MELBOURNE (Reuters) – With another Australian Open title having slipped through his fingers after a tournament plagued by off-court dramas, Andy Murray could not wait to see the back of Melbourne Park after losing his fifth final on Sunday.
Murray suffered a deflating 6-1 7-5 7-6(3) defeat to Novak Djokovic, the man who had beaten him in three previous finals in 2011, 2013 and again last year.
He became only the second man since tennis went professional to lose five finals at the same grand slam but the other, Ivan Lendl, sandwiched his five losses at the U.S. Open with a hat-trick of wins from 1985-87.
Also runner-up to Roger Federer in 2010, Murray battled hard in the second and third sets against Djokovic but the loss will do little to convince fans that the Scot can one day break his hoodoo against the Serb.
By any measure, Murray had a taxing two weeks and was constantly worried about his heavily pregnant wife back in Britain.
He was rocked midway through the tournament by a medical emergency involving her father Nigel Sears, who collapsed in the terraces at Rod Laver Arena when coaching Ana Ivanovic and was rushed to hospital.
For all that, Murray could not help but see the lighter side as he accepted the runners-up trophy for a fifth time.
“I feel like I’ve been here before,” the Briton joked with his opening words during his runner-up speech.
Long accustomed to the bugbear of being runner-up at the post-match media conference, Murray said he felt the difference this year was in the unforced error count.
He had 24 more than the 11-times grand slam champion Djokovic, who won exactly 24 more points than Murray.
“I didn’t hit my forehand particularly well at the beginning of the match. I started to hit it better in the third set,” he told reporters.
“But, you know, I’m proud of the way I fought and managed to get myself back into the match and create chances for myself.
“But, yeah, obviously didn’t start particularly well.”
Murray spoke of a “tough few weeks” away from the court during the trophy presentation and his voice cracked as he paid tribute to his wife for her support under trying circumstances.
“To my wife Kim, who I’m sure is watching back home now. You have been a legend for the last two weeks and thank you for all your support. I’ll be on the next flight home,” he said.
Despite the dramas, world number two Murray still managed to battle into his ninth grand slam final and make a match of the decider after being destroyed in the opening set.
Once it was all done, however, he could not wait to be shot of the place.
“I’m proud that I got into this position, you know,” said the Scot. “Just quite looking forward to getting home now.”
(By Ian Ransom, Editing by Greg Stutchbury)