The top two players in the world and the two dominant Australian Open performers of this decade will go head-to-head in the men’s final on Sunday, when Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, born just a week apart, will continue a rivalry born when teenagers.
But, while both have accomplished huge amounts and been a fulsome part of the Big Four and the greatest era men’s tennis has ever known, it has been Djokovic who has dominated. The Serbian world No. 1 has 10 Grand Slam titles to Murray’s two, and has won 21 of their 30 head-to-head meetings. Murray has had his moments, beating Djokovic to claim his prized titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, but the gulf that has opened up between the two has been nowhere more evident than at the Australian Open.
It has for both men been the most consistent Grand Slam, and incredibly their latest clash will be the fourth time in six years that the pair have been the last two left standing in Melbourne. Yet, while Djokovic, who won his first Grand Slam title with victory Down Under in 2008, will be going for a record-equaling sixth Australian Open title, Murray, who also lost a final to Roger Federer in 2010, will still be chasing his first.
It may act as some solace to Murray that he is not alone in being dominated by Djokovic of late. The 28-year-old lost only one Grand Slam match in 2015 as he recorded one of the most impressive seasons in tennis history. And the worrying sign for the rest of the men’s tour has been that he has picked up right where he left off.
En route through to yet another Australian Open final, Djokovic has only been seriously troubled once, when coughing up 100 unforced errors in a painful five-set fourth-round victory over Gilles Simon. But that performance appears to have been merely the briefest of blips. In his semifinal, Djokovic for two sets produced arguably the most flawless tennis ever witnessed to brush aside the most decorated player in history, Roger Federer.
“I've had matches where I've played similar tennis. But I think against Roger, these first two sets have been probably the best two sets I've played against him overall I think throughout my career,” he said after a victory that was sealed in four sets. “I've had some moments against him in sets where I've played on a high level, but this was I think a different level than from before. I'm just very, very pleased that I was able to perform the way I did from the very beginning till the end.”
That win on Thursday meant Djokovic could put his feet up and watch on as Murray battled for five sets and for over four hours against Milos Raonic. After twice going down a set, the Scot’s supreme fitness and staying power eventually came through after the Canadian suffered a leg injury that helped turn the match in Murray’s favor.
But for Murray it was just the latest challenge in what has been a difficult unusually difficult two weeks. Just a week ago he admitted he was close to pulling out of the event after his father-in-law, Nigel Sears, collapsed courtside and had to be taken to hospital. That came on top of already being on alert for a call back home, where his wife is in the final weeks of pregnancy with their first child.
After winning his semifinal, Murray said in a lighthearted on-court interview that he hoped he was ready to be a father. If he can dethrone Djokovic at the Australian Open, he will surely believe he is ready for anything.
Match time: 3:30 a.m. EST
TV channel: ESPN
Live stream: Watch ESPN