Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

No regrets for Murray after Australian Open final defeat to clinical Djokovic

Britain's Andy Murray speaks in a press conference after his loss to Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the men's final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 27: Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates winning championship point in his men's final match against Andy Murray of Great Britain during day fourteen of the 2013 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 27, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 28: Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates with a bottle of champagne winning his men's final match against Andy Murray of Great Britain during day fourteen of the 2013 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 28, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Lucas Dawson/Getty Images)

The tears have flowed when Andy Murray has lost Grand Slam finals in the past, but the worst pains the Scot felt here last night were in his blistered right foot and his sore left hamstring.

Murray's horizons have changed irrevocably since he ended his wait for a Grand Slam title in New York last summer and even after his 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2 defeat to Novak Djokovic in yesterday's Australian Open final the world No 3 kept his disappointment in perspective.



Although he had failed to become the first man for 57 years to follow up his maiden Grand Slam victory by winning the next event, Murray was determined to take the positives from his third defeat in four years in the final of the season's opening Grand Slam tournament.



Not only had he beaten Roger Federer in a Grand Slam match for the first time in the semi-finals, he had also become the first man in the Open era to reach the final in the next tournament after winning his first major title.



"The last few months have been the best tennis of my life," Murray said, refusing to be downcast after Djokovic had managed to reverse their US Open final result.



"I made the Wimbledon final, won the Olympics, won the US Open. I was close here as well. I know no one's ever won a Slam immediately after winning their first one. It's not the easiest thing to do and I got extremely close.



"I have to try and look at the positives of the last few months and I think I'm going in the right direction. This is the first time I've beaten Roger in a Slam over five sets.



"I think I dealt with the situations and the ebbs and flows in that match well. I felt much more comfortable on the court today than I did even at the US Open, so that has to be a positive.



"Before the US Open final I was unbelievably nervous and was doubting myself a lot. I didn't go on the court today having those doubts. I went on the court and felt pretty calm from the beginning.



"I was obviously still nervous, but I think I felt more at home in a match like that on a court like that, playing for a Grand Slam title.



"The first few times I played for a Grand Slam, at the US Open and here, I definitely struggled with it. Now I feel more comfortable."



There was certainly no shame in losing to Djokovic, who underlined his status as the world's best player by becoming the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian Open titles.



The 25-year-old Serb has won four of his six Grand Slam titles on these courts.



Murray has now lost five of his six Grand Slam finals, but three were against the greatest player ever in Federer and two have been against Djokovic, who is rapidly joining the ranks of the all-time best.



That is the downside of playing in one of the greatest eras in men's tennis. Even in Federer's early days the Swiss won Grand Slam finals against the likes of Mark Philippoussis (world No 48), Marat Safin (No 86) and Marcos Baghdatis (No 54); now it has almost become the norm for two of the world's top four to reach every Grand Slam final.



Djokovic is one of the few players who appears to get stronger the longer a match goes on and the world No 1 took full advantage of Murray's physical difficulties.



It was clear that the Scot was suffering in the latter stages with both a tight hamstring and a blistered foot. He had tweaked the hamstring during his victory over Federer on Friday night, which at four hours was the longest match he had played since the US Open.



"It's just a bit sore when you're running around, but it's not something that stops you from playing," Murray said.



"That's what happens with fatigue. You get sore, you get tired. You don't feel perfect when you step on the court every single time.



"When you play the rallies like we did tonight, along with the match with Roger, that's what happens. It's part and parcel of playing these big events against the best players in the world. With how physical the game is just now, that's just part of it."



At the end of the second set Murray sent for the trainer to treat a blister on his right foot.



It was clear for the rest of the match that he was suffering whenever he had to stop or change direction. He did not chase down drop shots as effectively as he usually does and when driven out wide he struggled to return the ball with his usual venom.



"There are certain things that hurt when you run or hit the ball, especially blisters, but it's not something that stops you from playing or stops you from running for balls," he insisted.



"Ninety per cent of the players on the tour will have played this tournament with some sort of blister or problem. It had no bearing at all on the result."



Murray said he also had no complaints about the scheduling, which gave him one day less than Djokovic to prepare for the final, although he added: "Anyone who watches the game will know that in any sport if you have longer to recover from matches then the better obviously."



Djokovic, who within four hours of victory was on a flight back to Europe to prepare for Serbia's Davis Cup tie in Belgium next weekend, said that he had served better in the first two sets than he had in any match in the last two years.



He added: "I tried to be more aggressive, so I went for my shots, especially in the third and fourth, and came to the net quite often. I needed to be the one who dictates the play."



Ivan Lendl, Murray's coach, insisted that his man had had a very good tournament and was continuing to improve.



"It's disappointing not to win but you just have to keep putting yourself in those situations and some of them will come your way eventually," Lendl said.

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