Novak Djokovic takes on Andy Murray in the Australian Open tennis final today having had more than 24 hours longer to rest. The defending champion said it won’t be an advantage as he seeks a third straight title.
A day after Djokovic routed No. 4 seed David Ferrer in 89 minutes in the first semifinal, Murray took four hours to get past four-time winner Roger Federer in five sets and reach the championship match in Melbourne for the third time.
“Aside that, he hasn’t been really tested the whole tournament,” Djokovic said of Murray at his pre-final news conference yesterday. “Also he’s considered as one of the physically strongest and fittest guys around. So I’m sure he’s going to be fit for the finals.”
While third-seeded Murray didn’t drop a set before facing Federer, Djokovic almost went out of the season-opening Grand Slam tournament in a five-hour fourth-round match against 15th- seeded Stanislas Wawrinka, winning the final set 12-10. The Serb then took four sets to get past No. 6 Tomas Berdych.
Recent finals history at Melbourne Park is on Murray’s side, with the man who played his semifinal second going on to win the title in four of the past five years.
Still, Djokovic is the 8-15 favorite to take the trophy, meaning a successful $15 bet would return $8 plus the original stake, according to U.K. bookmaker William Hill, which rates Murray a 6-4 chance.
Djokovic, who won the first of his five Grand Slam singles titles at Melbourne Park in 2008, is seeking to become the first man to win the tournament three years in a row since the professional era began in 1968.
“Being in a third consecutive final is an incredible feeling and achievement,” Djokovic said. “You come out here and you want to win the first big trophy of the year. I guess that’s a fresh start that everybody wants.”
Djokovic takes a 10-7 lead in career meetings into the match, a repeat of September’s U.S. Open final, which Murray won to secure his first Grand Slam title after four previous losses in major finals. One of those defeats came against Djokovic at Rod Laver Arena two years ago.
After winning his semifinal, Murray said he wasn’t sure how much his victory in New York would help at a venue where Djokovic has reached four of the past six finals.
“The task isn’t any easier,” Murray told reporters. “I’m playing Novak again on this court. This has been his best court for sure.”
Should Murray get the better of his fellow 25-year-old, he would become the first man in the Open era to win his first two major championships back-to-back. He’d also be the first Briton win the Australian Open men’s title since Fred Perry in 1934.
En route to the final, Murray tied Perry’s mark of 106 career match wins at the majors, the most by a British man, and would take sole ownership of the record by lifting the trophy.
With his past two Grand Slam matches against Djokovic having gone five sets, Murray said immediately after beating Federer that he was preparing to experience more pain in the final. His opponent is also planning to go the distance.
“Every time we played in last probably six, seven encounters, it was always a long matches, physically very demanding,” Djokovic said. “I guess we have to expect something similar to happen, long rallies. I’m ready for that.”
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