By Peter Stebbings (AFP) – Jan 27, 2013
MELBOURNE — AFP IS NOW CLOSING THIS LIVE REPORT, after Novak Djokovic wore down Andy Murray over four sets to clinch a hat-trick of Australian Open titles in attritional style. The Serbian world number one lost the opening set in a tie-breaker but got progressively stronger to dominate the suffering Murray and win 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-2 in 3hr 40min. It was Djokovic's fourth Australian crown and his sixth Grand Slam title overall, and confirmed him as the game's top player.
1242 GMT: The camera flashes pop pop pop as Novak Djokovic, clad in a dark tracksuit top, holds aloft the winner's trophy. He says: "I love this court. I love this crowd out here. Thank you very much, and see you next year."
1236 GMT: A battered and bruised Murray, the runner-up, gets a raucous reception from the crowd. He reaches out to them, saying: "You are extremely fair so thank you very much. I'll see you guys next year."
1231 GMT: Djokovic does a victory jig, looks to the skies, before tossing his sweatbands into the crowd. A worthy winner. Both men look absolutely spent. Djokovic becomes the first man to win three successive Australian Open titles since 1967.
1229 GMT: The Serbian world number one came out top in a gruelling final to win 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-2 in 3hr 40min on Rod Laver Arena.
1228 GMT: NOVAK DJOKOVIC WINS THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN FOR THIRD TIME IN A ROW.
Djokovic* 6-7 7-6 6-3 6-2 Murray: This should be it. Murray needs to break here and once more, and that is highly unlikely. But then Murray goes up 30-0 on the Serbian's serve. Djokovic seems eager to get this over with, and he has a real touch of luck when the ball falls the right side from his point of view after striking the top of the net. But back the Serb comes, 30-30, then 40-30 and championship point... AND DJOKOVIC WINS THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN.
Djokovic 6-7 7-6 6-3 5-2 Murray*: The world number one Djokovic had an iffy start to this Australian Open final, but his swagger is firmly back now and he is in the groove. It is only a matter of time. That said, MURRAY HOLDS.
Djokovic* 6-7 7-6 6-3 5-1 Murray: This is almost over. AFP reporter Will Swanton says from courtside that the crowd has gone awfully quiet, perhaps the inevitability of it all. This is the worst of Andy Murray, and he again questions the call. He seems to be in constant dispute with the officials. He surrenders a 30-0 advantage on the Djokovic serve, only for the reigning champion to storm back to 40-30. DJOKOVIC HOLDS.
Djokovic 6-7 7-6 6-3 4-1 Murray*: The third seed Murray is down 30-0 on his serve, and again touches the hamstring on his left leg. Turned on a feather? Back in the second-set tie-break Murray double-faulted just after he had paused to let a feather drift past him, and it's been all downhill for the US Open winner since then. But to his credit, he grapples his way back on his serve here. Bizarre.The game is stopped as a ball plops out of Murray's pocket. Umpire calls a let but warns Murray that he will lose the point next time. "I am aware of that," Murray snaps back. DJOKOVIC BREAKS when Murray double-faults.
Djokovic* 6-7 7-6 6-3 3-1 Murray: AFP reporter Will Swanton says from the Rod Laver Arena that a few more gulls have turned up to see the action from their spot high above the court. And they are seeing Murray in deep deep trouble, down two sets to one. He has no reply to a fire-cracker Djokovic ace, as Murray touches that hamstring again. DJOKOVIC HOLDS. With ease, it has to be said.
Djokovic 6-7 7-6 6-3 2-1 Murray*: Murray makes a fourth double-fault for the match and Djokovic has two break points when the Briton makes an unforced error. He survives the first after a decent first serve, but a huge rally ends when Murray hits into the net. DJOKOVIC BREAKS.
Djokovic* 6-7 7-6 6-3 1-1 Murray: Chance for Murray now on the Serbian's serve. Murray is up to 30-0, then slices long and is pegged back to 30-30. The third seed contests the call, but it is out, then Murray gets break point as Djokovic goes wide on a forehand. But the Briton wastes a rare opportunity and DJOKOVIC HOLDS.
