Australian Open 2012: Novak Djokovic edges Andy Murray

Australian Open 2012: Novak Djokovic edges Andy Murray

Murray looked to have the edge on Novak Djokovic several times in this mind-bendingly tight five-setter, which ran to four hours and 50 minutes.

But in the end he could not quite close it out. The critical difference may have been that Djokovic had greater self-belief. Winning three of the past four Grand Slams can have that effect on you.

The balance of power swung backwards and forwards throughout the match like a pendulum. Murray lost the first set 3-6 but then surged back to level the score in the second, playing his best tennis of the match.

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When he then held his nerve to take the third set on a tie-break, it seemed as if he must be heading for his third successive Australian Open final. But his legs seemed to turn to lead in the fourth set.

Djokovic needed only 25 minutes to level the match again and take it into a decider. Considering that the third set occupied had 88 minutes, including one 18-minute game, this was an abrupt change of pace, as well as a telling switch in momentum.

a�?Physically both of us were obviously tired [in the fourth set],a�? Murray explained afterwards. You know, once you get behind in a set, you have to weigh up whether it’s worth trying to get yourself back into it or saving yourself for a fifth set.a�?

Djokovica��s comeback continued in the final set. He surged to 5-2 before the match performed another bewildering about-turn. Murray reeled off three consecutive games to move to 5-5, and had three break points to go 6-5 up and serve for the match.

But Djokovic produced some big first serves, and on the one point when Murray had an inviting opportunity, with the ball sitting up in the middle of the court, he dumped a regulation backhand into the net.

Djokovic fought back to hold serve, and that proved to be the final reversal of fortune as Murraya��s backhand malfunctioned again in the next game and Djokovic was through 6-3, 3-6, 6-7, 6-1, 7-5.

After the match, Murray was upbeat about his prospects. He knows that he was close tonight, and that he nearly upset the odds despite the fact that his forehand was erratic at key moments. That is something that he and his coach, Ivan Lendl, can work on over the next couple of months.

He was also pleased that he had maintained a positive tactical approach, rather than simply sitting back and relying on his defensive skills.

a�?Everyone always says to me, Andy’s too passive; he doesn’t go for his shots enough,a�? said Murray. a�?I think tonight I did that. I was moving well and dictating a lot of the points, which is important.

a�?After last year, the year that Novak’s had, I think there’s a very fine line between being No. 1 in the world and being 3 or 4,a�? said Murray. a�?I feel tonight that I closed that gap.

a�?My job over the next two or three months is to surpass him and the guys in front of me. It will take a lot of hard work, and hopefully I can do it.a�?

 

Paul Webber Jr.

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