Djokovic denies faking illness against Murray in Open final

WINNER: Novak Djokovic in Melbourne on Monday after winning the Australian Open final on Sunday. Picture: ReutersNOVAK Djokovic insists there was no play-acting, just more “cat and mouse” tennis, in his latest Australian Open final triumph over perennial runner-up Andy Murray.

As he savoured a record-breaking fifth Open success, Djokovic dismissed suggestions he was feigning physical problems before putting Murray to the sword in an Open final for the third time.

After trailing by a break and looking wobbly on his feet early in the pivotal third set, the world No.1 summoned the strength to win 12 of the last 13 games for a 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-0 victory.

But rather than be allowed to celebrate his eighth grand slam title win, a feat that elevated the 27-year-old alongside greats Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Ken Rosewall and Fred Perry on the all-time majors leaderboard, Djokovic was peppered in his post-match press conference with questions about his physical issues.

On several occasions, the Serb clumsily lost his footing and balance and was often left gasping for air during the sapping encounter.

When he lamely dropped serve to fall behind 2-0 in the third set, the top seed looked down and out.

Djokovic, though, insisted his troubles were legitimate and flatly dismissed suggestions of any gamesmanship.

Tellingly, the first two brutal sets featured more than 60 rallies of nine shots or more.

“I think everybody predicted it was going to be a big battle,” Djokovic said.

“Very similar match to the Australian Open final in 2013 when we played over two hours [for] the first two sets . . . very physical, very exhausting.

“It’s normal to expect that you can’t always be at your 100 per cent, so you go through some particular moments that you can call crises during matches like these.

“This is what I had in these 15, 20 minutes. After that I felt better. I just felt very exhausted and I needed some time to regroup and recharge and get back on track. That’s what I’ve done.”

Murray admitted he should never have been distracted by his opponent’s woes and needed to learn from his latest Melbourne Park despair, his fourth in four Australian Open finals.

“It was a cat-and-mouse fight. It always is,” Djokovic said.

“We always try to outplay the opponents with the groundstrokes, with the long rallies, a lot of variety in the games: spin, flat, slice, drop shots. I think we both went out with the full repertoire of the shots we have. I hope everybody that watched it enjoyed the finals.

“From my side, it was definitely very exhausting. In winning those matches, you need to be able to find that inner strength – mental, physical, emotional, especially when you’re down in the finals and when you’re playing a top rival.

“There’s a lot of things that can influence your state of mind.

“The willpower that I had on the court today took me to where I am now.” AAP

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