AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2013: DJOKER BEATS THE CHOKER

Novak Djokovic won his 6th Grand Slam Championship title at Melbourne on a balmy Sunday evening after beating 6-time Slam Finalist Brit Andy Murray in the 2013 Australian Open Final.

 Take a wild guess

Djokovic, the number 1 ranked player in the world, came into the tournament after finishing 2012 at the top, winning his 2nd season-ending WTF Championship- on the verge of becoming the only player in Open Era ATP Tennis to win a hattrick of Australian Open titles. Murray came into Melbourne after winning the leadup at Brisbane, aiming to become the first player in Open era to win a second consecutive Slam title after a maiden win (at US Open 2012).

Their rivalry has taken on a form previously seen only in Nadal-Federer and Djokovic-Nadal battles- and is currently the premiermost rivalry in Men’s Tennis.  For the second time in a row, the two faced off in a Grand Slam Final after Murray beat Djokovic over 5 sets in New York. Murray played his best tennis, yet seeming a bit mentally brittle, to beat Federer in 5 sets in the Semi-Final. Many thought he should have won in straight sets, considering the fact that the Swiss legend looked totally out-of-sorts and was being outplayed from first to last point in the 4 hour-long match. But somehow, more due to Murray’s tendency to choke in key situations (tiebreaks, break-point conversion rates) than Federer’s grit to pull something out while playing below-par, it was 2-sets a piece before the Brit ran away with the fifth set.

 Aussie Legend

In stark contrast, Djokovic produced one of the most astonishing dominating performances of recent times when he swatted aside No. 1-ranked Spaniard David Ferrer in 89 minutes.

After being witness to the most spectacular display of defensive retrieving skills seen since last year’s epic final, it is safe to say that the ‘hard’ courts at Melbourne as well as New York have slowed down considerably over the years- bringing the power  and baseline hitters to the fore of men’s tennis.While Federer found it next to impossible to hit an ace or outright winner to go past Murray’s racket in the semi-final, the newly-transformed Brit found it equally difficult to puncture Djokovic’s Nadalisque defense- falling in 4 hardfought sets (almost 4 hours) to the 4-time Australian Open Champion. While Murray has quickly learned the art of converting defense to offense over the last year, Djokovic has now begun to match Federer’s offensive skills while emulating Nadal’s defense- an invincible combination in men’s tennis.

Scottish fans (for 5 out of 6 finals)

In the 2nd set tiebreak, after Djokovic was outplayed through the set still managing to hold serve, the two players produced a 33-shot rally that will be etched in the minds of viewers through the year- eventually won by the chest-pumping Serb after hitting a forehand down the line. The momentum had changed with that one point- with the Serb running 78 mts to Murray’s 76 during the single rally. But the first break of the match still did not arrive till the 5th game of the 3rd set, after both players had fluffed their own share of break point opportunities in the first two sets. There was no looking back for an imperious-looking Djokovic, who sealed his domination with a double-break in the 4th set to finish off Murray for the 2nd time out of the 3 times they have played eachother in a Slam Final (Aus Open 2011, Us Open 2012, Aus Open 2013).

It will be interesting to see if Murray manages to make a breakthrough in the claycourt season- and he needs to, if his name is to be mentioned in the same breath as the big 3- all of whom have adapted into genuine all-court players. Murray is yet to reach the last 4 at Roland Garros, and looks primed to do so after matching Djokovic’s stunning defensive prowess over the last 6 months.

As of now, Murray is still a 1-time Slam Winner- 5 less than the World no. 1, 10 less than Nadal, and 16 off Federer. He will need to begin converting his finals into wins soon, or he might just acquire Sharapova’s reputation- of storming through initial rounds to consistently fall in the final 4.

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