Djokovic 6-7 7-6 6-3 0-1 Murray*: During the break Murray was having words with the umpire, seemingly about the noise at Rod Laver Arena during his last service game. AFP reporter Will Swanton, at courtside, says that Murray pulled back from one serve because seagulls were making too much of a din. Swanton says there's about 50 of them perching on the rim of the court roof. Don't suppose there is a lot the umpire can do about that. Murray is not getting a lot of his first serves in now. His service game goes to deuce, and he makes advantage, but appeared to tweak a hamstring in doing so. MURRAY HOLDS.
Djokovic* 6-7 7-6 6-3 Murray: Djokovic has all the momentum and he has the first break of the contest. He has three set points at 40-0... and takes it! DJOKOVIC HOLDS AND WINS THE THIRD SET.
Djokovic 6-7 7-6 5-3 Murray*: Djokovic stretches the small of his back and settles for the Murray serve. The number one has Murray scurrying all over the court in an epic point that Djokovic finally wins. Thirty-six shots in that rally, putting the holder Djokovic ahead 0-15, then Murray makes an error on the pass. A chance for Djokovic now, and another winner gives him three break points. The Briton survives the first, and the second, but he cannot do anything about the third. DJOKOVIC BREAKS.
Djokovic* 6-7 7-6 4-3 Murray: Terrific two-handed backhand from Murray takes it to 30-15, as he whips the ball across court. Lovely. Then Djokovic unleashes one for 40-15, and Murray goes wide to gift the Serb the game. DJOKOVIC HOLDS.
Djokovic 6-7 7-6 3-3 Murray*: Great stuff from the third seed Murray on his serve, as he wheels away to a 40-0 lead. But Djokovic won't let it lie, grappling his way back to 40-30, before Murray seals the game with a flourish and a throaty roar to the heavens. MURRAY HOLDS.
Djokovic* 6-7 7-6 3-2 Murray: Again Djokovic gives a death-look to his shoes as he slips for 15-15 on his serve, before rampaging to the net for 30-15, then 40-15. Easy approach for Murray but he makes a mess of it. DJOKOVIC HOLDS.
Djokovic 6-7 7-6 2-2 Murray*: Murray munches on a banana, Djokovic takes a swig from a water bottle, breathing in deeply, and they are back out again for the Murray serve. He is playing catch-up, but both men look confident on their serves. The Briton streaks into a 40-0 lead and a drop-shot from Djokovic lands into the net. MURRAY HOLDS.
Djokovic* 6-7 7-6 2-1 Murray: Djokovic is looking comfortable on his serve. Murray's return is long, and DJOKOVIC HOLDS. He has the impetus now.
Djokovic 6-7 7-6 1-1 Murray*: AFP's Asia sports editor Talek Harris says from Melbourne Park that they're laying on extra food for journalists in the media centre. Could be a long night. Nearly two-and-a-half hours have ticked past so far and this match is anyone's. MURRAY HOLDS.
Djokovic* 6-7 7-6 1-0 Murray: Now it is Murray who looks despondent. And he is grimacing with that nasty blister. He bellows something at his box as he falls 15-0 down on the Djokovic serve. The Serb polishes off the game with an ace. DJOKOVIC HOLDS.
1100 GMT: Medical time-out for Murray. Ouch, turn away now. He has a massive blister on his foot.
Djokovic 6-7 7-6 Murray. TIE-BREAK: Slow-hand clap as Murray makes an unsuccessful challenge at 1-0 up in the tie-break. They swap errors for 2-2, then a dirfting feather puts Murray off his second serve, and he double-faults. The feather's fault? Murray thinks so. Big chance for Djokovic. The court falls deathly quiet and Murray returns to the net for 5-2 to the Serb. Djokovic punches the air as he reaches set-point, and a lame shot by Murray is no good. DJOKOVIC WINS SECOND-SET TIE-BREAK.
Djokovic* 6-7 6-6 Murray: Gasps from the Rod Laver Arena crowd as Djokovic serves another double-fault, for 30-30. The Serb smashes close to the line for 40-30, then pings a clear winner. SECOND-SET TIE-BREAK.
Djokovic 6-7 5-6 Murray*: MURRAY HOLDS this time, and Djokovic is furious with himself. He gets Murray back to 40-30, but squanders the merest whiff of a chance with yet another unforced error.
Djokovic* 6-7 5-5 Murray: Djokovic serving to stay in the second set. There is marked difference in the body language of these two warriors. Murray takes a 15-0 lead, pumping his fists and growling. The Serb, in contrast, merely ambles away for his next serve. A mammoth rally goes Djokovic's way this time, for 40-30, then Murray puts his return of serve wide. DJOKOVIC HOLDS.
