Tennis

Djokovic edges Murray in five-setter

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)

Defending champion Novak Djokovic moved into an Australian Open final against Rafael Nadal after struggling past Andy Murray in a five-set, almost five-hour semifinal late Friday night.

Despite appearing tired and sore from the second set on, Djokovic rallied to beat Murray 6-3, 3-6, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 7-5 in a rematch of the 2011 final at Melbourne Park to reach his third consecutive Grand Slam final.

After wasting a chance to serve out the match at 5-3 in the fifth and letting Murray back into the contest, Djokovic cashed in his first match point when the Scottish player missed a forehand after four hours, 50 minutes.

Djokovic dropped onto his back, fully laid out on the court. He got up and shook hands with Murray, before jogging back out onto the court like a boxer, dropping to his knees and crossing himself.

It was already after 12:30 a.m. Saturday when he got up again and pumped his arms triumphantly.

''Andy deserves the credit to come back from 2-5 down. He was fighting. I was fighting,'' Djokovic said. ''Not many words that can describe the feeling of the match.

''Evidently it was a physical match ... it was one of the best matches I played. Emotionally and mentally it was equally hard.''

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It was a bitter setback for Murray, who lost the previous two Australian finals.

Djokovic finished last year at No. 1 after winning three of the four majors, including a straight-sets win over Murray in the Australian final. His only loss at a Grand Slam in 2011 was against Roger Federer in the French Open semifinals.

He is now aiming to be only the fifth man in the Open Era started in 1968 to win three straight majors. His 70-6 win-loss record in 2011 included six wins over Nadal - all in finals.

Nadal, the 2009 Australian Open winner, beat four-time champion Federer in Thursday's semifinal and has an extra day to prepare for Sunday night's final.

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