MELBOURNE, Australia Novak Djokovic returned to his dominant best to win his third consecutive Australian Open title, denying Andy Murray a second major championship with a 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 victory Sunday night at Rod Laver Arena.
The top-ranked Djokovic is the first man in the Open era to win three straight Australian titles nine others have won back-to-back but were unable to win three in a row.
"I love this court," Djokovic said. "It's definitely my favorite Grand Slam. It's an incredible feeling winning this trophy once more."
He has won four of his six majors titles at at Melbourne Park, where he is now unbeaten in 21 matches.
Born a week apart in May 1987 and friends since their junior playing days, the two played like they knew each other's game very well in a rematch of last year's U.S. Open final won by Murray. There were no service breaks until the eighth game of the third set, when Djokovic finally broke through and then held at love to lead by two sets to one.
Djokovic earned two more service breaks in the fourth set, including one to take a 4-1 lead when Murray double-faulted on break point.
The 25-year-old Serb didn't rip his shirt off this time, as he did to celebrate his epic 5-hour, 53-minute win over Rafael Nadal in last year's final. He just did a little dance, looked up to the sky and then applauded the crowd after the 3-hour, 40-minute match.
Murray's win over Djokovic in the U.S. Open final last year ended a 76-year drought for British men at the majors, but he still is yet to make a breakthrough in Australia after losing a third final here in the last four years.
Djokovic's win went against the odds of recent finals at Melbourne Park. In four of the past five years, the player who won his semifinal second has won the tournament. But this year, Djokovic played his semifinal on Thursday an easy three-set, 89-minute minute win over No. 4-seeded David Ferrer. Murray needed five energy sapping sets to beat 17-time major winner Roger Federer on Friday night.
The win consolidated Djokovic's position as the No. 1-ranked player in the world, while Federer and Murray will be second and third when the ATP rankings are released Monday.
Their last two matches in Grand Slams Murray's five-set win at last year's U.S. Open and Djokovic's victory here last year in five in the semifinals had a total of 35 service breaks.