The two 25-year-olds are facing off for the second-straight Grand Slam final establishing a rivalry that now looks to be the predominant one in the men’s game. Murray came out on top at the US Open last September to claim his first Major and under the tutelage of Ivan Lendl now appears largely free of the mental frailties that so often left him hamstrung in the biggest matches.
A five-set semifinal victory over Roger Federer confirmed that Murray is now ready to assert himself on a consistent basis against the sport’s very best.
In contrast, top seed Djokovic breezed through his semifinal in straight sets against David Ferrer and will also have the benefit of an extra day rest before the final. Djokovic has spent more time on court throughout the tournament, however, largely as a result of his fourth round epic with Stanislas Wawrinka that went to 10-8 in the final set.
If their recent clashes are anything to go by, both men can expect to greatly increase their court time in Sunday’s final.
“Every time we play each other, it’s normally a very physical match,” Murray said, according to the Australian Open website. “He [Djokovic] is an unbelievable mover and we have so many long rallies.”
“I’ll need to be ready for the pain,” he added, “and I hope it’s a painful match. That means it’ll be a good one.”
Both men are among the fittest and quickest on tour, which makes long rallies and a long match a virtual given.
Not only did they battle to the distance in the final of the US Open but they also played out another memorable five-set encounter in the semifinals in Melbourne 12 months ago. Djokovic came out on top on that occasion, but Murray is a different animal now and should be full of belief that he can make it third time lucky after losing in the Australian Open final in 20111—to Djokovic—and in 2010.
Sunday will be the 18th time that the pair have met in the senior ranks, with Djokovic holding a 10-7 advantage.
Key to Murray’s chances will his ability to keep Djokovic’s returns at bay with a second serve that has been up and down during the tournament. Both are phenomenally consistent from the back of the court with Murray now trusting himself to turn defense into offense that puts him perhaps on a par with Djokovic in that department.
With such a finely balanced matchup, it could come down to Djokovic’s seeming sense of invincibility on Rod Laver Arena reaped after claiming three titles and several improbable victories.
Where to watch: The Australian Open men’s final will begin not before 3.30 a.m. ET on Sunday morning. Coverage will be provided by ESPN, with a live stream available on ESPN3.