No. 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic edged out No. 4 Andy Murray on Friday in a five-set, five-hour match to reach the Australian Open final, which will pit him against No. 2 Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic looked tired and sore after the second set, but rallied to beat Murray 6-3, 3-6, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 7-5 in a rematch of the 2011 final at Melbourne Park to reach his third consecutive Grand Slam final.
After getting the win, Djokovic fell to the court in exhaustion
Both of us believed that we can win, and that's how we played, Djokovic told reporters. It could have easily gone the other way. He was a couple of points away from winning the match, so I was lucky to go as a winner.
Although Murray lost, marking his second straight Australian finals defeat, he told reporters that he still belonged in the elite class with Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer.
Tonight's match was important for many reasons, he said. Obviously I wanted to win first and foremost. But after the year that Novak's had, I think there's a very fine line between being number one in the world and being three or four. I think that gap, I feel tonight I closed it.
Murray stumbled through the first set as Djokovic dictated the pace of play, earning easy points off the 24-year-old's sloppy forehand.
However, the tide really turned for Murray in the second set, despite being down 2-0 at one point. He was able to return serve with force and overpower Djokovic while finding range.
After also winning a tight third-set tiebreaker but coming out flat on the fourth set, Murray rallied again after falling behind 5-2 in the fifth. He broke Djokovic at love when he was serving for the match and rallied to tie it 5-5, putting all the pressure back on Djokovic.
But Djokovic composed himself, gathered his energy, held serve and then broke Murray to finish it off.
The defeat left Murray still searching for a grand slam title.
Djokovic thought he wasn't too far off.
He's so close to winning a grand slam, he said. He's one of the best players in the world, that's for sure.
Djokovic is seeking to become only the fifth man since the Open Era started in 1968 to win three straight majors. Only Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Federer and Nadal have done it before, with only Laver going on to actually complete the Grand Slam.
I'm extremely delighted to be in the final, Djokovic said. What can be a bigger challenge than playing against Rafa Nadal, one of the greatest players ever? I'm going to try to recover. Obviously, it's going to be physical as well. So I need to do some push-ups tonight.