Novak Djokovic Wins 3rd Consecutive Australian Open

22:42 Sun 27 Jan 2013
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Today Novak Djovokic won his sixth Grand Slam title, defeating Andy Murray 6–7 (2), 7–6 (3), 6–3, 6–2 in the Australian Open men’s final. In doing so he became the only male player in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian Opens.

The first two sets of the final were grueling, very physical affairs, and exemplified the modern men’s game: phenomenal court coverage and defense, and extremely aggressive winners or near-winners coming from any position on the court. Djokovic was the more aggressive of the two, coming to net far more often, while Murray was probably better in baseline rallies, which is remarkable in itself. The obvious turning point in the match was at 3–3 in the third, when Murray played a weak service game and Djokovic broke—it was all Djokovic after that. The real turning point might have been at the start of the second set, Djokovic serving a set down and 0–1, 15–40, when he pushed a sot forehand down the middle of the court, and Murray, who had been clinical and lethal to that point, barely put wide an attempt at a backhand winner. Murray’s failure to take that opportunity seemed to perk Djokovic up, and while it was a very tight set through to the tiebreak, it seemed as if Djokovic were slowly asserting control. He was helped in this by Murray suffering from blisters on his feet, which seemed to hamper his movement later in the match.

Murray’s blisters, and Djokovic’s resulting advantage, were connected to the absence of Rafael Nadal from the draw. The “Big Four” are simply far better than the rest of the field, and Nadal’s absence meant that two of them would meet in the semifinals, while the third would face some other guy before advancing. I hate to refer that way to David Ferrer, whom I greatly respect, but he’s no threat to the top four, and Djokovic made that clear with a resounding 6–2, 6–2, 6–2 beating. Ferrer, now ranked number four in the world, simply couldn’t do anything at all to hurt Djokovic in their semifinal. Meanwhile Federer and Murray faced off in the other, and Murray came through that in five difficult sets, sets that doubtless contributed to his blister problems.

Apart from making for lopsided tournament draws, Nadal’s absence raises questions about the clay court season: will he be fit for it, or will this be the first year that his reign as King of Clay is truly challenged? Djokovic and Murray both look awfully strong, and I think they could challenge Nadal even at Roland Garros. Federer still has the terrible matchup problems with Nadal that he’s always had, but if one of the others were to knock Nadal out, Federer would certainly look like a contender for another French Open title.

The dominance of the top four seems set to continue; the only plausible threat at the moment seems to be Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who took Federer to five sets in the quarterfinals; he’s certainly capable of having brilliant days in which he can trouble them, which doesn’t seem likely to be true of Ferrer.

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