For Novak Djokovic, Sunday’s Australian Open final presents a chance to win a historic fourth title, for opponent Andy Murray, it’s an opportunity to make it fourth time lucky in the final at Melbourne Park. Already, no player in the Open Era has been more successful in the year’s first Grand Slam than Djokovic. His four titles put him level with two of the sport’s greats, Roger Federer and Andre Agassi, and now a fifth is within his grasp to take him to within one of the all-time record holder Roy Emerson.
There will likely be positive memories, too, when he steps out onto the Rod Laver Arena attempting to make it 5-0 in Australian Open finals. Two of his previous titles came courtesy of wins over the man he’ll face on Sunday. In 2011, the Serbian defeated Murray in a whitewash, before triumphing in four sets two years later.
“There's no clear favorite,” Djokovic said after his semifinal win over Stan Wawrinka. “But as you mentioned, the record I have in finals against him here in Australia, we played a couple of times, can serve maybe as a slight mental edge. But not much. I don't think he's going to feel that on the court. I'm sure he's going to be very motivated to win his first title here. I'm going to, of course, give my best that that doesn't happen.”
Murray can call upon the memory of getting the better of Djokovic in the two Grand Slam finals he has won, at the 2012 U.S. Open and 2013 Wimbledon. But there has been no such joy in Melbourne, where his frustrating record extends to being a three time runner-up, having also been beaten by Roger Federer in 2010.Yet, having defeated Tomas Berdych in four sets to earn another shot at the trophy, the sixth seed is focusing on the positives of his history Down Under.
“Obviously losing in the finals is disappointing,” he said. “But making four finals is a very, very difficult thing to do. I'm proud of my record here. I'll try my best on Sunday. I'll go in with best tactics possible, prepare well, [get a] couple days' rest, recover as best as I can. All I can do is give my best. If it's enough, great. If not, I literally couldn't have done anything more to put myself in a better position come Sunday.”
For Murray it has been a long time coming to get back to a Grand Slam final. The 27-year-old, born just a week earlier than Djokovic, suffered a malaise following the fulfillment of his Wimbledon dream, having also undergone back surgery and lost the coach who helped him to two Grand Slam titles, Ivan Lendl. He has been superb throughout this Australian Open, however. In his last three rounds against potentially tricky opponents -- talented Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, Australian rising star Nick Kyrgios and Rafael Nadal’s conqueror Berdych -- Murray dropped just two sets. After his semifinal win, in which he overcame the tension of seeing long-time friend and former assistant coach Dani Vallverdu in Berdych’s corner, Murray was quick to play tribute of the influence of new coach Amélie Mauresmo.
Murray’s win in the last four was still more straightforward than Djokovic’s. Taking on the defending champion and the man with whom he has split five-set epics in the last two years in Melbourne, both Djokovic and Wawrinka struggled throughout to play their best. Again it went five sets, but this time it was no classic. Still, it would be hard to argue that he does not remain the man to beat. The world No. 1 had not dropped a set this tournament before the semifinal and has now won an incredible 31 of his last 32 Australian Open matches.
Start time: 3:30 a.m. EST
TV channel: ESPN
Live stream: Watch ESPN, ESPN3