MELBOURNE, Australia - Novak Djokovic gave his old friend Andy Murray a sympathetic hug and a few consoling words, then got on with the real celebrations.
Djokovic walked to the middle of the court, tossed his racket into the crowd, then stripped off his shirt and shoes and hurled them, too.
The 23-year-old Serb had plenty to celebrate after his 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 win over Murray in the Australian Open final on Sunday night. Djokovic’s second Australian title made him only the fourth active player on the men’s tour to win multiple majors. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have had a lock on the men’s side, winning 21 of the previous 23, while Lleyton Hewitt has two titles – the last coming at Wimbledon in 2002.
“It’s been a fantastic tournament for me,” Djokovic said. “I don’t want to fly up to the sky and say, ‘I am the best,’ or whatever. I cannot compare to Rafa and Roger’s success.”
He’s the most successful player so far in 2011, though, and that’s what counts right now.
“Certainly this will give me a lot of motivation for the continuation of the season, because to win a Grand Slam at the start of the season is the best start you can ask for,” he said. “It means a world to me. I’m still 23. I still have a lot of time to go.”
Top-ranked Nadal came to Australia aiming to win a fourth consecutive major and complete a “Rafa Slam.” He lost in the quarterfinals. Federer came in as the defending champion and lost to Djokovic in the semifinals.
The loss for fifth-seeded Murray continued his horrible stretch in Grand Slam finals – he hasn’t won a set in three tries, including losses to Federer last year in Australia and at the 2009 U.S. Open. It also extended the long drought for British men at the majors that dates back to Fred Perry’s titles in 1936.
Djokovic and Murray have been friends since they started playing each other at age 11 or 12, and often practice against each other. They’re even talking about playing doubles together.
“I understand how he feels. It’s his third final and he didn’t get the title,” Djokovic said. “As I said on court, I really have big respect for him and his game, because I think he has everything that it takes to become a Grand Slam champion.”
He thinks the pressure on Murray to break the British drought may weigh the Scotsman down.
“It is in some ways a mental issue when you are facing a situation, playing the finals of a Grand Slam, being so close to winning a title,” Djokovic said. “Every time you get it there, you know, you want to win it badly, but some things go wrong.
“You’re thinking too much. You’re worrying too much in your head,” he added. “It’s a mental battle, definitely. Bottom line is that this is a very mental sport in the end.”
Sunday started with Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia and Daniel Nestor of Canada winning the mixed double doubles championship, beating Chan Yung-jan of Taiwan and Paul Hanley of Australia, 6-3, 3-6, 10-7. The day ended with Djokovic kissing the men’s singles trophy and holding it high for hundreds of Serbian fans decked out in red-white-and-blue clothes of all descriptions.