MELBOURNE, Australia — No shirt ripping or bare-chested flexing this time.
Novak Djokovic completed his week’s work before midnight, defeating Andy Murray in four sets for his third consecutive Australian Open title and fourth overall.
It was also the second time in three years Djokovic had beaten his longtime friend in this final. So the celebration was muted: a small victory shuffle, raised arms, a kiss for the trophy. No grand histrionics, although that’s not to say the moment was lost on him.
“Winning it three in a row, it’s incredible,” Djokovic said after his 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 victory Sunday night. “It’s very thrilling. I’m full of joy right now. It’s going to give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season, that’s for sure.”
Nine other men had won consecutive Australian titles in the Open era, but none three straight years. One of them was Andre Agassi, who gave Djokovic the trophy.
A year ago, Djokovic began his season with an epic 5-hour, 53-minute five-set win over Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open, the longest Grand Slam final. He tore off his shirt to celebrate, a TV replay often repeated this year.
He mimicked that celebration after coming back to beat Stanislas Wawrinka in five hours in a surprisingly tough fourth-round victory.
Since then, he’s looked every bit the No. 1 player. He said he played “perfectly” in his 89-minute win over fourth-seeded David Ferrer in the semifinals Thursday night.
Murray struggled to beat 17-time major winner Roger Federer in five sets in the semifinals Friday night, and still had the blisters on his feet to show for it in the final.
In a final that had the makings of a classic when two of the best returners in tennis were unable to get a break of serve in the first two sets that lasted 2:13, the difference may have hinged on something as light as a feather.
Preparing for a second serve at 2-2 in the second set tiebreaker, Murray was rocking back about to toss the ball when he stopped, paused and then walked onto the court and tried to grab a small white feather that was floating in his view. He went back to the baseline, bounced the ball another eight times and served too long.
After being called for a double-fault, Murray knocked the ball away in anger and flung his arm down. He didn’t get close for the rest of the tiebreaker and was the first to drop serve in the match — in the eighth game of the third set. Djokovic broke him twice in the fourth set, which by then had turned into an easy march to victory.
“It was strange,” said Djokovic, adding that it swung the momentum his way. “It obviously did. … He made a crucial double-fault.”
Murray didn’t blame his loss on the one distraction.
“I mean, I could have served. It just caught my eye before I served. I thought it was a good idea to move it,” he said. “Maybe it wasn’t because I obviously double-faulted. You know, at this level it can come down to just a few points here or there. My biggest chance was at the beginning of the second set — didn’t quite get it.”
Djokovic said he loves playing at Rod Laver Arena, where he won his first major title in 2008. He now has six Grand Slam titles altogether.