Novak Djokovic of Serbia pumps his fist on the way to victory against Andy Murray of Britain on Sunday in the Australian Open final. / Peter Parks, AFP/Getty Images
MELBOURNE, Australia - Andy Murray expected pain before the Australian Open final. In Novak Djokovic, he got more than he bargained for.
No. 1 Djokovic relied on his tenacious defense and capitalized on No. 3 Murray's hampered movement from a blistered right foot to capture a third-consecutive title in Melbourne and fourth since 2008.
Djokovic, who lost to Scotland's Murray in last year's U.S. Open final, won 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-2.
"It's been an incredible match as we could have expected," Djokovic said. "When we play each other, it's always, we push each other to the limit and I think those two sets went over two hours, 15 minutes, physically I was just trying to hang in there. Play my game and focus on every point."
Djokovic is the first man to win three consecutive titles in Melbourne in the post-1968 Open era.
"I love this court," Djokovic said. "It's definitely my favorite Grand Slam. It's an incredible feeling winning this trophy once more."
Only two other men, American Jack Crawford (1931-33) and Australian Roy Emerson (1963-67), have won three or more consecutive Australian championships.
The 25-year-old Serb joins Roger Federer and Andre Agassi - on hand to present the winner's trophy - as the only men with four titles in the Open era. He has six major titles overall.
Djokovic would have remained No. 1, even without winning Sunday. The victory, however, strengthens his position at the top, and it means that four different players - the Big 4, Djokovic, Murray (U.S. Open), Roger Federer (Wimbledon) and Rafael Nadal (French Open) - are reigning major champs. Federer and Murray will be second and third when the ATP rankings are released Monday.
The tight, back-and-forth match turned in the eighth game of the third set, when Djokovic earned the first break of the match. After closing out the third set, he broke again in the third game of the fourth set and cruised home from there.
PHOTOS: AUSTRALIAN OPEN MEN'S FINAL
"In all the matches like this you go though ups and downs; it just depends when they come," said Ivan Lendl, Murray's coach. "It's physical and emotional. As you saw, Novak had chances in the first set and didn't break. Andy had chances early in the second and didn't break. Novak looked really good in the third. Andy had a small chance in the fourth, and Novak kind of survived it and that was the difference."
Although Djokovic went into the match with a 10-7 lead in head-to-heads, Murray had beaten Djokovic five out of eight times in tiebreakers, and that improved to six of nine after four unforced errors by Djokovic to end the first set.
Djokovic pegged back that edge in the second set, when Murray also didn't help his cause by double-faulting to give Djokovic a 3-2 lead, and the Serbian player didn't trail again in the tiebreaker.
On the double-fault, Murray had to stop as he was about to serve to pick up up a feather that had fallen on the court.
"I could have served, it just caught my eye before I served ... I thought it was a good idea to move it," he said.
"Maybe it wasn't because I obviously double faulted. At this level it can come down to just a few points here or there. My probably biggest chance was at the beginning of the second set; (I) didn't quite get it. When Novak had his chance at the end of the third, he got his."
A year earlier, after a 5-hour, 53-minute marathon against Nadal, Djokovic ripped off his shirt in celebration. This time, he just did a little dance, looked up to the sky and then applauded the crowd after the 3-hour, 40-minute match.
Djokovic's win went against the odds of recent finals at Melbourne Park. In four of the past five years, the player who won the second of the semifinals has finished on top in the championship match. But this year, Djokovic played his semifinal on Thursday - an easy 89-minute minute win over No. 4-seeded David Ferrer. Murray needed five energy sapping sets to beat 17-time major winner Roger Federer on Friday night.
"You don't wake up the next day and feel perfect, obviously," Murray said of the Federer match. "It's the longest match I played in six months probably. It obviously wasn't an issue today. I started the match well. I thought I moved pretty good throughout."
Murray, who called for a trainer to retape blisters on his right foot at the end of the second set, was visibly annoyed by noise from the crowd during his service games in the third set, stopping his service motion twice until the crowd quieted down. After dropping the third set, he complained about the noise to chair umpire John Blom.
Djokovic also appeared frustrated at times, kicking the ball football-style back over the net after he hit a forehand long during a lengthy point, and muttering to himself while sitting down in his chair during changeovers. But both players were guilty of making unforced errors, often ending long rallies with shots into the net or long.
Murray, who ended a 76-year major drought for British men when he won the U.S. Open in September, has lost three times in the Australian Open final.
"I would like to congratulate Novak. His record here is obviously incredible," Murray told the crowd during the trophy ceremony. "Such a great atmosphere to play in. You're extremely fair, so thank you very much."
Victoria Azarenka, who won Saturday's women's singles final over Li Na, was in the crowd with her boyfriend rapper Redfoo. Actor Kevin Spacey, who met in the dressing room with both players ahead of the match and later tweeted a photo of himself with them, also was in attendance for the third straight night.
In the earlier mixed doubles final Sunday, wild-card entrants Jarmila Gajdosova and Matthew Ebden of Australia beat the Czech pair of Lucie Hradecka and Frantisek Cermak 6-3, 7-5.
Contributing: Douglas Robson; The Associated Press
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