Murray battled valiantly, especially in a tense third set, but the Scot’s nerves and Federer’s brilliance combined to hand the Swiss a 16th major title, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (13-11).
It was Murray’s second Grand Slam final defeat to Federer, following the 2008 US Open, and in an emotional speech afterwards he paid tribute to his opponent, who enhanced his case for being considered the greatest tennis player of all time with a fourth Australian Open crown.
“I can cry like Roger, it’s just a shame I can’t play like him,” said Murray, in a reference to Federer’s runners-up speech 12 months earlier.
“I wanted to win the tournament. I think it was more the way the end of the match finished. Obviously it was pretty emotional end to the match.”
While a straight-sets defeat in Melbourne mirrored that at the US Open 18 months previously, Murray’s performance second time around offered far more encouragement. And it has merely fired the 22-year-old already fierce determination to land a big prize.
“Tonight’s match was a lot closer than the one at Flushing Meadows,” he added. “I had a chance at the beginning of the match, and I had chances at the end of the match.
“I worked really, really hard to try to do it and give myself the opportunity; so far it’s not been good enough. But I’m sure one day it will be. When it comes, maybe because of the two losses, it will be even better.”
Facing an opponent with 21 previous Grand Slam finals behind him, Murray was sure to feel the nerves more, and despite recovering from an early break of serve, allowed Federer to take the first set.
The unflappable Swiss took the second without fuss, but was made to work in the third set. Facing defeat, Murray rediscovered the aggressive side of his game – and it threatened to pay off. He served for the set at 5-3 and then had five set points in a marathon tie-break, before eventually succumbing to defeat.