Andy Murray, the new world Number 1 is the hot favourite to claim the Melbourne Grand Slam after finishing runner-up at the event five times, succumbing to Swiss legend Roger Federer in 2010, and defending champion Novak Djokovic the other four times in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2016. However, with the Serbian’s form dropping after a sub-par end to the 2015 season, Murray seems to be in prime position to claim the first Grand Slam title of the year.
Murray has improved undoubtedly since first reaching the Melbourne Grand Slam final in 2010, where he succumbed to Roger Federer in three sets; 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (13-11). Murray originally led in the third set tiebreak, up 5-2, before succumbing to the Swiss legend, who eventually prevailed 13-11.
He later famously commented after his loss:
“Firstly congratulations Roger. His achievements in tennis are incredible. He was a lot better than me tonight, so well done. Thank you for your support. I loved every minute of it, and hopefully one time I can come back and win here… Sorry I couldn’t do it for you tonight… I can cry like Roger. It’s just a shame I can’t play like him.”
Fast forward 12 months to the Australian Open Final in 2011. Murray is there, but so is another foe; Novak Djokovic, who won the title in 2008, and was at the beginning of a stellar year. Djokovic’s path to the final included a straight sets victory over defending champion Roger Federer, whilst Murray’s included a gruelling four set match against David Ferrer, who famously beat Rafael Nadal in the Quarterfinals that year.
Unfortunately for Great Britain’s Number one, Djokovic’s confidence was overflowing, and that was evident through his shot making, which continued to put Murray under pressure. In the second set, the Scot narrowly avoided a bagel by breaking the Serbian’s serve; this resistance, however, was short lived as Djokovic secured the second set, and then captured the decisive break at 4-3, leading him to serve for the set, which he did; beating Murray 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 to claim his second Grand Slam title.
Murray, heartbreakingly, had to endure another runner-up speech in which he congratulated his opponent :
“He had an unbelievable tournament and deserved to win,” said Murray afterwards. “Hopefully I’ll come back and have more chances in the future.”
At the end of December 2011, Murray announced that he would be partnering up with Czech legend Ivan Lendl, in an attempt to win a Grand Slam title after losing three slam finals. This partnership would prove to be fruitful later in 2012, but, at the Semi-Finals of the Australian Open of the same year, they encountered their first true test in the defending champion: Novak Djokovic, who took the first set 6-3. It seemed a routine match for the Serbian, but the British number one stormed back to claim the next two sets; 6-3, 7-6 (7-3). Djokovic raised his game, and in the fourth, demolished Murray and won the set 6-1, pushing the battle to a decisive fifth set. The Serbian took a hold of the match, leading 5-2 in the final set, before a last act of defiance allowed Murray to rally to level at 5-5. There would be no fairytale ending, however, as Djokovic held at 6-5, then broke Murray’s defenses to prevail: 6-3 3-6 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 7-5 in a grueling match which lasted 4 hours and 50 minutes. The Serbian would claim the title in another classic five setter against Rafael Nadal, prevailing 5–7, 6–4, 6–2, 6–7 (5-7), 7–5 in a match which set the record for the longest slam match in 5 hours and 53 minutes.
Murray went on to claim the Olympic Gold that year, and the US Open title, and was, once more, pipped to finally win the Melbourne Slam title in 2013. Reaching the final after a victory over Swiss legend Roger Federer in five sets; 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 6-2. It was soon clear who the British number one had to defeat in the finals; Novak Djokovic, who pushed the first set to a tiebreak which Murray claimed; 7-6 (7-2). However, like usual, the Serbian would fight back in his usual dominant fashion, claiming the second set tiebreak: 7-6 (7-3), before Murray took a medical timeout in order to have someone see to blisters upon his feet, which caused him visible pain. It wouldn’t be long for Djokovic to claim the first break of the match, breaking the British number one’s serve, and holding to win the third set 6-3. It wouldn’t be long until the Serbian continued his dominance, attaining his fourth overall title by winning the fourth set 6-2.
Murray, once more, had another runner-up plate to add to his collection, and another speech to make:
Novak’s a very well deserved champion, well done. His team have done a great job, well done again. I’d also like to thank my team. They help me all the time. I’d also like to thank the whole crowd, it’s a great atmosphere to play in and you’re extremely fair. And finally I’d like to thank the tournament director.
