Novak Djokovic is back in the finals of a Grand Slam for a third straight time following an epic 5-set win over Andy Murray. The rematch was nothing like Djokovic’s prior only win over Murray coming in the 2011 final won by the Serb in straight sets.
Murray was far more aggressive and offensive than previous meetings in this series which Djokovic now leads 7-4, 2-0 in Slams.
Djokovic’s win puts him in a third straight final against rival Rafael Nadal. Djokovic beat Nadal six times in finals last year including after a 5-set win over Roger Federer in the US Open semifinals.
Djokovic will have to recover in time for Sunday’s big showdown.
Here’s what Djokovic said in his post-match presser following the bug semifinal win:
Q. During the match, you got messages coming in from around the world people wondering how you managed to look so dead in the second and third sets and still managed to come through. How did you manage to come through?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You have to find strength in those moments and energy, and that keeps you going, I guess. At this level, very few points decide the winner, as it was the case tonight.
I think we both went through a physical crisis. You know, him at the fourth set, me all the way through the second and midway through the third. Had some chances in those sets.
But it was a very even match throughout, from the first to the last point. As I said on the court, I think we both found it easier to break each other’s serve rather than just, you know, serve it out and keep our serve going.
We both have great returns, and it was very difficult because we put a lot of pressure on each other’s serve. So even though I was 52 up in the fifth, I knew even playing against the wind on 53 I’m not the favorite in that game, you know. It’s proven to be the truth.
But I held my composure. I was happy to react the way I did and win in the end.
Q. This breathing problem, are you seeing a doctor about it or is it related to hayfever or something?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, I’ve seen doctor and I’ve talked with some people. I don’t know. I’ve talked with couple of players that have a little allergy problems this year in Australia for now reason, ones they didn’t have in last couple years but they had reactions this year.
I suppose that’s my problem, as well. I’ve been trying to, you know, do everything possible to clear that out. But, you know, we are all surrounded with the flowers. It’s really difficult to take that away. But still, you know, I mean, no excuses.
It was very physical from both sides, from both players all the way through the end. For these kind of matches, you really practice all your life to be able to be a winner out of five sets.
Q. You played many tough matches in your career. Where do you rank this one?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Definitely one of the best under the circumstances. I had a couple matches in New York against Roger in last couple years which can be compared to this one.
But timewise, I think this was one of the longest, if not the longest, that I’ve played in the later stages of a Grand Slam.
Yeah, I have to be satisfied. I have to be happy. As I said, as a tennis player, you practice hard every single day knowing that you will get an opportunity to be part of such a great match and on such a high level.
Q. You know Andy pretty well. Have you noticed a difference in his attitude compared to last year’s final?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. He was more confident on the court. He was taking his chances. He was being more aggressive. I think he was playing better.
Q. What effect do you think it will have to have spent so much physical energy and have to play Nadal?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: There is no secret it is going to be physical again. I will do my best to recover. I have a day and a half. I will try to get as much sleep and recovery program underway and hope for the best.
I think that’s going to be crucial, you know, for me to recover and to be able to perform my best, because Rafa is fit. He’s been playing well. He had an extra day. He definitely wants to win this title.
Q. Do you take any encouragement from the fact when Rafa won it here a couple years ago the role was reversed?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, we are all different so we all have different scheduling, different programs that we respect with our teams. We all have different bodies that require more or less time to recover, so I can’t really compare that to him.
But I have been in similar situations, let’s say, before where I had the long matches and I’m supposed to play, like, for example, a couple years back with Roger I had a very long match, and then the next day I was supposed to play finals.
So, you know, we are familiar with these kind of conditions and situations, so we will try to take the best out of it and recover.
Q. What will you do for the next 48 hours to get yourself ready?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: As I said, try to get as much sleep. I don’t think I’ll practice much. I think I had enough time spent on the court. Now it’s all about recovery.
Q. You had a great run against Rafa whenever you met him last year. What, if at all, will that play on your mind or on his mind?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: That’s something that we are about to see, you know, on Sunday. Yet again, I’m repeating that physically I need to be fit. I know that I maybe have a mental edge because I’ve won six finals the five or six times we played in 2011 and I’ve had lots of success against him.
On the other hand, it’s a new year. It’s a new challenge. It’s a different situation. As I said, he has maybe a day advantage over me for recovery and for getting ready for the finals.