Djokovic 6-7 4-5 Murray*: Murray's serve is right on it. He goes up to 30-0, then a Djokovic error puts the third seed up to 40-0 in double-quick time. Commentator's curse... Murray then double-faults, but is not to be denied the next time. MURRAY HOLDS. Another tie-break looms.
Djokovic* 6-7 4-4 Murray: Stunning rally. Murray pegs back to 30-15 on a tight call, then Djokovic hits two clean winners in a row. DJOKOVIC HOLDS.
Djokovic 6-7 3-4 Murray*: As in the first, this second set is going with serve. There is not much in it, but Murray's body language is definitely the more confident and content. Murray cruises his way into a 40-lead, but then serves a double-fault, his first of the contest. Djokovic goes long, and MURRAY HOLDS.
Djokovic* 6-7 3-3 Murray: Djokovic bulldozes into a 30-0 lead on his serve, but Murray replies with a lovely shot that gets the Rod Laver Arena off their feet. Yet the Serb answers with an easy smash for a comfortable hold of serve. DJOKOVIC HOLDS.
Djokovic 6-7 2-3 Murray*: Murray is irritated. Djokovic makes a successful challenge on a call, but the third seed appears agitated at how long it took to get to that conclusion. He shakes his head, but then it is the Serb's turn to let off a bit of steam, as he loses a point and then volleys the ball with his foot the full length of the court. Great volley. MURRAY HOLDS.
Djokovic* 6-7 2-2 Murray: Murray takes a long hard look but it's good from Djokovic, an ace, and then another for 40-15. But Murray comes back, not once, but twice, for deuce. The top seed is up against it here, but Murray makes an unforced error, then goes long. DJOKOVIC HOLDS.
Djokovic 6-7 1-2 Murray*: AFP's Asia sports editor Talek Harris says from the Rod Laver Arena that Murray seems to be happy to play in the rally but when the chances come, he buries them. MURRAY HOLDS.
Djokovic* 6-7 1-1 Murray: AFP reporter Will Swanton, at Melbourne Park, says that loud sections of the crowd keep chanting: "Let's go, Andy, let's go!" Murray definitely has the crowd, says Swanton. And Murray has the impetus, darting out to a 0-40 lead on the Djokovic serve. But the top seed fights back, overturning two break points, then a third. Impressive. DJOKOVIC HOLDS.
Djokovic 6-7 0-1 Murray*: First set to the third seed Murray after a one-sided tie-break. Djokovic does not look happy at all. He is clearly not content with his footwear and has now made 25 unforced errors -- unthinkable for someone of his quality. He looks restless, and he keeps glaring at his box. Murray rounds off with an ace. MURRAY HOLDS. And to love.
Djokovic 6-7 Murray, FIRST-SET TIE-BREAK: The Serb makes another double-fault to give Murray the early advantage, and Murray streaks to a 3-0 lead, then 4-0 after a Djokovic challenge fails. Murray smells a big chance here, but Djokovic claws him back when a Murray challenge fails. A 24th unforced error by the top seed puts Murray ahead 5-1, then 6-1 and set point. MURRAY WINS FIRST SET ON A TIE-BREAK 7-2.
Djokovic 6-6 Murray*: Murray serves. Djokovic hits into the net after a decent rally and again gestures at his shoes, in the direction of his camp in the stands at Rod Laver Arena. Djokovic pegs back Murray, and this time it is the Scot who gestures at his camp. MURRAY HOLDS. TIE-BREAK.
Djokovic* 6-5 Murray: The Serb bamboozles a smash for 30-0, despite Murray's best efforts. The next one is a clean winner for Djokovic, but he follows that with a double-fault, his first of the match, for 40-15. DJOKOVIC HOLDS.
Djokovic 5-5 Murray*: Djokovic seems to be having some bother with his footwear, perhaps the grip. Murray appears to have his serve back in the groove and has the world number one scampering all over the blue Plexicushion court. MURRAY HOLDS.
Djokovic* 5-4 Murray: Murray goes wild with a routine backhand for 30-15 on the Djokovic serve. Murray mutters something in the direction of his corner. His coach Ivan Lendl sits impassive. DJOKOVIC holds with an ace.
Djokovic 4-4 Murray*: Murray once more against it a tad on his serve. The world number one Djokovic has one break point, but Murray survives with a volley for deuce. That's five break points against Murray, all saved. MURRAY HOLDS.