After finally ending the 77-year wait for a British Wimbledon champion in the 2013 Champioships, Murray had a sub-par hard court swing, relinquishing his US Open title after being knocked out in the Quarterfinals by Stan Wawrinka. A recurring back problem had affected the British number one’s performance, and was the reason for his withdrawal from Roland Garros. In order to prevent it from affecting his career in the long term, Murray decided to undergo surgery in September of 2013, which sidelined him for the rest of the season.
The Scot attempted to regain his form in 2014, with a run to the Semi-Finals of the Australian Open where he would encounter Swiss legend Roger Federer, who was undergoing a renaissance in his career. Federer won the first two sets 6-3, 6-4, and was on his way toward a straight sets victory, before failing to serve out the match, and ultimately losing the proceeding tiebreak to the British number 1. However, this was rectified in the final set to which Murray could not respond, succumbing in the final set 6-3, losing 3-6 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 3-6. Djokovic was not the champion in Melbourne this year, however, as he was overpowered by Stan Wawrinka who defeated the defending champion in the Quarterfinals, 2-6 6-4 6-2 3-6 9-7, en route to the title.
After enduring a sub-par season, a split from coach Ivan Lendl, and a new coach in the form of Amelie Mauresmo – former Australian Open and Wimbledon Champion, as well as former number 1 – Andy Murray was, once more, ready to challenge for the coveted Australian Open title. A run to the final was second nature to the Scot, who found himself competing against Novak Djokovic once more. The Serbian sped into a 4-1 lead, before Murray hauled the breaks back, forcing a tiebreak, which Djokovic won 7-6 (7-5). Murray regrouped at the start of the second for a 2-0 lead, before the Serbian came fighting back. They both leveled at 5-5, before an ensuing tiebreak which the Scot, this time, won 7-6 (7-4). Murray broke in the first game of the third, before the defending champion sprang to life, winning 75% his of second serve points, whilst the Scot began to fade, dropping serve with a double fault at 5-3 to hand Djokovic the third set. The British number 1 began his descent, whilst the Serbian began his ascent; dominating the fourth set completely, with the Scot only winning 11 points in a set which showcased the world number one’s status as the man to beat as he prevailed 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-0 to win his fifth Australian Open title.
Another stellar season awaited the Serbian after his victory in Melbourne, making him the favourite, once more, to win the title. The world number one overcame Swiss legend Roger Federer in four sets in the Semi-Finals 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, whilst Murray had the tougher time of overcoming the big serving Milos Raonic in five grueling sets. The Scot had to fight back from a two sets to one deficit, before eventually clawed back the match to force a fifth, as the Canadian, struggling with fatigue and an adductor injury which reduced the prowess of his usually lethal serve. Murray pounced on this to eventually prevail after four hours, 4-6, 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-2 to reach his fifth final in Melbourne.
It was Djokovic Vs. Murray once more.
The Serbian sensation proved his dominance straight away, speeding to a 5-0 lead. Facing a bagel, Murray hit a forehand cross-court which sped past Djokovic, and awarded Murray a game. That was all the resistance the Scot could muster, losing the first set: 6-1 to the world number one. Djokovic broke at 4-3, before Murray broke back, leading the scoreline to ultimately level at 5-5 with the British number one to serve. The Serbian pounced, although being 0-40 down, he managed to win the next five points to break serve. One backhand later into the net from the Scot, and the world number one had seized the second set: 7-5. In the third, the Serbian broke early to achieve the advantage, before a fight back from the No.2 seed leveled the score at 5-5. They were headed for a tiebreak, which Murray opened with a double fault, before another, which soon handed Djokovic a 4-1 advantage. The defending champion reeled off an unreturnable serve down the T to make it 5-1, before a Murray backhand was called long, bringing up five match points at 6-1.
Murray saved one match point with an ace into the Ad Court, and then utilized his defensive capabilities to draw an error from Djokovic’s forehand which landed wide of the baseline. With match point on his own serve for the first time, the Serbian wasted no time in delivering an ace straight down the T, capturing a record-equaling sixth Australian Open title.
With Djokovic’s form faltering, and the Serbian’s recent split with Becker, Murray is capable, and the hot favourite to win the title, after partnering up with Ivan Lendl in late 2016 to create a superb season which saw Murray capture Wimbledon, Olympic Gold, 9 titles overall, and the World Number 1 ranking. With Lendl’s guidance, and Murray’s dedication, motivation, and expertise, Djokovic’s Melbourne crown will be seriously under threat come the start of the first Grand Slam of the year.