An Australian Open title once again eluded Andy Murray on Sunday and the Scot must improve his mental strength if he is to ever attain a Grand Slam, writes Michael Halton
Novak Djokovic claimed his second Grand Slam title when he crushed an out of sorts Andy Murray in straight sets. Fresh from leading Serbia to its first ever Davis Cup title in December, Djokovic played outstanding tennis, dropping just one set on his way to a second Australian Open title.
Murray battled hard, but uncharacteristically sloppy errors, as he tried to fight his way back into the match, handed Djokovic crucial points. The pressure of trying to emulate Fred Perry, the last British man to win a Grand Slam, proved to be too much for Murray as he could not find a way past Djokovic who returned everything thrown at him.
Djokovic entered the final as slight favourite after his semi-final crushing of World No 2 Roger Federer in straight sets. In the first Grand slam final without either Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer since 2008, Djokovic began brightest winning the first six points of the match. Murray managed to hold his serve in that game but Djokovic had set out his stall and he never looked back from that terrific opening.
Djokovic’s ability to return everything that Murray threw at him destroyed Murray’s morale and the unforced errors that Murray committed, 47 in all, as well as his low percentage of first serves in (just 51 per cent) completely undermined the challenge of the Dunblane man. Djokovic broke Murrays’ serve in the tenth game of the first set to win 6-4.
Murray seemed completely demoralised by the setback and committed a series of sloppy errors to hand complete control of the match to Djokovic, who wasn’t going to refuse the invitation. Djokovic raced into a five-game-to-love lead as Murray’s concentration slipped. The Scot stirred from his slumber and staged a mini-revival, managing to break Djokovic’s serve for the first time, but he could not sustain his momentum and Djokovic claimed the second set 6-2.
Murray opened the third set brightly by breaking Djokovic’s serve again, but he threw his good work away by losing the second game to love. Djokovic moved 3-1 up with Murray saving six break points to no avail. Murray managed to bring it back to 3-3, but the relentless Serb continued to press and he took the next three games to claim the second Grand Slam title of his career. Djokovic’s victory here and his performances in the US Open last year signal that he may finally be ready to claim his place alongside multiple Grand Slam winners Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
Murray will look back on this match as an opportunity wasted, as in the absence of Nadal and Federer, he would have fancied his chances of becoming the first Scot to claim a Grand Slam title. However, his dismal record in Grand Slam finals, where he has yet to win a set, is an unfortunate indictment of his game.
The manner of this defeat will force him to consider if a more aggressive style would be more suited to the big occasions. Murray will be back but if he wants to be a Grand Slam Champion he needs to cut out the silly errors that seem to assail him in the big matches, or he will be in danger of becoming the next Tim Henman.