Novak Djokovic defeated Andy Murray 6-7(2), 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday to become the first man in the Open Era to win three consecutive Australian Open titles. As expected from two incredible defenders also gifted with outstanding offense, the match was full of long rallies featuring deep, powerfully angled groundstrokes, but it wasn't as interesting or exciting as the Djokovic-Wawrinka match, which had much more contrast in playing styles.
While both players relied predominantly on topspin forehands and two-handed backhands, they also introduced some smart variation with low-skidding, one-handed slice backhands. These typically drew a relatively soft reply and either halted the opponent's attack, created an opportunity to go on offense, or as on the best slice of the match, a driving one down the line by Murray, forced an error. Djokovic later hit a virtual winner with another type of slice, a delicate drop shot, that helped him break Murray to go up 4-1 in the fourth set.
Djokovic injected one other major source of variety by coming to net 41 times, and it paid off with 35 points won. Murray came to net only 15 times, and he won only 9 points there, but he did get to hit a very pretty half volley when Djokovic hit one of his dipping, angled passing shots that only a player as quick as Murray could have touched.
Djokovic's win sustains the comfortable lead he held at the top of the men's rankings to start 2013. Murray's making the final will help him close the gap on Roger Federer at #2, as Andy went one round further than last year, while Roger's run ended again in the semifinals.
Photo Stroke Studies: