February 19, 2013
You couldn’t make it up – and that’s the beauty of tennis. Novak Djokovic made history by winning his third successive Australian Open. But that wasn’t the only element that made this final unique in the modern era.
Some twists of fate you just can’t predict. You can train and train to face a beast…and then be knocked down by a feather. Why did Andy Murray allow himself to be distracted by that bird feather, falling from the sky?
He didn’t need to lose that second-set tie-break, or even go 2-3 down. He didn’t need to allow his rhythm to be broken. But he waited and waited for a feather to fall, taking his hopes with it, and then double-faulted crucially.
Suddenly Djokovic was back in the match at one set all, given time to find his aggressive best…and Murray began to look out of sorts.
It took two hours and fifty-two minutes for the real Novak Djokovic to appear – and finally break Andy Murray’s serve. From there it was plain sailing for the greatest player in the world.
He became the greater warrior, and displayed a superior mental strength too. In the first set, Djokovic seemed almost unnerved by the sight of his mirror image.Murray, just as physical, just as brutal, a man in his prime at long last.
That’s the way it looked for a while, anyway.
Early in this final, the Brit looked calmer and didn’t even have to take risks to gain the upper hand when it mattered.
Murray will look back with some regret at three squandered break points to go 2-0 up in that pivotal second set. That opportunity, if taken, could have seen him take a two-set lead.
And the loss of concentration over that feather in the tie-break just handed over the initiative. Suddenly Superman took hold with bludgeoning ground-strokes and amazing acrobatics, doing the splits time and again while firing impossible defensive strokes to keep the match alive.
Murray needed to attack but when it mattered he didn’t. By the final set he was gone physically with blisters and a hamstring tweak…and gone mentally too, reduced to nagging the umpire about crowd noise.
Once again, Novak reigned supreme. The greatest player in the world, the greatest athlete, in full flow.
We should marvel at this superman of a sportsman, and at the way Murray tested him early in this final.
And how can we do anything but relish the rest of the tennis year after Melbourne’s magic?!
In the summer we’ll see if Andy can take Novak down on the home grass of Wimbledon.
Expect more epics in 2013…especially if Andy manages to avoid those falling feathers!