One of the top rivalries in men’s tennis over the past decade will get its latest chapter written on Sunday evening in Melbourne, as world No. 1 Novak Djokovic will meet his longtime friend and professional adversary Andy Murray for the 24th time on the professional tour. While the head-to-head series used to be a close affair, Djokovic jumped to a 15-8 head to head lead once he collected four consecutive wins against Murray in 2014 alone. Whether Murray can overcome the growing deficit will be interesting to see in Sunday’s final.
Djokovic took part in a turbulent contest against defending champion Stan Wawrinka, and eventually downed him 7-6(1), 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 in three hours and 30 minutes. Djokovic survived 42 winners from Wawrinka and hit 27 of his own. The difference was in the unforced errors, which Wawrinka hit 69 of.
“A couple points decide a winner in these particular matches when you’re playing for Grand Slam final,” the top seed said after his semi-final win. “I can say I’m glad; of course I’m happy and satisfied to go through. I’m proud of the fighting spirit that I had. But the level of performance was not where I wanted it to be.”
Djokovic will now contest the Australian Open final against a player he had faced there before: Andy Murray. The Briton, who is contesting his first Major final since winning the Wimbledon Championships in 2013, reached that stage of the event with a four-set victory over the resurgent Tomas Berdych.
Murray rallied from a set down to defeat his Czech adversary 6-7(6), 6-0, 6-3, 7-5.
“I played very, very well tonight,” said Murray. “I’m very happy with the way that I played the match. To be in the final four times here, I mean, because I’m surrounded by guys like Roger, Novak and Rafa, doesn’t look like much, but that doesn’t happen that often. So I’m very proud of that.”
Murray is through to his eighth Grand Slam final and is searching for his third Major championship, after winning the US Open in 2012, and the historic Wimbledon title the following year. He will now have to overturn Djokovic’s undefeated record in final matches on Rod Laver Arena.
“Andy and I go back to when we were 12 years old,” said Djokovic. “We know each other for a long time. It’s nice to see we’re playing another Grand Slam final against each other. We’ve played many, and hopefully we can come up with a big match for all of you guys.”
Although Andy Murray has not defeated Novak Djokovic since he lifted the historic Wimbledon title back in 2013, this could prove to be their most competitive match over the past two years. Djokovic may lead the overall series 15-8, but he is coming up against a motivated Murray who no longer has to deal with his own personal injuries. The Briton is playing his best tennis in recent memory and could find a way to make it fourth time lucky at the Australian Open.
Prediction: Andy Murray in Five Sets