ANDY MURRAY felt his inability to capitalise on the chances which came his way were instrumental in his Australian Open final defeat to Novak Djokovic.
The Scot's biggest opportunity to hammer home his advantage came when he earned three break points at the start of the second set, having edged the first on a tie-break.
But Djokovic upped the ante to escape immediate danger. He then took the set in another breaker before running through the third and fourth to complete a 6-7 (2/7) 7-6 (7/3) 6-3 6-2 victory - and his third successive title triumph in Melbourne.
"At this level it can come down to a few points here and there," said Murray.
"My biggest chance probably came at the start of the second set but I didn't quite take it. When Novak had his chance at the end of the third he got his."
Murray also had chances in the fourth set.
"I was getting quite a few 0-15s, 15-30s, 0-30s but I couldn't quite capitalise on my chances on his serve," he said. "That was the disappointing part.
"And when you go two sets to one down, you know you really need to get off to a good start at the beginning of the fourth because when the top guys get a lead and momentum it's very hard to stop them."
A final which was absorbing without being a classic was dominated by serve for the first two sets.
Djokovic had the openings in the first without converting and Murray made him pay by winning the tie-break.
It was role reversal in the second as Murray wasted that triple chance for an early break and Djokovic held on for a tie-break he won, thanks largely to a Murray double-fault at 2-2.
He put his first serve into the net and was shaping up to deliver the second when he noticed a feather dropping on to the court out of the corner of his eye.
Having removed it, he promptly put the second serve long.
"I could have served," he explained. "But it just caught my eye before. I thought it was a good idea to move it. Maybe it wasn't."
It was all Djokovic needed to level the match and the momentum appeared to swing further in his favour when Murray had to call for the trainer.
There was no immediate deterioration in his movement, although there was the definite sense the match was now Djokovic's for the taking.
And the top seed needed no second invitation as he set up three break points for a 5-3 lead.
Two poor forehands saw the first two come and go but Murray could not escape a third as Djokovic claimed the first break of the match before serving it out.
From there there was no way back as Djokovic broke twice more in the fourth to extend his winning run in Melbourne to 21 matches and take revenge for his defeat to Murray in the US Open final in September.
Asked what was different between here and Flushing Meadows, Djokovic said: "All our matches in the last three years have been decided by a few points so it's really hard to say if I did anything different.
"I tried to be more aggressive, I went for my shots, especially in the third and fourth, and came to the net quite often."
In winning, he became the first man in the Open era to win three titles on the trot Down Under.
"Winning three in a row is incredible," he added.
"I'm full of joy. It's going to give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season, that's for sure."