Djokovic Wins Second Grand Slam Final

15:00 Sun 30 Jan 2011
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Novak Djokovic won the 2011 Australian Open men’s final last night in straights, 6–4, 6–2, 6–3. That’s his second Australian Open title, coming three years after his last victory (against Tsonga, and also after defeating Federer in straights in the semis). I watched the final on replay this morning, and frankly am quite glad I didn’t stay up for it, as it fairly poor.

Andy Murray was quite disappointing—and this from someone who was rooting against him. Murray has now lost his first nine Grand Slam final sets, becoming the first man in the open era to lose more than their first six, apparently. His performance was bad, worse by far than his performance against Federer last year.

Djokovic, on the other hand, looked fantastic. He looked great throughout the tournament, and played extremely solid tennis during the final—raising that to fantastic tennis at times.

I still think his endurance is suspect, perhaps mentally as much as physically. His five-set victory over Federer in New York would have been less likely if Federer hadn’t gone away in the losing sets; I also think that had Federer won either the second or third sets in the Australian Open semifinal this year Djokovic might have faded. That’s one of the reasons I would still favor Nadal over Djokovic, because I can’t see Djokovic managing to take him out in straights. Then again, Novak did just that to both Federer and Murray, and if he might have lost if they’d gone to five, who cares? He made sure things never reached that point.

That endurance issues aside, Djokovic was unlikely to lose last night no matter what happened. Even so, the match seemed to turn quite dramatically on a single point, Murray serving at 4–5, 15–30 in the first set. This turned into a 39-shot rally, with Djokovic showing phenomenal defense multiple times in it, as he did at several critical junctures during the match. But that one point seemed to elevate his game and deflate Murray’s, and Djokovic won the next four games to put the second set out of reach.

The third set was a messy affair, with Murray raising his game inconsistently and Djokovic occasionally losing focus, but it still didn’t seem in doubt in any serious way. Anytime Djokovic was threatened, either he would step up with amazing defense followed by beautiful transition into winning offense, or Murray would simply give up the point with an error. Murray’s footwork seemed to let him down very frequently, with a lot of errors coming where he was in poor position.

Djokovic anticipated extraordinarily well throughout, seemingly guessing the right way on the majority of the points where Murray could choose his finishing attempt. That happened in the 39-shot rally, and it happened at significant other moments also. Djokovic’s defense seemed superior generally, despite that being Murray’s forte.

The men’s top 10 remains unchanged after this tournament, but I think it’s significant that the top three have now all won multiple Slam titles—I’d like to know when that was last the case; certainly it’s been a while. The clay court season could be interesting; if Nadal is uninjured I think he’ll dominate as usual, but I wonder to what extent Djokovic can close the gap on that surface with Federer, who has been the second-best clay court player for most of Nadal’s reign.

I didn’t watch the women’s final, which was apparently significantly superior to the men’s this year. Clijsters finally won a Grand Slam outside of New York, weathering an early storm to deny Li Na (and thus prevent a first-ever Asian Grand Slam victory).

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