MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Andy Murray blamed Novak Djokovic’s physical problems in their Australian Open final on Sunday for throwing him off his game but that could hardly explain the meltdown that saw the Scot lose 12 of the last 13 games.
After leveling at one-set apiece, Murray led 2-0 in the third but collapsed to lose the match 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-3 6-0 under the lights of Rod Laver Arena, his fourth defeat in Australian Open finals and third to Djokovic.
The Serb tumbled to the court a couple of times early in the third set and was almost limping between points, but after saving a break point at 3-3, the top seed stormed to his fifth Melbourne Park title without any sign of physical distress.
“The third set was frustrating because I got a bit distracted when he, like, fell on the ground after a couple of shots,” twice grand slam champion Murray told reporters.
”It appeared that he was cramping, and then I let that distract me a little bit.
“That’s what I‘m most disappointed about, not so much the fourth set because I think, especially at the end of it, he was just going for everything, and it was going in. But the third set was more frustrating for me.”
Murray was asked whether there was a deliberate element to Djokovic’s struggles.
“I would hope that that wouldn’t be the case. But, yeah, if it was cramp, how he recovered from it, that’s a tough thing to recover from and play as well as he did at the end,” Murray said.
“So, yeah, I‘m frustrated at myself for letting that bother me at the beginning of the third set, because I was playing well, I had good momentum, and then just dropped off for like 10 minutes and it got away from me.”
Djokovic said he did not suffer cramping or any serious injury and described his problems as a “physical crisis” that lasted 15 or 20 minutes due to the taxing nature of the contest.
“I was just weak,” he said. “You know, just the length of the rallies. Even though I went through this moment, I believed that I was going to get that necessary strength.”
Though initially roared on by the Rod Laver Arena crowd as he fought his way back into the match, Murray lost the support of the terraces during his capitulation when he hammered his racquet into the hard court.
Having chastised himself throughout the opening sets with his typical fiery monologues, his final surrender was quiet as he appeared to go through the motions like a lamb heading to the slaughter.
It wasn’t long before the criticism started.
“He needs a good, hard look in the mirror and to get his head together,” Australian former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash told the BBC.
“He has not put up a great fight. He hasn‘t. Don’t put a rose tint on this.”
The meltdown will inevitably raise comparisons with his 2011 final loss to his friend and fellow 27-year-old Djokovic, when he was trounced 6-4 6-2 6-3 in a listless display.
Murray’s run to the final was his first in a grand slam since his Wimbledon title in 2013, but the manner of his exit may haunt him through to the next major at Roland Garros.
“Success is being happy. It’s not about winning every single tournament you play, because that isn’t possible,” he said.
”Like I said, I‘m happy with everything that I put into the event.
“So I can’t be disappointed with that because I gave my best effort ... I just wish I could have done a little bit better in the third set tonight.”
Editing by Ken Ferris