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Djokovic rises above Murray challenge

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Originally published on: 01/02/12 12:00

Novak Djokovic will face Rafael Nadal for the 2012 Australian Open crown after rallying back from two sets to one down to win one of the finest contests ever seen at the Australian Open.

The Serb fell to his knees and raised his arms to the sky after winning an incredibly punishing encounter that spanned over four hours and 50 minutes.

In the end, Djokovic dealt Andy Murray another painful defeat at a Grand Slam, but his 6-3 3-6 6-7 6-1 7-5 triumph was one that truly could have gone either way and showed just how far the Scot has come over the past year.

Ivan Lendl’s new charge had plenty in which to be proud – he was aggressive, composed and hit back from service breaks time and time again – not least in recovering from 2-5 down in the final set – to push Djokovic to the brink.

Djokovic’s physical condition was called in to question early on and Murray was not without his chances, but it was the Serb who drew first blood and claimed a 47 minute first set. He broke again in the first game of the second as Murray continued to splutter on his forehand to bring an end to lengthy rallies, but at 2-1 down the Scot broke back level and, as Djokovic’s accuracy on both groundstrokes and serve wavered, ultimately broke again for a 4-2 lead. Yet more breaks were exchanged but Murray finally held firm to ride out a 65-minute second set.

With Lendl watching on from the stands, a new-look Murray pressed Djokovic hard in an 18-minute-long first game of the second set, but the Scot finally stole the break on the world No.1s very next service game.

The see-sawing continued, and while Djokovic continued to give off the impression that he was physically spent, the break-backs continued to flow until Murray grabbed a two-sets to one advantage after closing out the tiebreak.

Djokovic blasted back in the fourth to get back on level terms after just 25 minutes, making a mockery of suggestions his body was reaching its limits.

Later asked by Jim Courier how he found the stamina, Djokovic joked: “In some liquids – an energy drink, some water and a banana.”

That momentum continued in the fifth set, but even after breaking for a 5-2 lead, Murray was not done, fighting to the very last like a Grand Slam champion would.

“It was one of the best matches I’ve played,” added Djokovic ahead of his Sunday test for a third Australian Open crown.

“Emotionally it was really hard. We were really trying to hold our serves. It felt like we were breaking each other easier than we were serving it out.”

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