MELBOURNE, Australia —
Preparing for a second serve at 2-2 in the second set tiebreaker, Murray was rocking back about to toss the ball when he stopped, paused and then walked onto the court and tried to grab a small white feather that was floating in his view.
He went back to the baseline, bounced the ball another eight times and served too long.
After being called for a double-fault, Murray knocked the ball away in anger and flung his arm down. He didn’t get close for the rest of the tiebreaker and was the first to drop serve in the match — in the eighth game of the third set. Djokovic broke him twice in the fourth set, which by then had turned into an easy march to victory.
“It was strange,” said Djokovic, adding that it swung the momentum his way. “It obviously did. ... He made a crucial double-fault.”
Murray didn’t blame his loss on the one distraction.
“I mean, I could have served. It just caught my eye before I served. I thought it was a good idea to move it,” he said. “Maybe it wasn’t because I obviously double-faulted.
“You know, at this level it can come down to just a few points here or there. My biggest chance was at the beginning of the second set — didn’t quite get it. When Novak had his chance at the end of the third, he got his.”
Djokovic had five break-point chances in the opening set, including four after having Murray at 0-40 in the seventh game, but wasn’t able to convert any of them.
Then he surrendered the tiebreaker with six unforced errors. Murray appeared to be the stronger of the two at the time. He’d beaten Djokovic in their last Grand Slam encounter, the U.S. Open final, and had the Serb so off balance at times in the first set that he slipped to the court and took skin off his knee.