That’s going to be my main priority and concern the next day and a half, to physically be able to perform my best and be ready to play five sets.
If I am able to do that, then I can believe that I can win.
Q. Were you ever scared in this match, a thought that ever came to you that you might lose this match?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Definitely. It was so close. Both of us believed that we can win, and that’s how we played. We played with courage a lot of shots. In decisive moments we were aggressive and wanting to win this match.
I think crowd enjoyed as much as we did in competing. It could have easily gone the other way. He was couple of points away from winning the match, so I was lucky to go as a winner.
Q. Comparing him to when you saw him here a year ago, is his forehand a very much more aggressive shot?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes.
Q. Technically changed, as well?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, you can’t significantly change in technique a stroke, especially if you’re at this level. He’s already a complete player. Even last year he was.
It’s a matter of, you know, having a little bit of luck combined with a choice of the right shots at the right moments, and that’s it.
I mean, he’s so close to winning the Grand Slam. He’s one of the best players in the world, that’s for sure.
Q. Did he give you a reminder that as No. 1 it’s going to be very, very hard for you to keep your No. 1 ranking, let alone stay in the top 3?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m very much aware of that fact. Obviously there is Rafa, Roger, and Andy who have been probably my biggest rivals in the last couple years. I managed to get to the No. 1 place, win a couple of Grand Slams last year, and have the best year of my career.
I’m aware now that everyone wants to win the major title, get that No. 1 spot. It’s normal. It’s something I’m prepared for. I’ve been working hard in the offseason.
The year is long. It’s a great way for me to start the year, playing finals in the Australian Open, first Grand Slam of the year. It’s going to be huge confidence boost for me to continuation of the season.
Q. You had some breathing problems in the middle of that match. How do they compare to some previous matches you’ve had in the past? Was it worse or about the same?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: As I said, we both had some physical crisis and felt the difficult physical moments probably end of second and beginning of the third. I mean, that reflected a little bit on my game. I wasn’t taking my shots any more. Every time we got to a longer rally, I made mistakes. That’s what happened with him in fourth.
So it’s normal to expect that. We are competing on a very high level where each points goes to 10 and plus rallies. You have to expect that you have some ups and downs throughout the match.
Q. How do you solve it, with medication during the match?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. You try to get energized in every way. A lot of liquids, try to eat something, as well, that gives you energy.
Q. Your girlfriend was in a lovely red dress today. She stood up many times cheering for you in crucial moments. You were looking at her, as well. Did that help you that she was here and she was standing up there?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Of course. She is my love and my big support. It’s great to have her around. You know, we had lots of success together. She’s been present at the US Open and Wimbledon and many other tournaments that I have won.
Actually, she was present at the first tournament I ever won in Amersfoort in 2006. We have a long relationship and understanding, so it’s great to have her there.
Q. Do you think missing the warmup tournaments here in Australia has been a help to your fitness?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Could be. You know, I’ve said before that my goal was physically, mentally to prepare for the Australian Open. I played so many matches in 2011 that I didn’t need any, you know, warmup events or any firstweek events in 2012 seasons.
I played in Abu Dhabi couple matches against top players, so I felt that I am ready.
Q. Have you seen Rafa’s matches during this tournament?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes.
Q. What do you think of his play?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, the last one I’ve seen is obviously against Roger. It was a fantastic match I think from both of them. Roger started off really well. It was an incredible effort from Rafa to come back and some incredible passing shots. That’s why he’s a champion. That’s why he’s one of the best players to ever play this game. He’s never giving up. He has a fighting spirit. He has very few weaknesses.
Yeah, I mean, he’s very much eager and motivated to win the title as much as I am. It’s the final. It’s unpredictable what’s going to happen.
Q. The four of you have real clear water between the other players behind you in the sense that you’re always in this point of the tournaments. Has that been contributory to each of you keeping each other honest, motivated, and the desire of winning in an era when there are yourself and three others?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s great for the sport to have I think more candidates to win the major titles; whereas maybe three, four years ago it was only Roger and Rafa. It was only two, and now we have four.
I mean, it’s great. I wouldn’t exclude Berdych and Tsonga. Tsonga played finals of the World Tour Finals.
There are more players in that group. There are more players that are really believing they can win against the top four. But it’s an incredible effort. It takes a lot of effort for top four to be here where we are.
Obviously that confidence and maybe mental advantage and experience that we have in the major events, playing on this high level, helps us to be where we are.
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