DEFENDING CHAMPION NOVAK DJOKOVIC moved into an Australian Open final against Rafael Nadal after edging Andy Murray in a five-set, almost five-hour semi-final today.
Despite appearing tired and sore from the second set, Djokovic rallied to beat Murray 6-3, 3-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 7-5 in a rematch of the 2011 final at Melbourne Park to reach his third consecutive Grand Slam final.
After wasting a chance to serve out the match at 5-3 in the fifth and letting Murray back into the contest, Djokovic cashed in his first match point when the Scottish player missed a forehand after 4 hours, 50 minutes.
Djokovic dropped onto his back, fully laid out on the court. He got up and shook hands with Murray, before jogging back out onto the court like a boxer, dropping to his knees and crossing himself.
It was already after 12:30 am Saturday in Australia when he got up again and pumped his arms triumphantly.
“Andy deserves the credit to come back from 2-5 down. He was fighting. I was fighting,” Djokovic said. “Not many words that can describe the feeling of the match.
It was a physical match … it was one of the best matches I played. Emotionally and mentally it was equally hard.
It was a bitter setback for Murray, who lost the previous two Australian finals.
Djokovic finished last year at number one after winning three of the four majors, including a straight-sets win over Murray in the Australian final. His only loss at a Grand Slam in 2011 was against Roger Federer in the French Open semi-finals.
He is aiming to be only the fifth man since the Open Era started in 1968 to win three straight majors. His 70-6 win-loss record in 2011 included six wins over Nadal — all in finals.
Nadal, the 2009 Australian Open winner, beat four-time champion Federer in yesterday’s semi-final and has an extra day to prepare for Sunday night’s final.