MELBOURNE – AFP/Reuters
Defending champion Novak Djokovic’s confidence is sky-high as he builds towards a shot at his sixth Grand Slam crown in the Australia Open final on Jan 27.
Novak Djokovic will try to defend his Australian Open title against Andy Murray in the final on Jan. 27, where the two players will have a rematch of the 2011 championship game.
Djokovic tries to become the first man to win three Australian Open titles in a row, and he will meet Murray, who was beaten by the Serb in last year’s final. However, Murray is a different player than he was last year, playing with a newfound maturity in his game.
After his victories in the Olympic gold medal game and the US
Open final, Murray ticked another box in his career, beating Roger Federer for the first time in a Grand Slam in the semifinal game on Jan. 25.
The 25-year-old Briton advanced to the final with a 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 win in four hours.
Murray had looked the more likely to win the match from the outset with a superior service game and aggressive shot-making, but the 17-time Grand Slam winner proved he was still a force to be reckoned with by forcing a fifth set.
The U.S. Open champion, however, got off to a storming start in the fifth, racing out to a 3-0 lead and after being two points from the match in the fourth set was not prepared to let the opportunity slip again.
“It’s always tough against him. Slams are when he plays his best tennis,” Murray said in a courtside interview. “When I was serving for the match at 6-5 in the fourth, he came up with some unbelievable shots.
“I didn’t play the best tiebreak, it’s hard when you’re serving for a place in the final and a few minutes later you are into a fifth set.”
Murray acknowledged that he will not be the favorite for the final, praising the world number one player.
“[Djokovic] plays his best tennis here, it’s his third final in a row and I’ll have to play pretty well,” Murray said. “I hope it’s a painful match because that will mean it’s a good one.”
On the other hand, Novak Djokovic is supremely confident and has the advantage of playing his semifinal a day earlier than Murray.
Djokovic says he is feeling fitter and fresher than he did carrying last year’s leviathan workload as he sat back and waited for the Australian Open final.
Djokovic demolished Spanish world number four-elect David Ferrer in less than 90 minutes in a one-sided semifinal to clinch his third straight Australian final appearance.
It is in stark contrast to 12 months ago, when the Serb had to dig deep to win the title after fighting off Murray in a five-set semifinal over four hours and 50 minutes ahead of his 5:53 final triumph over Rafael Nadal, the longest-ever match at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic, who taken to the brink in a five-hour five-setter with Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round, has bounced back with untroubled wins over fifth seed Tomas Berdych and Ferrer.
The defending champion’s confidence is sky-high as he builds towards a shot at his sixth Grand Slam crown.
“I definitely prefer being fitter for the final and having a little bit more time than I had in 2012,” Djokovic said. “It’s quite different circumstances that I have to face this time.
“Last year I played five hours in the semis and had only a day-and-a-half to recover for another six hours with Nadal.
“This year it hasn’t been the case, and I’m very glad. I was pushed to the limit in the fourth round and I’ve had some really physically tough matches in this tournament, and I’m glad that I got through it.
“Right now I feel great on the court.”
Djokovic described his tennis as “incredible” against the outgunned Ferrer, who despite his high ranking was made to look second-rate as his serve was broken seven times and he won only one-third of the match points against the rampant Serb.
“I have a great feeling about myself on the court at this moment. Two days off before the final gives me enough time to get ready and recover for the finals,” Djokovic said.
“This extra day’s break definitely serves me well, physically, mentally, emotionally, so I can get all my strength for the final.”