Djokovic beat Murray 6-1 7-5 7-6 (7-3) in Sunday’s final to collect his sixth Australian Open crown
It was a familiar ending, a habitual champion winning once again. The second best player in the world could not topple him, and seemingly no-one can.
The Big Four is now the Big One.
Novak Djokovic’s record-equalling sixth Australian Open title was his third consecutive Grand Slam and the 11th of his career, putting him alongside two of the sport’s idols, Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg.
A beaten Andy Murray, comfortably conquered in straight sets, smiled as he reached for the on-court microphone. “I feel like I’ve been here before,” he quipped. Yet what to do about it?
It was the Serb’s fourth win over the Briton in the Melbourne final, and his 11th in their past 12 matches.
But the complex puzzle of how to beat Djokovic in a Grand Slam is not only Murray’s to solve. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, owners of 31 major titles between them, cannot crack the code and neither can anyone else, while the 28-year-old Djokovic has time to improve, to hunt more records, to become the greatest ever.
Djokovic has won all six of his Australian Open finals
The Lionel Messi of tennis
Former British number one Andrew Castle likens the Australian Open champion to Barcelona and Argentina footballer Lionel Messi. They inhabit a different planet to the rest.
“The bar has never been as high in men’s tennis,” says Castle.
“I cannot believe what I’m watching and Novak Djokovic is undoubtedly moving towards being considered the sport’s all-time greatest player, and that’s quite something, particularly in this generation.
“I cannot think of a more eminent, more illustrious sportsperson in the world. There’s Lionel Messi and his Ballons d’Or, and Serena Williams with her 21 Grand Slam titles, but I cannot think of anybody more notable than Djokovic. It’s amazing.”
The ruthless ‘street fighter’
Djokovic’s ruthless accumulation of titles, winning four of the past five Grand Slams, is spellbinding.
For the past couple of years, the Serb has seemed to play with a cloak of invincibility, making a muggle of every elite player.
“He doesn’t miss anymore,” says former Australian Open finalist John Lloyd in astonishment.
“He’s always been a great defender but now he seems to be able to defend and hurt you at the same time. He’s improved everything. His serve, he’s better at the net – his coach Boris Becker has helped there – and in some ways his instincts are more aggressive.”
In 2011 Djokovic won 43 matches in a row and collected three Grand Slams, but his statistics in 2015 were even better. He won 82 of 88 matches – a 93% win percentage – and the present-day Djokovic is more ruthless on the grandest of stages.
Last year, the man Becker describes as a “street fighter”, won 11 of 15 finals and became only the third player in the open era to reach all four Grand Slam finals in a calendar year.
“Mentally, he doesn’t think he can be beaten,” says Lloyd.
The Becker effect – creating an aura
After losing three consecutive Grand Slam finals, Djokovic recruited six-time Grand Slam champion Becker in 2013 and the German, says Lloyd, has given his pupil an edge.
Djokovic has backed up this theory, revealing it was a pep talk from his coach during a third-set rain delay that was key to winning his third Wimbledon title against Roger Federer last year.
“To say Boris is confident in himself is an understatement and I mean that in a positive way,” says Lloyd. “The night before a match they all have doubts, all the greats, just a tiny little bit, but when you have someone like Boris there it makes a huge difference.”
Novak Djokovic and Boris Becker embrace
Becker looked close to tears as Djokovic celebrated winning his sixth Australian Open
Can the Serb be beaten in a Grand Slam? Stan Wawrinka was the only player to do so last year, beating him in the French Open final and preventing Djokovic claiming the only major that has eluded him.
The 34-year-old Federer, a 17-time Grand Slam champion and still the world number three, has been beaten in the last three Slam finals the pair have contested. Indeed, the Swiss last beat the world number one in a Grand Slam in 2012, the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
“It’s going to take an unbelievable performance,” says Lloyd.
“A player can have a day like Wawrinka did at the French, when everything just went in – it can happen. But Djokovic has an aura, which gives him an extra few points, even against Federer.
“Federer hasn’t beaten him for a while in a best of five; Federer knows it, Novak knows it. With Federer you can never tell facially but I can guarantee there’s doubt.”