worst record against Djokovic of all the heavyweights: 21-9. Even with the hair-widths chance of an upset, in the end no one believed Murray could do it.
The most telling tale from that dismal perspective came from Murray, “This is the worst match I’ve ever played.” He yelled that at his box in the second set, as recalled by The New York Times on Twitter. The running commentary was consistent throughout the three sets from Murray. He’s very hard to please. But it was in the second that he had his best chance to at least take a set from Djokovic.
Murray was quick, intuitive and aggressive at the net. He put aside the run-of-the-mill figure-eight play patterns, which he lost more often than not. The crowd was behind him, a stiff wind in a leg of a grand boat race. But those blips on this match’s screen were few and far between. Djokovic was ‘just too good,’ as we say in an abbreviated lacking way that means — he’s perfect.
“No doubt that I’m playing the best tennis of my life in [the] last 15 months,” Djokovic told the press, afterward. “You know, everything is going well privately, as well. I became a father and husband. I have a family, so I feel like I’m at the point in my life where everything is working in harmony. I’ll try to keep it that way.”
Murray also tried to out-hit Djokovic. Why not? He’d done it before. The strategy had been successful. Murray did take his only two Grand Slam titles from the hands of Djokovic at the U. S. Open (2012) and at Wimbledon (2013).
Rallies that extended 27-shots and upwards to 36-shots promised hope for the Scot, but only as allowed by Djokovic. The illusion that Murray had control of the ball and set vanished at inopportune times, when points mattered most. Murray could not counter the precision: deep ground shots, directional changes, and a return of serve brilliance that matched that of Jimmy Connors and Andre Agassi.
“It’s actually many years of commitment, hard work, sacrifice and dedication,” Djokovic explained, regarding his success. “[It’s] not just training sessions, you know, the things that you are obliged to do as a tennis player, but also to a lifestyle. There’s something I’ve found out in the previous years in my career is that you can’t separate yourself professionally and privately. You’re the same person. So all these emotions that are maybe trapped, that occur in your private life … the issues, problems we all face, you need to surface them. You need to find a solution. You need to face, encounter these particular issues privately in order to maximize your potential as a player.”
In addition to his wife, Jelena, and their young son, Stefan, being a centering spot in Djokovic’s life, he also has dedicated himself to yoga and a rigorous routine of stretching. The result of both these has been consistency on court, quite clearly. Additionally, he recovers from on-court mistakes without the antics that scattered his mind and wasted valuable energy. He has matured, learned, and taken charge of his career destiny.
Murray said he was proud of the way he fought and created chances for himself. But his forehand failed, and his mind probably was bruised by events off court this week. Nigel Sears, his father-in-law as well as Ana Ivanovic’s coach, collapsed as he tried to leave a match earlier this week and was hospitalized. Kim, Andy’s wife, is a few weeks from delivering their first child. Murray, being a thoughtful man and less brutal than his outward court appearance would suggest, struggled with these emotional angles of life.
“A lots been going on,” he said in his press conference.
His poignant message to Kim, during the awards’ presentation, though, opened a door into Murray’s soul as tears welled in his eyes. “Finally, to my wife Kim, who’s watching at home. You’ve been a legend the last two weeks. I’ll be on the next flight home.”
Murray will be off for the next month, if you consider becoming a father for the first time ‘being off.’ He will practice. Stay in form. And get in line with all the other top-notch competition in their pursuit to beat the man who looks invincible … Australian Open Champion Novak Djokovic.