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.
In the women’s final, Kim Clijsters believes she’s now earned the nickname she had for years in Australia.
“I finally feel like you guys can call me ‘Aussie Kim’ because I won the title,” a teary Clijsters said after beating China’s Li Na 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 Saturday night to capture her first Australian Open. “It’s nice to finally get it this year.”
Clijsters lost the 2004 Australian Open final to Justine Henin and lost four times in the semifinals. This was Clijsters’ fourth Grand Slam tournament championship, but the first apart from the U.S. Open.
“To win it in this way means a lot,” she told a TV interviewer after the match. “This one to me, is the one. When I think back on my childhood, I remember watching the Australian Open and seeing Monica Seles win many times. I think they used to go up into the stands. I remember her doing her speech there, and it was something that I was just amazed by. It seemed like such a fairy tale.”
Li was trying to become the first Asian to win a major, and the final was far from a smooth ride. She complained to the chair umpire about the Chinese fans and was bothered by photographers’ flashes in the courtside pits. The outbursts from all over the arena were jarring.
“They shouted ‘finish her off!’ sometimes even when we were hitting the ball,” Li said through a translator. “I thought, ‘How can they do this?'”
In doubles, Bob and Mike Bryan successfully defended their title, beating Indian stars Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi 6-3, 6-4 for their fifth Australian crown and 10th Grand Slam championship.
Clijsters didn’t win her first major until 2005 — after she’d lost four finals. All the while, the Australian public regarded her as one of their own. And not only because she was once engaged to Lleyton Hewitt, the Australian who won two Grand Slam titles and was ranked No. 1 before Federer began his run. Clijsters is laid back and resilient, and the fans in Melbourne noticed.