Brave Andy Murray beaten by Djokovic in classic semi final
Epic five setter at Australian Open is immediately hailed as one of the great matches
SAY what you like about Andy Murray but it would be impossible not to feel a twinge of sympathy for the Scot after a brilliant Australian Open semi-final against Novak Djokovic ended in heartbreak.
Murray produced some outstanding tennis during a five-hour marathon that rivalled anything put on by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in recent years. But in the end he did not have enough to break the Serbian world number one and eventually lost 7-5 in the fifth set, having staged a miraculous recovery from 5-2 down to almost snatch victory.
It spoke volumes about the quality of the match that Djokovic roared and pumped his fist in celebration as if he had won the tournament, while Murray could not have cut a more dejected figure.
"It is difficult to describe," said Djokovic afterwards. "It was one of the best matches I have played, emotionally and physically it was equally hard."
The Guardian went further. "That was the best match since the Wimbledon final in 2008," it declared. "Never again let it be said that Andy Murray is a choker. He pushed the world No1 all the way and no one could have complained if he'd won. He tried and he lost, but he's not a failure."
"He showed true grit, determination and kept a lid on his emotions throughout," said The Daily Telegraph.
"That was staggering," said BBC commentator John Lloyd afterwards. "Murray knew to win he'd have to play best match of career. I think he did that but lost, yet you can't take anything away from him."
The first two sets produced some high-class tennis as Murray lost the first 6-3 but recovered to win the second by the same score, as both players found it hard to hold their serve in the face of relentless pressure.
The third was a gargantuan affair that lasted 88 minutes and ended with Murray taking the tie-break 7-5. But the titanic effort took its toll and he capitulated in the fourth, going down 6-1.
The fifth set will be remembered for many years to come and almost produced one of the greatest comebacks the game has seen. Trailing 5-2 in the fith Murray knew his opponent needed to win just one of the next three games to take the match. But first he held his serve, then he broke Djokovic and finally, with the crowd whipped up into a near frenzy, held once again to make it 5-5.
Then came the defining moment of the match, an epic, eight-minute long showdown on the Djokovic serve that featured some incredible rallies. Three times Murray had break point, but each time the Serb saved the day before finally taking the game to lead 6-5.
Having taken the wind out of Murray's sails the world number one then set about killing him off, and when a call went against Murray at 15-all Djokovic sensed blood and snuffed out the Scot's challenge.
The silver lining for Murray is that he won't have to do it all again on Sunday, when Djokovic must take on Nadal in the final. And judging by the reaction on Twitter he won over an army of fans with his determination.
As Mirror writer Oliver Holt noted: "Those who keep insisting Murray will never win a Grand Slam will be sleeping a little less easily tonight."