Tennis

Serbia's world No. 1 says Murray final tough

Five-time Aussie Open winner Djokovic is poised to join exclusive company

Novak Djokovic is poised to enter Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg territory as he chases a record-equalling sixth Australian Open title in today's final against Andy Murray.

The peerless world No. 1 is strongly favoured to deny Murray for a fourth time in the Melbourne final and secure a victory which would push him further up the list of the sport's greats.

Born a week apart 28 years ago, Djokovic and Murray have contested three previous finals at Melbourne Park with the Serbian emerging triumphant on each occasion.

"I'm expecting a battle with Andy, as it always is," he said.

"Very physically demanding match. Lots of rallies, exchanges. It's no secret we know how we play against each other.

"It's two games that are very much alike, so it's basically who's going to outplay who from the baseline."

Should he again vanquish the world No. 2, Djokovic will join Borg and Laver with 11 Grand Slam titles, and equal Roy Emerson's record of six Australian crowns - and all at the age of just 28.

Djokovic destroyed the all-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in Thursday's semi-final to yet again underline his dominance in the men's game, and enter his fifth straight Major final.

"Fighting for a Grand Slam trophy is a pinnacle of our sport. This is exactly where you want to be," Djokovic said yesterday.

"You work hard to put yourself in this position. Of course, adding to that the fact that I am able to make history is just an additional encouragement and incentive for me to do well.

"If you want to win Grand Slam titles and be the best in the world, you have to win against the best players in the world. Going to be ready for that."

This will be the 31st meeting between the pair in a rivalry that goes back to their junior days.

Djokovic holds a 6-2 win-loss record against the Scot in Slams and a 3-2 advantage in major finals.

Djokovic wore down Murray in last year's final, where the first two sets lasted two-and-a-half hours, and is renowned for his powers of endurance.

He mastered Rafael Nadal in the longest ever Grand Slam final in five hours, 53 minutes at the 2012 Australian Open, and last year he won the physical battle as he put away Murray in four sets.

Djokovic, while confident of another victory, knows what lies ahead between two patient, defensive players.

Murray's second serve, once considered a weakness, has more power and the extra oomph gives him more weapons to complement his already formidable return and defensive game.

"There has been a lot of talks about his second serve, and I'm sure he and his team are very much aware of that," Djokovic said.

"But on the other hand, I'm also working on things to improve, and I'm sure that we will try to explore each other's weaknesses tomorrow and see what happens." - AFP.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC

World ranking: 1

Birthdate: May 22, 1987

Birthplace: Belgrade, Serbia

Residence: Monte Carlo, Monaco

Height: 1.88m

Weight: 78kg

Plays: Right-handed

Turned pro: 2003

Coach: Boris Becker/Marian Vajda

Career titles: 60

Grand Slam singles titles: 10

Career prize money: US$94,251,218

Best Australian Open result: Champion (2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015)

The supreme Serb is hoping to match Roy Emerson's record - held since 1967 - of winning six Australian Open titles after brushing aside Roger Federer in the semi-final.

Djokovic was virtually unstoppable in 2015, with three Grand Slam titles among 11 tournament victories, and a win-loss record of 82-6. The defending champion appears to have picked up where he left off in his most productive Grand Slam and will be playing in his sixth Australian final in nine years - and his fifth Grand Slam decider in a row.

Djokovic is also chasing his 11th Major title which would place him alongside Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver. He has been world No. 1 for 183 weeks.

The Serb is on a 20-match Grand Slam winning streak since his last defeat to Stan Wawrinka in last year's French Open final.

Djokovic has tremendous stamina and has a 26-8 record in five sets. He leads Murray 2-1 in five-setters at Grand Slams, and beat him in the Australian final in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

PATH TO THE FINAL

(prefix denotes seeding)

1st round bt Chung Hyeon 6-3, 6-2, 6-4

2nd round bt Quentin Halys 6-1, 6-1, 7-6(3)

3rd round bt 28-Andreas Seppi 6-1, 7-5, 7-6(6)

4th round bt 14-Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-7(1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3

QF bt 7-Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2, 6-4

SF bt Roger Federer 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. - AFP.

australian opennovak djokovicANDY MURRAYsports