He also had a bit to lose, too, if he didn't.
His first- and second-set performances would have, in an ideal world, been good enough to earn him both sets, and his experience of having already won a Slam title would have helped toward the finish line, but it wasn't to be.
I wasn't able to see the match in full, but it was exceedingly obvious—from recent history and just basic common sense—that Murray's success depended in part on making sure Djokovic did not win two sets before he did simply because of the physical and psychological impact that such a development would have had on him.
A Big Chance
Heading into the match, Djokovic had had a day's more rest (of sorts) than Murray, and Murray was coming into the final on the back of a frustrating, long-winded four-hour spar against Roger Federer. Every which way you looked, the odds were stacked high against Murray.
However, as much as it was a curse, it was an even bigger blessing—in disguise.
Why? Well, to be able to face odds as he faced and to come out the winner on the other side would have done as much for him and maybe more as winning the title would have. Additionally, in so far as the rankings were concerned, he would have then been regarded as the unofficial best player in the world.
The past, however, is in part present to remind us of what can still be. So what lies ahead for Murray? Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami? Those are realistic targets, but now that he's got the taste for Slams, they will not suffice. The clay courts of Rome, Madrid and Roland Garros will more than likely be an unhappy hunting ground, so what in the meantime?
Great art comes through great pain. I said in a recent article that 2013 would be the year of the aesthete tennis player—the thinkers and the artisans—and I think that the Australian Open final showed it.
The six-hour slugfest that was last year's final was this year replaced by consummate, concentrated brilliance. Three short, impressive sets that showcased Djokovic's ability without laboring the point.
So where next for Murray? Simple. He should concentrate on the things he does well and begin to do them incredibly well—the serve, the off-pace backhand and the hooked cross-court forehand. In essence, make himself a work of art.