© Ella Ling

Novak Djokovic after beating Andy Murray

Notes from Melbourne - day twelve


Our highlights reel of all the action from the twelfth day of the 2012 Australian Open.

Match of the day
Andy Murray v Novak Djokovic
Predictions for who would face Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s final ranged from a three-set thrashing from Djokovic to a four-set scramble from Murray. But no one mentioned five sets. At least not the people I talked to. But that’s exactly what it did, for the first time between these two contemporaries.

Djokovic started the brighter, Murray looking a bit too nervous, much as he had in the opening exchanges of their final here last year. And, despite redeeming a break, he couldn’t prevent Djokovic breaking again to sew up the first set. But then Murray stepped inside the baseline, stepped up, and started clunking it. Coming back from an early break down, he broke to go ahead, was broken back, and broke again, in a set that featured break points in all but two of its eight games. Levelling the match at one set all after an hour and 52 minutes, it was Djokovic who suddenly looked angsty and muttery, not the famously chuntery Scot.

Into a third, and Murray had five break points in the opening game, a game that added 15 minutes to the clock, and saw Djokovic practically bent double. The Serb saved them all, and then saved two more in the next game. But on his eighth break point, Murray took it, again, only to be broken back. With Djokovic walking to his chair as slowly as a very fat slug would, it seemed like all Murray had to do was hang in there and let the Serb tire himself out.

But Djokovic didn’t achieve what he did last year without going through a bit of pain for gain. Inhaling something under his towel having held serve for 4-3, the set trundled into a tie-break. Balanced on a credit card edge, Murray took it 7-4. An 88-minute set concluded, he led two sets to one.

But Djokovic came thundering back, taking just over half the time to grab back the fourth, 6-1.

The clock ticking past the four-hour mark in the early stages of the fifth, both players in clean kit, it was Djokovic who suddenly took on a different hue, romping into a 5-2 lead in the fifth. But Murray, Andy Murray, who has not won a set in his three grand slam singles finals to date, broke back at the death, forcing the set past the hour mark, and tennis fans around the world to chew off their fingernails.

With break points at 5-5, it looked like Murray might make the breakthrough against his friend and rival. But Djokovic produced the kind of forehand winner down the line that won him three grand slam titles last season. Holding for 6-5, and then applying needle-point pressure, he advanced to the final on his first match point, 6-3, 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-1, 7-5 after four hours and 50 minutes.

Close, but no cigar.

Clutch control
Novak Djokovic. There is no other way to describe him.

Swopping seats
Talk of the commentary box at the start of the second men’s semi-final was that both Murray and Djokovic were not seated opposite their boxes, but diagonal to them instead. The fault, apparently, was Murray’s, who came onto court and plopped down into the first chair, quite against protocol, it was said. Perhaps that’s why he was getting so much backchat from the Djokovic box.

Colour confusion?
The Serbian flag, as you know, is red, white and blue. Which is why it was surprising to see a lady draped in a red, blue, and yellow flag on Rod Laver Arena, cheering on Djokovic furiously. Perhaps it was the closest she could get. Or she’s just a very proud Colombian.

The way to describe Andy Murray’s post-match press conference, in which the Brit was thoughtful, reflective, and honest, even praising the umpire and linespeople for their efforts. And all this when having been told he had to sit around for half an hour to wait to give blood for his drugs test.

It was his longest-ever tennis match to date, the stats suggest.

Stat of the day
For the first time in the Open era, the same men’s finalists will meet in three consecutive grand slam singles finals when Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic face off on Sunday.

In Rod’s house
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, not the most popular person in these parts. When the camera flicked onto her in the front row, she was booed.

Also in the second row was Margaret Court, the subject of so much controversy over the past few weeks.

And, perhaps the most famous linesperson of all, Serena’s best friend for ever, Shino Tsurubuchi, was on court. (she’s the foot fault line judge, by the way)

Not such underachievers
We are so used to seeing Vera Zvonareva crying, and Svetlana Kuznetsova scowling after respective disappointing singles losses, that to see them grinning from ear to ear with a grand slam trophy in their hands was nothing short of remarkable. Defeating Italians Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani in three sets 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in a quite lengthy two hours and 18 minutes, it was Kuzy and Vera’s first doubles title together. Dead cert for the Olympics, surely?

Flying the flag
Liam Broady and Josh Ward-Hibbert, who triumphed in the boys’ doubles final 6-3. 6-2 over Adam Pavlasek and Filipo Veger to lift the trophy. It was Broady’s second junior Grand Slam doubles title, after winning the title at Wimbledon in 2010, but a first for Ward-Hibbert, who adds it to his Orange Bowl title.

Stages set..
For the junior singles finals. Yulia Putintseva of Russia will play Taylor Townsend of the USA in the girls’ singles final, while Australian Luke Saville will play Filip Peliwo of Canada.

Tweets of the day
Once again, it’s a privilege to be a tennis fan tonight
Rennae Stubbs says what we should remind ourselves of everyday

I just clapped at the tv!!!!
Britain’s Melanie South supports Andy Murray with gusto

Quotes of the day
“I’m going to do some push-ups tonight”
Novak Djokovic on what he has to do to face Rafael Nadal

“It’s like forever”
Svetlana Kuznetsova struggles to describe how long she has known Vera Zvonareva

Come back tomorrow for…
The girls’ singles final – Taylor Townsend v Yulia Putintseva, 1pm on RLA

The boys’ singles final – Luke Saville v Filip Peliwo, second on RLA

The women’s singles final – Maria Sharapova v Victoria Azarenka, 7.30pm on RLA

The men’s doubles final – Bob & Mike Bryan v Leander Paes & Radek Stepanek

The women’s wheelchair singles final – Esther Vergeer v Aniek Van Koot, 1pm on Show Court 2

The men’s wheelchair singles final – Maikel Scheffers v Nicolas Peifer

The quad wheelchair singles final – David Wagner v Peter Norfolk