Murray a long way off bridging the gap

Sportal January 28, 2013, 12:06 am
Andy Murray

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The latest of Novak Djokovic's three successive Australian Open wins proves he remains clearly the top dog of men's tennis while Andy Murray's finish suggests he still has a way to go to bridge the gap consistently.

And with four Melbourne Park triumphs to his name already by the age of 25, the Serbian world number one looks a good thing to eventually boast more Australian Opens than any other man by the time he retires, with Roy Emerson's six from the 1960s now well within his sights.

Having become the first man to win the Australian major three times in a row in the Open era, Djokovic's victory illustrated yet again just how superior he is both mentally and physically to his rivals.

Murray's body did appear to let him down in the second half of Sunday's decider at Rod Laver Arena, as firstly blisters on his right foot troubled him and then a hamstring or gluteal injury bothered him as well.

But having seemingly finally joined the absolute elite of the game when he beat Djokovic in five sets to claim his maiden grand slam triumph at last year's US Open, Murray will know he blew a huge chance.

With three defeats in four years in the Melbourne Park decider, Murray would be hugely thankful he did win at Flushing Meadows last year, otherwise he'd have the unwanted record of six losses from as many deciders.

Djokovic was below his best in the opening set of the contest but should still have taken it as he blew four break points in one game and five in total for the set before meekly surrendering it in a tie-breaker.

But with his opponent having all the momentum, holding to love to start the second set, Djokovic somehow rallied from 0-40 down after he had won just two of the previous 19 points and stayed in the contest.

That second game of the second set would prove pivotal as not only did Murray squander the chance to land a massive mental blow but it would be him that would lose the important points of the match from there, as twice his concentration let him down.

Having steeled himself to simply hang in there when Murray had the momentum, much as Roger Federer did on Friday night against the Scot, Djokovic capitalised in the second set-tie breaker when Murray was distracted by a feather blowing onto the court after which he double-faulted.

A heckler would then also unnerve Murray at a crucial point in the eighth game of the third set, as Djokovic claimed the first break of the match after nearly three hours and then served it out for a two-sets-to-one lead.

From there Djokovic appeared the only one likely to win, although he was forced to save a break point in the second game of the fourth set, as Murray continued to battle it out until the end but simply could not keep up with his surging opponent.

Now a six-time major champion, at a minimum Djokovic will have his eyes firmly on finishing with at least 10 career grand slams although with Federer nearing the end of his career and Rafael Nadal's body starting to fail him, he would be confident of far more than that considering he's in his prime.

For Murray he will take some time to get over the defeat, having thought his US Open win showed he was a lot closer to Djokovic's level, but his coach Ivan Lendl can point to his own record in major finals as he attempts to help his pupil deal with the heartache.

Lendl lost his first four grand slam finals and five of the first six he contested but finished with eight major singles titles as he won seven of his final 13 deciders.

A year on from the epic Djokovic-Nadal final, which lasted seven minutes short of six hours and went to five sets, the 2013 edition was much more of a grind between the rivals that have known each other since they were 11 or 12.

But it's a match-up we're likely to see plenty more times in the coming years as they are head and shoulders above those outside the current big four of men's tennis, with Murray looking to improve on a head-to-head count Djokovic now leads 11-7 thanks to three wins in a row.

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1 Comments

  1. Michael04:33am Monday 28th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    i think the writer of this column assumes nadal cant get back to his best where as nadal will most likely be the no1 contender by the time wimbledon rolls around

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