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Gutsy world No.1 Novak Djokovic will shoot for a slice of tennis history in Sunday night's Australian Open men's final after outlasting Scot Andy Murray in a drawn-out, see-sawing Friday night thriller.

Djokovic, who thrashed Murray in straight sets in last year's final, survived breathing difficulties and an incredibly tough semi-final battle to defeat the fourth seed 6-3 3-6 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 7-5 in four hours and 50 minutes.

It was the ninth time Murray had reached a grand slam semi-final or better, but his quest to become the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a major remains elusive.

In contrast, reigning champion Djokovic will aim for his fourth title in five grand slam events when he takes on world No.2 Rafael Nadal.

Nadal booked his final berth by beating Roger Federer on Thursday night.

Djokovic beat Nadal in the finals of the past two majors, Wimbledon and the US Open.

If he triumphs again, the Serb will become just the fifth man in the open era to have won three straight grand slam events, with Nadal, Federer, Pete Sampras and Rod Laver the four to have already done so.

But Nadal, who has an extra day's rest leading into the final, will be heartened by the gruelling nature of Djokovic's semi-final win and signs of physical vulnerability from the No.1, even if he finished remarkably strongly.

Djokovic was the dominant player in the first set and quickly led 2-0 in the second.

Murray showed enormous fight to win six of the next seven games and level at a set apiece.

Helping Murray's cause, Djokovic was buckling over gasping for breath late in the second set and called for a box of tissues early in the third to ease his nasal congestion.

The third set was full of twists, the most dramatic coming when Murray failed to serve out the set, before steeling himself to play a tremendous tiebreaker.

As crucial as that seemed, the advantage that took Murray three hours and 20 minutes to gain evaporated in 25 minutes of strangely uncompetitive tennis as Djokovic breezed through the fourth set.

That lapse looked extremely costly, as Djokovic stormed to a 5-2 lead in the decider.

But Murray dug deep to break the Serb to love as he served for the match at 5-3 and after levelling at 5-5, had three break points himself.

But after Djokovic showed all of his grit to save those, Murray finally buckled on his next service game, putting the Serb within one victory of his third Australian Open title.

While Djokovic's mid-match physical struggles might have heartened Nadal, the result would not have.

Nadal has won five of his six most recent clashes with Murray, but lost his past six against Djokovic.

Djokovic said Murray deserved great credit for the fight he showed in the last set.

"He was fighting, I was fighting. There's not much words to describe the feeling I have now," Djokovic said.

"The result of the match says it all. It was definitely, evidently a physical match - it was almost five hours and one of the best matches I've played in.

"But emotionally and mentally it was even harder."


Djokovic sends Murray packing at Australian Open
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