MELBOURNE, Australia -- So that was fun.
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray went toe-to-toe in a tantalizing finale at the Australian Open. For a while it looked like we might have to cancel our flights back home and stick around an extra day, considering the first two sets lasted more than 2½ hours.
But then Djokovic decided to play like a world No. 1 and dismantled Murray the rest of the way in a 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-0 win, the Serb’s fifth title in Oz and eighth major overall.
We can only hope that you had a chance to watch this, because you won’t have an opportunity to watch any more tennis for ... about 24 hours or so, when the Open Sud de France kicks off. I, for one, had a great vantage point right from the Rod Laver Arena media seats.
With that, here is ESPN.com’s first “Observations from Section 13, Row R, Seat 2” of the men’s final.
• As I walked into Rod Laver Arena about 20 minutes before the first ball was struck, the roof was shut over the stadium. It was hot and humid with little to no airflow. Naturally, I came to the court decked out in a flannel shirt (classy) and windbreaker, considering it was barely 60 degrees and raining all day. Needless to say, within two or three minutes after I sat down in my seat in Section 13, Row R, Seat 2, some untimely perspiration began to emanate from my back (classy), and I had to take my coat off. Ten minutes after that, the roof police made the decision to open it, and the temperature immediately dropped by 20 degrees or so, which meant I had to put my coat back on. But the point here is that the sudden wind-strewn conditions were going to be a factor. I felt Murray, who’s a little fussier, would have preferred a closed roof. It wasn’t going to be.
• For a moment, I couldn’t remember if I was in Melbourne or Wimbledon. The geeked-up fans yelled passionately for Murray during introductions, warm-ups and throughout most of the match, which made me pity Djokovic a little, until I remembered he’s a world No. 1 with seven major titles (heading into the match) and gazillions in his bank account. But in all seriousness, I understand that in a global sense, Serbia is a quaint tennis community, and that Djokovic doesn’t garner the same attention as Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It wasn’t until 4-3 in the first set that I heard faint chants in support of Djokovic.
• The first set took 1 hour, 12 minutes, which made me wonder what would happen first: the conclusion of this match or the first ball of the French Open. Murray really, really (really!) needed that first set. Our stat guys informed us that Djokovic is 36-1 in finals when winning the opening set. More so, Djokovic played some shaky ball early on. He moved awkwardly at times (was he suffering lingering effects from his last match against Stan Wawrinka?), and as the set wore on, Murray began to play more offensive-minded. Djokovic, though, won that set, which he probably shouldn’t have.
• Djokovic went up a break at 3-2 in the second set, which included a string of 12 straight winning points. Murray lost focus, and as ESPN.com colleague Peter Bodo tweeted, “Thanks to Andy Murray, ATP may borrow a page from WTT playbook and allow on-court psychotherapy.”
• Hoodlum alert! An hour and 50 minutes into the match, a hooligan attempted to run across the court, but security snagged her well before she could even approach the near sideline. If you’re going to be a daredevil, crazy person, you need a more explosive first step. Action was stopped for about two minutes while said hoodlum was escorted from the grounds. But here’s the thing: Murray broke Djokovic immediately after the incident. Maybe the Scot should foot her bail money.
• After two sets, which took 2 hours, 32 minutes, I began to think about math, which is not exactly the forte of someone who makes a living trying to string together cogent, coherent sentences. But just for fun, I decided to calculate how long Djokovic and Murray would have to play at the current rate to pass John Isner and Nicolas Mahut as the longest match in the history of tennis. The answer ... nine sets. Of course, they had already surpassed Isner-Mahut in terms of quality by the third game of the first set (#ouch).
• Djokovic was broken straight away in the third set, and began to look a little gimpy. But whether he was legitimately ailing or whether it was just histrionics setting in, Djokovic rebounded, broke Murray back and then broke him again at 4-3 in the third. It was at that point Murray took his anger out on his racket -- with a massive overhead smash onto the court.
• Here’s a fun stat: At 3 hours, 19 minutes into the match, my laptop said it had 3 hours, 19 minutes of battery life remaining. Which means nothing, but still, pretty cool, right?
• And here’s a cooler stat: Djokovic lost three total games in the final two sets to nab his Open era-record fifth Aussie Open title. And suddenly the match was over, as was my time in Section 13, Row R, Seat 2.