Andy Murray dismissed suggestions a toe injury was a key factor in his Australian Open final defeat to Novak Djokovic. Murray required a medical time-out at the end of the third set to treat a nasty-looking blister and he went on to lose the next two as Djokovic claimed his third successive Melbourne crown with a 6-7 (2/7) 7-6 (7/3) 6-3 6-2 success.
The Scot put the injury down to wear and tear and felt missing the opportunity to hammer home his superiority at the start of the second set was more damaging to his hopes of recording back-to-back grand slam triumphs.
Of the toe, he said: “It’s just a pretty large blister. You get them – it happens. “It was just a bit sore when I was running around. It’s not like pulling a calf muscle or something. It just hurts when you run, but it’s not something which stops you from playing. “Ninety per cent of the players on tour will have played this tournament with some sort of blister or problem. “It had no bearing on the result.” More frustrating for the world number three, who had been hoping to become the first man in the Open era to win his second major immediately after claiming his first, was his inability to take one of three break points immediately after edging the opening set.
“At this level it can come down to a few points here and there,” he added. “My biggest chance probably came at the start of the second set but I didn’t quite take it. “When Novak had his chance at the end of the third he got his.”
A final which was absorbing without being a classic was dominated by serve for the first two sets. Djokovic had the openings in the first without converting and Murray made him pay by winning the tie-break.
It was role reversal in the second as Murray wasted that triple chance for an early break as Djokovic held on for a tie-break he won, thanks largely to a Murray double-fault at 2-2.
He put his first serve into the net and was shaping up to deliver the second when he noticed a feather dropping on to the court out of the corner of his eye.
Having removed it, he promptly put the second serve long. “I could have served,” he explained. “But it just caught my eye before. I thought it was a good idea to move it. Maybe it wasn’t.” It was all Djokovic needed to level the match and the momentum appeared to swing further in his favour when Murray had to call for the trainer. There was no immediate deterioration in his movement, although there was the definite sense the match was now Djokovic’s for the taking. And the top seed needed no second invitation as he set up three break points for a 5-3 lead. Two poor forehands saw the first two come and go but Murray could not escape a third as Djokovic claimed the first break of the match before serving it out.
From there there was no way back as Djokovic broke twice more in the fourth to extend his winning run in Melbourne to 21 matches and take revenge for his defeat to Murray in the US Open final in Septem golf.
Kvitova to lead Czechs at start of Fed Cup defence
World number eight Petra Kvitova, dumped out in the second round at the Australian Open, will lead the Czech Republic in their Fed Cup title defence when they take on Australia in a first round tie next month. Czech captain Petr Pala will stick with the same squad that lifted the crown for a second straight year in November, including Lucie Safarova, Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. “I decided on a proven, winning team,” Pala said in a statement. The Czechs will begin their attempt at a third straight title in front of their home fans in the northeastern city of Ostrava on Feb. 9-10.