In a way, you've got to feel for Andy Murray, who on Sunday didn't even come close to beating Novak Djokovic in the 2016 Australian Open final.
We'll talk about the brilliance of Djokovic in a moment. But first, consider this. Andy Murray has now contested nine Grand Slam finals and won just two. In each of his nine finals, he has faced either Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic. Murray's failure to win more of these events is not a failure of ability or character. If anything, it's just bad timing.
Andy Murray has had the extreme misfortune of playing his career in the strongest ever era of men's tennis. It was always thought that there are two really strong candidates for GOAT, or Greatest of All Time, in this era. The first was Roger Federer. Then along came Rafael Nadal.
But after Sunday night, you can no longer have that conversation without throwing in the name Novak Djokovic too. The 28-year-old Serb now has 11 majors. While Federer has 17 and Nadal 14, Djokovic won three Slams last year -- and who's to say he won't have 13 or 14 in the bag by the end of 2016?
Djokovic was at his sublime best on Sunday night. He doesn't hit the ball as hard as some but he is the everywhere man. In every rally, Djokovic gives himself a chance. He has a cheetah's litheness and a sniper's accuracy. With these qualities, he wears players down physically but also grinds them mentally. You can almost read the mind of any opponent, Murray included. They're all saying the same thing: how do you get past this guy?
In one rally in the second set on Sunday night, Djokovic slid about two metres on the blue plexicushion surface to chase down a Murray backhand. Any other player in the world would have barely reached the ball and played a defensive slice backhand. But Djokovic got there with enough time for a whippy cross court winner. It was bold, impossible, thrilling, and -- if your name was Andy Murray -- utterly demoralising
How do you get past this guy?
The really remarkable thing is that Murray actually beat Novak Djokovic in the two Grand Slam finals he won -- the 2012 US Open and Wimbledon 2013. It's hard to remember how that happened now. These days, the Scot never looks like seriously troubling the Serb, and especially not in Australian Open finals. He has now lost four of said deciders against Djokovic.
Meanwhile, Djokovic is making the Australian Open his private tournament. This was his sixth. He makes the final, he wins it. Simple as that.
How do you get past this guy?
The closest Murray came to troubling Djokovic on Sunday night was the first game, in which he held a break point. Thereafter, the set was all Djokovic. "He's fighting the bagel," said Bruce McAvaney -- a reference not to a cantankerous bread roll but the dreaded 6-0 scoreline.
Djokovic ended up winning the first set 6-1. The second was a tighter affair, which Djokovic won 7-5 after Murray fought back from a break down. Murray showed some fight in the third set too, but capitulated in the tie-break. Final score: 6-1 7-5 7-6
In some ways, this was an odd match. You'd think it would have been all about the dominance of a champion, but as one of the Channel Seven commentators remarked about halfway through, "this match has been all about Andy".
And it was, because Murray seemed to dictate his own fate as much as Djokovic out there on Rod Laver Arena. From early on, he had an animated conversation with himself, at one point clearly telling himself: "this is the worst match I've ever played".
It clearly wasn't that, and in truth it probably wasn't the best match Djokovic ever played either. But champions know how to do enough to win.
You get the sense that if Murray could settle down a little and find the Djokovic calm, he might help his cause. He seems to suffer from a milder version of Nick Kyrgiositis.
To be fair, Murray had a lot going on, what with his father-in-law collapsing at a match earlier this week, and being courtside when his brother won the doubles really late on Saturday night.
"Andy, you should be in bed, not here taking photos," Jamie Murray told his little brother. It was probably sound advice.
But in the end, neither his nocturnal hours nor his family dramas cost Andy Murray an Australian Open title in his fifth appearance in a final. Novak Djokovic stopped him.
"I feel like I've been here before," Murray said after the match. Because he had. And as he relives the match in his mind in days to come, there'll be one question running through his mind:
How do I get past this guy?Suggest a correction