Novak Djokovic defeated Andy Murray 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3) on Sunday to clinch his sixth Australian Open crown and tie the record number of titles claimed by Roy Emerson between 1961 and 1967.
This triumph also marked the fourth time Djokovic has defeated Murray in the Melbourne final; he previously overcame the Scot in 2011, 2013 and 2015. Eurosport illustrated Djokovic's monstrous Grand Slam achievements:
Eurosport UK @Eurosport_UK
Novak Djokovic wins the Australian Open for the sixth time! Congratulations @DjokerNole! #AusOpen https://t.co/5Pe6DzNTS92016-1-31 11:36:54
Sunday's win was the third time in succession the Serbian has beaten Murray in straight sets; he routed his adversary at both the Shanghai Masters and Paris Masters last year.
Murray was visibly upset with his latest loss to Djokovic, but he made sure to send a message to his pregnant wife Kim in his post-match comments, per BBC Sport:
I feel like I've been here before. Congrats, Novak. Six Australian Opens is an incredible feat. The last year has been incredible. Good job.
I'd like to thank my team for getting me to this position. Sorry I couldn't get it done. Thanks for all your support during a tough few weeks off court.
To all of the ex-players watching: Thank you for coming. It makes it even more special playing in front of you.
And finally to Kim, my wife, who is going to be watching at home. You've been a legend. I'll be on the next flight home.
Djokovic laid waste to his opponent in the opening set of Sunday's final, and Murray was miles off the pace as Djokovic pulled him to and fro across the Rod Laver Arena.
Murray conceded breaks in each of his opening two service attempts, and Tom Perrotta of the Wall Street Journal noted the odds were stacked against the Briton as long as he was playing anything less than his best tennis:
Tom Perrotta @TomPerrotta
Murray playing badly, Djokovic playing well = blowout set. 4-0 Djokovic.2016-1-31 09:00:12
It wasn't until the fifth game of the opening set that he found anything resembling a groove and finally got off the mark, but Djokovic served out to claim a 6-1 win in just half an hour.
A more robust Murray turned out for the second set, and he did particularly well to survive four break points at 1-1 to take a one-game lead, but Djokovic was too dominant on his own serve. Murray was clearly frustrated with his own display, per Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times:
Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg
"This is the worst match I've ever played," says Andy Murray. Not sure that that's right, really, but I understand his feelings. #AusOpen2016-1-31 09:35:36
Djokovic recorded a seemingly inevitable break to lead 4-3, but Murray hit back with his first break of the match to tie the score again.
Djokovic's serving declined noticeably, but, per the IBM SlamTracker, he dominated with reception statistics continued to dominate, winning 44 percent of the points he received compared to Murray's 33 percent.
Despite fending off two break points to keep a 5-4 lead, Murray blinked on his next serve and trailed 6-5 before his foe served out to claim a two-set lead.
By the end of the second set, Murray had faced 10 break points, while he had forced only three upon Djokovic. KICCA's Ian Stafford outlined the task in front of Murray, who has never come back from two sets down in his career:
Ian Stafford @IanStaffs
It's one thing coming back from 2 sets down against Raonic. It's another against Djokovic. An Everest of a challenge now for Andy Murray.2016-1-31 10:33:59
There was no sign of surrender in Murray's performance, but nothing could hold back Djokovic as the 2013 Wimbledon winner conceded a fourth break on his opening serve of the third set.
At 3-1 down, Murray went on a three-game winning streak—his first of the match—to turn the scoreline in his favour. World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper commented on the now-or-never circumstances of Murray's comeback attempt:
Brett Gosper @brettgosper
Murray hanging by a racket string in Melbourne #AusOpenFinal2016-1-31 11:08:30
Both contenders' stamina appeared to be running low as the long rallies they had earlier in the clash were replaced by shorter duels, and Murray held out for a tiebreak in the tightest set of the match.
Djokovic had a critical challenge go in his favour, though Murray's wayward serving didn't help his cause as Djokovic stormed to a 7-3 tiebreak win. Tennis writer Chris Goldsmith detailed the gulf between the two finalists, with championship points to spare:
Chris Goldsmith @TheTennisTalker
5 MPs Djokovic ..... Murray errors galore in the breaker and all over for the Brit #ausopen2016-1-31 11:35:35
If his reputation didn't already demand it, a sixth win in Melbourne cemented Djokovic's place as the most successful player ever to grace the Australian Open.
Djokovic and Murray have enjoyed a collection of fierce encounters in recent years, but the former may consider this his most decisive victory to date.
Roland Garros, the next Grand Slam event of 2016, awaits in May, but both Djokovic and Murray can turn some of their attention toward the Davis Cup, with the first round underway in March.