MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Novak Djokovic became the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian titles when he beat Andy Murray 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 in Sunday’s final.
Little wonder he loves Rod Laver Arena.
"It’s definitely my favorite Grand Slam," he said. "It’s an incredible feeling winning this trophy once more. I love this court."
Djokovic has won four of his six major titles at Melbourne Park, where he is now unbeaten in 21 matches.
Nine other men had won back-to-back titles in Australia over 45 years, but none were able to claim three in a row.
Only two other men, American Jack Crawford (1931-33) and Australian Roy Emerson (1963-67), have won three or more consecutive Australian championships.
Born a week apart in May 1987 and friends since their junior playing days, Djokovic and Murray played like they knew each other’s game very well in a rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final. There were no service breaks until the eighth game of the third set, when Djokovic finally broke through and then held at love to lead by two sets to one.
Djokovic earned two more service breaks in the fourth set, including one to take a 4-1 lead when U.S. Open champion Murray double-faulted on break point.
"It’s been an incredible match as we could have expected," Djokovic said. "When we play each other, it’s always, we push each other to the limit and I think those two sets went over two hours, 15 minutes, physically I was just trying to hang in there.
The 25-year-old Serb didn’t rip his shirt off this time, as he did to celebrate his epic 5-hour, 53-minute win over Rafael Nadal in last year’s final. He just did a little dance, looked up to the sky and then applauded the crowd after the 3-hour, 40-minute match.
Murray’s win over Djokovic in the U.S. Open final last year ended a 76-year drought for British men at the majors, but he still is yet to make a breakthrough in Australia after losing a third final here in the last four years.
Djokovic’s win went against the odds of recent finals at Melbourne Park. In four of the past five years, the player who won the second of the semifinals has finished on top in the championship match. But this year, Djokovic played his semifinal on Thursday -- an easy 89-minute minute win over No. 4-seeded David Ferrer. Murray needed five energy sapping sets to beat 17-time major winner Roger Federer on Friday night.
"You don’t wake up the next day and feel perfect, obviously," Murray said of the Federer match. "It’s the longest match I played in six months probably. It obviously wasn’t an issue today. I started the match well. I thought I moved pretty good throughout."
The win consolidated Djokovic’s position as the No. 1-ranked player in the world, while Federer and Murray will be second and third when the ATP rankings are released Monday.
Their last two matches in Grand Slams -- Murray’s five-set win at last year’s U.S. Open and Djokovic’s victory here last year in five in the semifinals -- had a total of 35 service breaks.
It was a vastly different, more tactical battle on Sunday, with the first two tight sets decided in tiebreakers.
Azarenka beats Li
Victoria Azarenka won her second consecutive Australian Open title, beating Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a dramatic final that contained a break for fireworks, two medical timeouts and a nasty fall to the court by Li.
The Chinese star first tumbled to the court after twisting her left ankle in the fifth game of the second set and had it taped.
On the first point after a 10-minute pause in the third set while fireworks boomed overhead from nearby Australia Day celebrations, Li fell over again and slammed the back of her head on the court. The 2011 French Open champion was treated and had another timeout before being allowed to resume the match.
Azarenka, who broke down in tears and sobbed into her towel when the match ended, won five of the next six games to claim her second major title and retain the No. 1 ranking.