Fitness favours Djokovic
Novak Djokovic (AFP Photo)
Melbourne - Novak Djokovic could have the fitness edge as he faces Andy Murray in a Sunday Australian Open men's final in which both participants are aiming to set personal records.
Djokovic, the world number one and top seed, is bidding to become the first man in the modern game to win three consecutive titles at the Aussie event. Murray will be playing his third Melbourne final in four years and is searching for his first trophy at the tournament.
A Murray victory would mark the first time that a player who won his first Grand Slam (US Open 2012), followed by claiming a second at the next opportunity (Australian, 2013).
Djokovic will have 48 hours of rest after a crushing semi-final win on Thursday over David Ferrer. Murray fought for four hours on Friday to subdue four-time champion Roger Federer in an exhausting five sets.
"You just try your best to be in the best possible condition for Sunday," said the third-seeded Murray. "Realistically you're probably not going to feel perfect because of how the (semi-final) match went, but it's not to say you can't recover well enough to play your best tennis."
Djokovic was thanking the luck of the draw for his easy passage through the fortnight.
A year ago, he had to win a five-hour semi-final followed by a record final with Rafael Nadal lasting almost six hours.
"This year it hasn't been the case, and I'm very glad. I was pushed to the limit in the fourth round. I had some really physically tough matches in this tournament, and I'm glad I went through it.
"This two-day break definitely serves me well, physically, mentally, emotionally, so I can get all my strength for that final.
"I have to be ready to expect a five-hour match or five sets. That's the kind of approach that I have to every single match that I play in Grand Slams, especially in the second week."
Murray said he was unsure of the boost that his US Open triumph might give him as he plays the final
"I have no idea, I'll see obviously how I feel when I get on the court.
"I'm aware of how tough it will be to win the match. Hopefully there were moments in the US Open final (against Djokovic) where I could have closed out sets a bit quicker. It was not the prettiest tennis, so hopefully I'll play a little bit better."
Djokovic leads their series 10 wins to seven after beating Murray twice in the autumn following his New York defeat. No matter the outcome of the final, the Serb will remain atop the rankings while Murray will stay at third behind Federer.
Murray believes he now has the tools to back up his previous success.
"I've been questioned for large parts of my career about physically would I be strong enough, mentally would it be strong enough, do I listen to my coaches, blah, blah, blah, whatever it is, can I handle pressure.
"Those years of having all of those questions and then finally to be able to answer them I think it was all part of the process.
"So I hope on Sunday I can play a good match. Obviously having won against Novak before in a slam final will help mentally."