|Tennis men in arms: Djokovic and Murray put on a show in their semi-final at the Australian Open [GALLO/GETTY]
Serbian Novak Djokovic made it through to the final of the Australian Open on Friday but it was anything but easy for the world number one.
Brit Andy Murray's endurance and risky forehands pushed the match into a five set thriller with the world number four coming back a number of times in a tiring battle that ran over four hours.
However, Djokovic overcame breathing problems and fatigue to beat his old friend to move into his third straight Grand Slam final.
Despite appearing tired and sore from the second set, 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.
He is now aiming to be only the fifth man in the Open Era started in 1968 to win three straight majors - only Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Federer and Nadal have achieved it before him, with only Laver going on to complete the Grand Slam by winning all four majors in a season.
Standing between Djokovic and this feat is world number two Rafael Nadal, a man he beat in six tournament finals in 2011, but also a man who will be substantially more re-energised come Sunday.
Djokovic said after the match that it had come down to a battle of power between himself and Murray.
"You have to find strength in those moments and energy, and that keeps you going,'' he said.
"At this level, very few points decide the winner.
"I think we both went through a physical crisis. You know, him at the fourth set, me all the way through the second and midway through the third. It was a very even match throughout, from the first to the last point.''
'He was fighting'
After the victory, 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.
"Andy deserves the credit to come back from 2-5 down. He was fighting. I was fighting,'' Djokovic said.
"Evidently it was a physical match... it was one of the best matches I played. Emotionally and mentally it was equally hard"
"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.''
It was a bitter setback for Murray, who lost the previous two Australian finals. However, the Scot felt the match showed how far he has come.
"Everybody matures at different ages and different rates. I feel now like I'm ready mentally (to challenge the top three)," Murray said when asked if he felt he had changed since his loss to Djokovic in the 2011 final.
"Physically I can still get better, for sure. But in comparison to how I played last year, it was much, much better.
"Tonight's match was important for many reasons. Obviously I wanted to win first and foremost, but after last year, the year that Novak had, I think there's a very fine line between being number one in the world and being three or four."