Sunday, January 31, 2016

Djokovic ties Laver, Borg with 11th major singles title

Novak Djokovic, shown en route to the title at Indian Wells last year,
defeated Andy Murray 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3) for his record-tying sixth Aus-
tralian Open singles crown. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Serena Williams failed to rise on the all-time list of Grand Slam singles champions this week.
   But not Novak Djokovic.
   The 28-year-old Serb continued his domination of Andy Murray -- and everyone else -- today to tie Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg for fifth place with 11 major titles.
   Playing in Rod Laver Arena with the legend in attendance, Djokovic defeated his longtime rival 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3) in Melbourne for his fifth Australian Open title in six years and sixth overall, equaling Aussie Roy Emerson's record.
   "I have to say I'm extremely honored to be mentioned alongside the legends of our sport, like Rod Laver," Djokovic said during the awards ceremony. "Thank you, Mr. Laver, for coming along tonight and making this match special. Mr. Roy Emerson, who is not here tonight, it's a great privilege to match the record of one of the greatest players to have played this game."
   Laver was barred from Grand Slam tournaments for five years in his prime until professionals were allowed beginning in 1968. Emerson, who remained an amateur, won 10 of his 12 Slams during Laver's absence. Borg, a victim of burnout, retired at 26.
   Federer holds the men's record with 17 Grand Slam singles titles. Pete Sampras and Rafael Nadal are tied for second with 14.
   Angelique Kerber of Germany stunned Serena Williams, attempting to tie Steffi Graf for second place with 22 major singles crowns, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the Australian Open women's final on Saturday.
   Murray fought hard after a sluggish start, but Djokovic outclassed him with his impeccable movement and groundstrokes for his fourth title in the last five Slams and fifth in the last seven.
   "I'm proud that I got into this position," Murray, whose wife is back home in Great Britain expecting their first child soon, said on ausopen.com. "Just quite looking forward to getting home now."
   Murray owns two major singles crowns, but he set a record for a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era by falling to 0-5 in Australian Open finals. Four of the losses have come against Djokovic, who improved to 22-9 in the head-to-head series with 11 wins in the last 12 matches.
   The players were born one week apart in 1987 and have known each other since they were juniors.
Murray, playing at Indian Wells last year, fell to 0-5 in
Australian Open singles finals. Four of the losses have
come against Djokovic. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Murray went undefeated in two appearances in the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose, winning his first career ATP World Tour title there 10 years ago and repeating in 2007.
   Djokovic, ranked No. 1, was fresher physically and mentally than No. 2 Murray in today's final.
   Djokovic had an extra day to rest after his 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Federer, a four-time Australian Open champion, on Thursday. Murray needed 4 hours, 3 minutes to subdue No. 13 seed Milos Raonic in five sets on Friday.
   It was an emotional tournament for Murray. He was prepared to fly home immediately if his wife, Kim, had gone into labor during the tournament.
   Also, Kim's father and Ana Ivanovic's coach, Nigel Sears, collapsed during Ivanovic's third-round night match against Madison Keys at Rod Laver Arena. Sears was removed on a stretcher and taken to a hospital. He flew to the United Kingdom, where he is resting.
  "Regardless of today's result, it's been hard," Murray said. "Had I lost in the third or fourth round, it still would have been difficult with everything that's happened.
   "(Kim) has been amazing. Handled everything unbelievably well. I have to thank her for allowing me to play here with everything that was going on.
   "I've never been in this position before, so it's as close as I've been to leaving a Grand Slam. It was a tough, tough couple of days. Thankfully, (Nigel) is fine now. Yeah, I just want to get home."
   Djokovic, meanwhile, has reached 17 straight finals, winning 13, since falling to 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in the Doha quarterfinals last January. 
   Djokovic is 38-1 since the beginning of the U.S. Open, losing to Federer in the round-robin phase of the ATP World Tour Finals in London. Djokovic went on to win the ATP title for the fourth straight year and fifth overall.
   In the next Grand Slam tournament, May 22-June 5, Djokovic will try to win the French Open for the first time. He has lost in the final three times, including in each of the past two years.
   In the Australian Open mixed doubles final, fifth-seeded Elena Vesnina of Russia and Bruno Soares of Brazil edged unseeded CoCo Vandeweghe of Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area and Horia Tecau of Romania 6-4, 4-6 [10-5].
   Soares also won the men's doubles title with Jamie Murray, Andy's older brother, on Saturday. The Murrays became the first brothers to reach the singles and doubles finals of a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era (since 1968).
   Vandeweghe, 24, was the runner-up to Serena Williams in the 2012 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford and played for the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis at 17 in 2009 and in 2012.

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