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Djokovic captures sixth Australian Open title

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic was still walking around Melbourne Park with his trophy, celebrating his record sixth Australian title, when five-time runner-up Andy Murray was heading for the airport in a rush to reunite with his pregnant wife.

Top-ranked Djokovic maintained his perfect streak in six Australian Open finals with a 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3) victory on Sunday night, equaling Roy Emerson’s record for Australian titles. Murray continued his unwanted streak, too, slumping to 0-5 in championship deciders Down Under.

“First of all I need to pay the respect to Andy,” Djokovic said. “Tough match, tough luck tonight.

“You’re a great champion, great friend, very committed to this sport. I’m sure in the future you’re going to have many opportunities.”

The 28-year-old Murray had his share of distractions in Australia. His wife, Kim, is due to have their first child in February and stayed in Britain. Kim’s father, Nigel Sears, traveled to Australia as coach for Ana Ivanovic, and had to be rushed to hospital by ambulance while Murray was on court in his third-round match. Nigel Sears spent a night in a nearby hospital last weekend but was well enough to return home, which meant Murray could stay in Australia and try to refocus on winning the title.

“It’s been a tough few weeks for me away from the court,” Murray said in his on-court speech, thanking his support team before turning his attention to his wife.

“You’ve been a legend the last two weeks. Thank you so much for all your support,” he said, choking back tears and waving as he walked away from the microphone. “I’ll be on the next flight home.”

A little more than a half-hour later, Murray was sitting in a mandatory news conference, saying he was proud of his achievements here but was ready to get home. At 11:15 p.m. local time, Murray said he was aiming for a 1 a.m. flight – “I’ve been held on flights for it feels like five days. The first one out of here, I’m leaving.”

Hundreds of Serbian fans, many waving flags, gathered outside and cheered and screamed as Djokovic did an interview with the host TV broadcaster.

“I never experienced this much crowd and this much love,” Djokovic said, before waving to his fans. “It’s an incredible feeling especially because of the fact that I managed to make history tonight, and equal Roy Emerson’s record of six Australian Opens, that’s why this trophy is even more.”

Djokovic increased his career haul to 11 Grand Slam titles, including four of the last five, to join Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg at No. 5 on the all-time list.

Two-time major winner Murray, meanwhile, became only the second man to lose five finals at one major – Ivan Lendl lost five and won three U.S. Open finals in the 1980s.

Djokovic had won 10 of his previous 11 matches against Murray and was 21-9 in their career meetings – including four finals at the Australian Open.

Again, he was just too good.

Djokovic broke to take a 2-0 lead and, after he’d hit a perfectly placed drop shot, a fan yelled: “Give him a chance Novak!”

He didn’t, racing to a 5-0 lead and serving out the first set in 30 minutes.

The second set contained long rallies and plenty of tension. Murray was yelling at himself and swiping his racket in anger, and Djokovic waved his racket in frustration as well.

After an exchange of breaks in the seventh and eighth games, Djokovic broke again in the 11th and closed out the set before taking an early break in the third set with a forehand winner around the post. Murray broke back in the sixth game and the set went to tiebreaker.

Djokovic took a 6-1 lead, setting up five championship points, and finished if off in 2 hours, 53 minutes, with an ace on his third match point.

He dropped to his hands and knees and kissed the court, slapping it with his right hand, and went to the stands to hug Boris Becker, his coach since 2014.

© 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping tournaments like Federer

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MONACO (AP) For now, Rafael Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping any major tournaments the way Roger Federer has been sitting out the French Open.

The veterans are back at the top of world tennis, with Nadal needing to win the Monte Carlo Masters this week to avoid losing his top ranking once again to Federer in their seemingly eternal battle for tennis supremacy.

For the second consecutive season, the 36-year-old Federer is skipping the entire clay-court season in order to be at his best on grass.

After coming back from injury to win the Australian Open last year, Federer skipped the clay-court season, won Wimbledon, and retained his Melbourne crown to extend his record tally to 20 majors.

The Swiss star is keeping his aging body fresher by playing a bit less – avoiding Nadal on clay at Roland Garros or elsewhere – and it is working for him.

But Nadal still thinks he can play a full schedule.

“There (are) tournaments that I can’t imagine missing on purpose, because (they are) tournaments that I love to play,” Nadal said on Wednesday. “I don’t see myself missing Monte Carlo on purpose. I don’t see myself missing Wimbledon on purpose, or the U.S. Open, or Australian, or Rome. These kind of events, I don’t see missing (them).”

The 31-year-old Spaniard recently returned from a right hip injury which forced him to retire during the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic.

With his 32nd birthday coming up on June 3 – during the French Open – the 16-time Grand Slam champion accepts he may think differently when he gets closer to Federer’s age.

“Of course, when you get older, you need to adjust a little bit more the efforts and the calendar. But for me (it) is difficult to say I don’t play, for example, grass, or I don’t play hard (courts),” Nadal said. “(It) is not in my plan, but I can’t say `never’ because I cannot predict what’s going to be in the future.”

Nadal is chasing an 11th title at both Monte Carlo and Roland Garros, which begins on May 27.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Thiem reaches third round at Monte Carlo

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MONACO — Dominic Thiem saved a match point and beat Andrey Rublev of Russia 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday.

Rublev was serving for the match at 5-4, 40-30 but hit a forehand narrowly wide. Fifth-seeded Thiem broke him with backhand pass down the line and held for 6-5.

The Austrian was 15-40 up on Rublev’s serve and clinched victory on his first match point, when Rublev double-faulted with a weak serve into the net.

“I was 10 centimeters from being out of the tournament,” a relieved Thiem said. “But I’m happy that I played two hours and 40 (minutes).”

Thiem has reached the French Open semifinals for the past two years. He next meets 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic or Borna Coric of Croatia, who play their second-round match on Wednesday.

“I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic and Coric in front of the TV, and then playing the winner on Thursday,” Thiem said.

In the second round later Tuesday, fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria faced Pierre-Hugues Herbert and seventh-seeded Lucas Pouille played Mischa Zverev.

In remaining first-round play, there were wins for Gilles Simon of France, Marco Cecchinato of Italy and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.