Djokovic* 4-3 Murray: Terrific stuff. Murray thought he had the point but Djokovic got off the floor for a teasing drop-shot. Djokovic was horizontal when he picked that out. Djokovic 30-15, then 40-15. DJOKOVIC HOLDS.
Djokovic 3-3 Murray*: Murray serves at 2-3. Now then, Djokovic goes up 0-30, then 15-40. Murray is in trouble and under pressure here. He survives the first break point, then the second for deuce. "C'mon!" the Scot shouts, fist clenched. Warming up nicely. Fourth break-point chance for Djokovic... But Murray survives and then fires off an ace. MURRAY HOLDS.
Djokovic* 3-2 Murray: Neither player is returning especially well at the moment. It's quiet tentative so far. Murray pegs it back to 30-all on the Serbian's serve, then they duel at deuce. Point of the match so far after a compelling rally. DJOKOVIC HOLDS.
Djokovic 2-2 Murray*: Murray looks comfortable on his serve at the moment, which bodes well for the Scot. He polishes off another love game with an ace. MURRAY HOLDS.
Djokovic* 2-1 Murray: Rather a sedate start from both players, as if they are just feeling one another out at the moment. These two know each other well. Murray ties his laces, then fires a lovely forehand winner for 40-30. Djokovic answers with an ace. DJOKOVIC HOLDS.
Djokovic 1-1 Murray*: Good start from Murray on his serve, which has given him trouble in the past, especially the first serve. MURRAY HOLDS to love.
Djokovic* 1-0 Murray (*denotes server): First point Murray on the Djokovic serve, then Djokovic replies with an ace. The Serb goes up, 30-15, then 40-15, and that's it. First blood to Djokovic. DJOKOVIC HOLDS.
0844 GMT: Here we go then. We are set to go. One last swig of drink for each player, the roar goes up, and it's on. Djokovic to serve...
0842 GMT: Djokovic has the edge on his old friend, with the world number one 10-7 to the better in their head-to-heads. Djokovic will be favourite, but Murray has been in great form getting as far as this. He needs to get his first serve firing though.
0839 GMT: They pose for photos, shake hands, and trot off to their respective ends for the warm-up. Not a seat to be had in the house, as you'd expect.
0834 GMT: Murray, clad in mostly black, is first out onto court. His Serbian rival is next out, also in black, with streaks of yellow. Massive cheers for both men. They are good friends off the court, but they'll be firm enemies on it for the next few hours.
0831 GMT: Harris says that Djokovic and Murray are undeniably the two best players around at this time. Plenty of Serbian football shirts around Rod Laver Arena and also lots of tartan and Union Jacks, so the crowd will be vocal tonight. Should be a cracker. Who's your money on?
0829 GMT: AFP's Asia sports editor Talek Harris is courtside. He tells me that it is a glorious evening at Melbourne Park, cool and breezy, as the sun dips in bright blue skies. Faint sound of bagpipes and long queues at the bars as Rod Laver Arena fills up. Neutrals favour Djokovic, but it's a very close call, says Harris.
0825 GMT: As you'd expect there are plenty of faces in the crowd at the Rod Laver Arena, among them Kevin Spacey, who has tweeted a pic of himself with the two finallists. Andre Agassi walks out with the trophy. We are about 20 minutes away from the off.
WELCOME TO AFP's LIVE REPORT of the Australian Open men's final, where the world number one Novak Djokovic faces Andy Murray as they renew a rivalry which has become the premier match-up in men's tennis.
Djokovic, the 2011 and 2012 champion, is bidding for the event's first hat-trick of the professional era, while US Open winner Murray can become the only player to open his Grand Slam account with back-to-back major titles.
The Serb and the Briton, both 25 and born only a week apart, have already met in two Grand Slam finals with Djokovic destroying Murray in straight sets in Melbourne two years ago.
However, an increasingly athletic Murray outlasted Djokovic in five sets in the US Open decider in December, when he finally landed a Grand Slam title after being runner-up four times.
The result broke a 76-year major drought for British men -- and it gave Murray added belief that he can win at the highest level, after also beating Roger Federer in last year's Olympic final.
Murray confirmed his new stature with a five-set defeat of Federer in the Melbourne semi-finals, his first ever Grand Slam win against the Swiss, and goes into the title match with his confidence high.
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