Djokovic learns to thrive in Grand Slam spotlight
For a few years now, Novak Djokovic has been known as a Top 10 player with a difficult name to pronounce and a reputation as a bit of a jokester.
Funny quips on the court, a favorite in the locker room and, oh yes, those hilarious YouTube imitations of other players' serving mannerisms.
On Sunday, the comedian came up with another impressive punch line, winning the second major championship of his career. He trounced Andy Murray 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 to take his second Australian Open title, extending Britain's near 75-year drought in men's singles Grand Slams.
Djokovic's first major came here in 2008. And after throwing his racquet, shirt and shoes into an adoring crowd Sunday night at Rod Laver Arena, he let it be known he's a different guy than when he won three years ago.
"I feel like a more experienced player," Djokovic said with the trophy sitting next to him.
"Physically, I'm stronger, I'm faster.
"Mentally, I'm more motivated on the court. I know how to react in certain moments and I know how to play on a big stage."
Murray, trying to become the first British man to win a Grand Slam singles title since Fred Perry in 1936, saw all those facets of Djokovic's game in the final.
Just two months after leading Serbia to its first Davis Cup, Djokovic completely dominated Murray to hand the Scottish-born player his third straight major final loss in straight sets. He's 0-9 in major finals.
"When I got ahead in some games — even in just points — he was sticking up lobs that were landing on the baseline, passing shots that were on the line," Murray said. "I broke his serve twice in the third set and still lost 6-3."
Murray said he might take a break from the game for a while.
"Right now, I am disappointed," he said. "I've been away since the week after the tour finals — it's a long time.
"I'm looking forward to getting back to seeing friends, family, my dog, doing all the normal stuff I like doing. I want to spend time with my girlfriend, chill out and get away from the court."
The match ended in two hours 39 minutes and the statistics underlined Djokovic's domination: he won 11 of his 14 service games; Murray only six of 13.
Murray's second serve was pounded by Djokovic as Murray won just 16 of 51 points (31 per cent) on his second serve.
Murray and Djokovic, each 23 and born a week apart, are good friends and often practice together. At the coin flip before the match, Djokovic smiled broadly for photos while Murray looked fidgety and nervous.
"I understand how he feels," Djokovic said. "It's his third final and he didn't get the title.
"As I said on the court, I really have big respect for him and his game. I think he has everything it takes to become a Grand Slam champion."
Trailing 5-4 in the opening set, Murray double-faulted to start the 10th game. He challenged the final point of the set when he thought his forehand stayed in on the backline, but Djokovic walked away with the set in 59 minutes.
"Maybe there was a turning point in the whole match, that 5-4 game," Djokovic said. "I was a bit fortunate.
"I kind of anticipated well and read his intentions and played some great shots and great moments. It is a big advantage mentally when you are a set up and you are getting to the second set and really going for the shots."
Djokovic leads the head-to-head series 5-3, ending a three-match winning streak for Murray.
Despite having a final that didn't feature defending champion Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, who was trying to win his fourth straight Grand Slam but got beaten in the quarter-finals, Djokovic said it was too early to include his name or Murray's among them.
"Still Rafa and Roger are the two best players in the world, no question about that," Djokovic said. "You can't compare my success and Murray's success to their success.
"They're the two most dominant players in the game for a while. All the credit to them.
"It's nice to see that there are some new players in the later stages of Grand Slams fighting for a title. That's all I can say."