Remember when the Roger Federer v. Rafael Nadal rivalry—featuring a contrast of styles, eight Grand Slam final matchups, and, according to some, maybe the greatest tennis match of all time—was going to eat tennis and shut out any other would be champions for a decade plus? That era feels like a distant memory, thanks to the dominance of Novak Djokovic, who this morning, won the Australian Open over Andy Murray.
Djokovic didn’t play a perfect game, but he doesn’t really have to to beat, well, anyone. Hell, he committed triple-digit unforced errors in this tournament and still won that match. Murray got stronger as the match progressed but he couldn’t even take a set off Djokovic. On one hand, it’s hard to commend the Serbian for his dominance when he played well for maybe one match (the semifinals against Federer), but in a way, it’s even more impressive that he didn’t need to be at his best to win.
In tournaments every year, big favorites have sloppy games and catch the wrong opponent as they’re on the upswing. The tricky thing about big Open tournaments like the Australian is that a single off-match can sink you (like yesterday with Serena). Djokovic had plenty of off-matches, but that didn’t stop him from winning the tournament. As you can see from the (very long) highlights below, Djokovic wasn’t bad today so much as inconsistent (at least, after his dominant 6-1 first set).
Murray actually had more aces and winners, but he also had 24 more unforced errors than Djokovic. He was emotional and gracious after the match, and appeared rather casual throughout. At one point, he apparently told his coach, “this is the worst match I’ve ever played.” Given that his wife is expected to give birth to their child soon and that his father-in-law collapsed earlier in the tournament, Murray was understandably distracted.
For Djokovic, he’s now on the cusp of becoming the greatest Australian Open player of all time. He tied Roy Emerson with his sixth title, and at 28, I’d bet on him getting another one. As imperfect as he was this tournament, he’s still taken 11 of the last 12 from Murray, won 15 matches in a row overall, and has a chance to replicate his crushing 2015 season. That’s certainly where his head is at, as he said after the match:
“I can’t allow myself to relax and enjoy,” Djokovic said. “Of course I want to enjoy, and I will, but it’s not going to go more than few days. After that I already thinking about how can I continue on playing well throughout the rest of the season each tournament.”