It would have been an historic evening on Rod Laver Arena either way, with both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray chasing records. But, as has happened on four of the last six occasions at Rod Laver Arena, it was the Serb who was left holding the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, after another enthralling battle against his fellow 25-year-old. There had been discussion that Djokovic, who had an extra day's rest, and a three-set semi-final compared to Murray's five-set battle against Roger Federer, was bound to be the fresher, but it was the Serb who had started out looking the wearier, surrendering the first set in a tie-break to Murray, 7-2.
The second set also went to a tie-break, and this time Djokovic began to get the proverbial bit between his teeth, seizing on a Murray double fault to gain a mini-break, and taking one more point off Murray to win the tie-break 7-3 and level the match at one-set all.
But while the first two sets had been drawstring tight, Djokovic began to find clear water in the third, cutting down his unforced errors and adding extra interest to his groundstrokes. Murray, by contrast, seemed to be dipping, and at 4-3, Djokovic broke the Murray serve, and served out the set 6-3.
The two had contested back-to-back five-set matches at Grand Slams, their epic US Open final last year, and of course an agonising five-set semi-final on this very court a year ago. But it was not to be on this occasion. Murray began to struggle with what appeared to be a hamstring or gluteal injury, not to mention some harrowing blisters, and Djokovic thrived on his opponent's struggles. Torturing his friend and foe with his defense, Djokovic swung freely to break for 4-1, closing out the match 6-2 in the fourth.
“When you play one of your biggest rivals and somebody that is in the top form in finals of a Grand Slam, there is a lot to play for,” said Djokovic, who now owns an 11-7 head-to-head record against Murray.
“I think it went two hours and 20 minutes, the first two sets. I think that says enough about the intensity of the match. I kind of expected that. I knew that it's going to be physically very demanding, a lot of long rallies, so I needed to hang in there. I've done that.”
Djokovic, the first man in the Open era to win three Australian Open titles back to back, joins Roger Federer and Andre Agassi as a four-time winner in Melbourne, and moves his total Grand Slam tally up to six.
“What more motivation you need than from this trophy?” Djokovic asked.
“Just seeing it and reading the names of the winners in last 50, 100 years, it's incredible. To be also mentioned in the history aspect, and winning three in a row, it's a huge achievement. I'm always motivated in every match that I play, but of course Grand Slam finals are always bringing something new, something special to every player, and that's where you want to perform your best.”
Murray meanwhile, who had played his third Grand Slam final in a row, his sixth in total, will re-group for another title tussle.
“I know no one's ever won a Slam, the immediate one, after winning their first one. It's not the easiest thing to do,” he said.
“And I got extremely close.”
Mixed magic for Aussies
There was a happy end to Australian Open 2013 for the home nation, as Jarmila Gajdosova and Matthew Ebden claimed the mixed doubles title with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Lucie Hradecka and Frantisek Cermak in their first tournament together.
“I know it’s mixed, but it’s still a Grand Slam title. You can tell your kids ‘I won a Grand Slam and it was in Australia’, which is very special,” Gajdosova said.
“I think our personalities gel pretty well. I hope this is not our last one and we get to play again.”
Australian Open 2013 Champions
Men's singles - Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Women's singles - Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
Men's doubles - Bob & Mike Bryan (USA)
Women's doubles - Roberta Vinci & Sara Errani (ITA)
Mixed doubles - Jarmila Gajdosova & Matthew Ebden (AUS)
Boys' singles - Nick Kyrgios (AUS)
Girls' singles - Ana Konjuh (CRO)
Boys' doubles - Jay Andrijic & Bradley Mousley (AUS)
Girls' doubles- Ana Konjuh (CRO) & Carol Zhao (CAN)
For all the reports and results from Melbourne Park, visit the Official Australian Open website