Sunday, January 27, 2013

2013 AUS OPEN: Djokovic Wins 6th Major; 4th in Oz

As I predicted, World #1 Novak Djokovic defeated World #3 Andy Murray 6-7(2) 7-6(3) 6-3 6-2 in the final of the 2013 Australian Open to become the first man in the open era to win three consecutive titles in Melbourne and capture the 6th major title of his career at age 25.

This was the fourth time the two had met in a major tournament, with Djokovic extending his lead to 3-1 over his rival, with the only loss coming in 5-sets at the 2012 US Open final. Additionally, Djokovic now leads their overall head-to-head 11-7.

The match was not of the extraordinary quality of either that previous final they played 4 months ago or the semifinal the two contested in Australia last year, both of which were on my list of the best men's matches of the year.

In this match, there were only 3 breaks of serve, while in those previous 2 there were 35 breaks combined. In fact, it was well after the first two-and-a-half mark before the first break occurred, although, surprisingly there were breakpoints saved by both players in the first two tiebreak sets. The player who saved the breakpoints in each case was the person who won the tiebreaker. After Murray was broken it became apparent something was wrong with his feet (or toes) and his movement was not as explosive to the ball, which Djokovic was able to ruthlessly exploit to earn two more breaks in the 4th set and close out thee match without ever losing his. This is a pretty astonishing achievement for someone who was playing against the person who is arguably the best service returner in the game right now. Another, aspect of the game where Murray fell short was that although he has the bigger serve and had only served two double faults in the entire tournament up to the final, he only managed 7 aces and squandered 5 double faults (including one on break point) in the championship match.

Djokovic's win means that all four major titles will continue to be held by the Top 4 players in the world: World #1 Djokovic (Australian Open), World #2 Roger Federer (Wimbledon), World #3 Murray (US Open) and World #4 Rafael Nadal (French Open).

Many people, myself included, expect Djokovic to make a huge push to try to complete his career slam on the red clay of Roland Garros this spring. He made the final last year and for a stretch of 8 games completely dominated the best clay court player of all time before losing in 4 sets. Can he do so again for 3-4 sets? That is the question that remains to be answered.

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