Novak Djokovic Wins Australian Open, Tightens Grand Slam Race

Written by on February 2, 2020

MELBOURNE, Australia — It was a extremely uncommon Australian Open, starting with the prologue.

The qualifying event was disrupted due to smoke from the bushfires which have devastated giant swaths of the nation. A brand new crew occasion, the ATP Cup, modified gamers’ routines and schedules in January, the beginning of a brand new season.

The death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna on Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash, which killed 9 individuals in Los Angeles, was felt by many through the center of the event in Melbourne, together with Bryant’s buddy and occasional mentee Novak Djokovic.

“I’ve been watching movies of Kobe and his household each single day since that occurred, and it’s devastating,” Djokovic mentioned.

However after all of the upheaval and surprising feelings, the conclusion of the Australian Open was reassuringly acquainted for Djokovic.

He has gained on the Australian Open greater than anyplace in his lengthy profession. And on Sunday evening, below clear skies and an open roof, he prolonged his males’s report by securing an eighth males’s singles title with a 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-Four victory over Dominic Thiem.

“Undoubtedly my favourite court docket and my favourite stadium on the planet,” Djokovic mentioned after the mood-swinging remaining, which lasted Three hours 59 minutes.

The dig-deep victory allowed Djokovic, 32, to reclaim the No. 1 rating from Rafael Nadal and to tighten the hole with archrivals Roger Federer and Nadal within the long-distance race to see who will end with essentially the most Grand Slam singles titles.

Federer, 38, holds the lads’s report with 20. Nadal, 33, has 19. Djokovic, the youngest of the trio, has 17 and has the report squarely in his sights even when he’s discovering it more and more difficult to chase trophies world wide as the daddy of two younger kids. His household didn’t make the journey to Australia with him this 12 months.

“I’m sort of going by means of these moments once I’m on the street simply considering, do I must be away for thus lengthy?” Djokovic said in a recent interview. “As a result of I additionally don’t need them to be a part of this touring, so to say, entourage, as a result of it’s simply taking away a few of the issues which can be more healthy and higher for them.”

However any hesitation didn’t preserve Djokovic from fulfilling his objectives Down Below. After sweeping all of his singles matches and main Serbia to the title on the ATP Cup in Sydney, he traveled to Melbourne, rested for a number of days and proceeded to work his method by means of the draw, dropping only one set earlier than the fifth-seeded Thiem pushed him to the restrict.

Thiem, a 26-year-old Austrian with thunder in his groundstrokes and highlights in his darkish hair, has turn into a transparent risk to the Huge Three, beating every of them a number of instances during the last three seasons.

He had gained 4 of the earlier 5 matches towards Djokovic. However he has but to defeat him on an outside hardcourt. He confidently constructed a two-set-to-one lead on Sunday as Djokovic struggled along with his consistency and vitality ranges, however Thiem couldn’t slam the door on a comeback.

Thiem appeared to have command of the match when he had a break level on Djokovic’s serve at 1-1 within the fourth set that Djokovic saved by boldly serving and volleying. “One level and doubtless one shot separated us tonight,” Djokovic mentioned. “It might have gone a special method.”

Thiem didn’t get one other probability to interrupt serve within the fourth set, and performed one among his shakiest video games of the match to drop his personal serve at 3-4.

They have been quickly right into a fifth set, and Djokovic took fast command, breaking Thiem’s serve within the third recreation. He saved two extra break factors within the subsequent recreation to remain in entrance, once more dashing the web below stress.

Thiem’s final actual probability to shut the hole got here with Djokovic serving at 4-Three however at 15-30, Djokovic reeled off three straight factors.

“I feel there’s not a lot to alter,” Thiem mentioned. “Within the final two units, I positively gave the whole lot I had. Novak is a part of three guys who’re by far the perfect gamers ever who performed tennis. When you play a Grand Slam remaining towards him, it’s at all times going to be a match the place very small particulars are deciding.”

Based mostly on the proof, the toughest activity in males’s tennis is defeating Nadal on the French Open. Nadal has a report 12 singles titles at Roland Garros and has solely misplaced two matches there. However the second-hardest activity must be beating Djokovic down the stretch on the Australian Open.

He has by no means misplaced a semifinal and is now 8-Zero in finals, after successful his second straight remaining right here. Final 12 months, he routed Nadal in straight units for the title in one of many best performances of his profession. On Sunday, his type within the opening video games seemed related. He stormed to a 4-1 lead, successful factors with deft drop photographs, highly effective groundstrokes and penetrating first and second serves. However Thiem, not like Nadal, discovered a strategy to climate the early storm and get again to 4-Four earlier than Djokovic closed out the set.

It was a taut, tense affair from there, though each gamers not often peaked in unison and each completed with extra unforced errors than winners. The second set turned Thiem’s method after Djokovic was referred to as for consecutive time violations by the chair umpire, Damien Dumusois, when serving at 4-4.

The second violation price him a primary serve. Thiem went on to interrupt, and Djokovic, fuming, patted Dumusois’s ft as he handed in entrance of his chair. “Nice job, man,” Djokovic mentioned. “You made your self well-known. Nicely executed.”

It’s technically forbidden to the touch an official, however Dumusois selected to not penalize Djokovic.

“I believed the second violation was not crucial, the primary one effective no drawback, the second simply not crucial below the circumstances,” mentioned Djokovic, who mentioned he was unaware of the ban on touching an official.

“I believed it was a pleasant, actually pleasant contact,” he mentioned a lot later, grinning at his post-match information convention, which began at 2 a.m. on Monday.

Thiem served out the second set and swept to the third as Djokovic seemed more and more sluggish and off stability. With Thiem main 4-1, Djokovic obtained a go to from the medical workers however didn’t take an harm timeout.

He mentioned he was feeling unusually low on vitality and experiencing some dizziness and mentioned he was knowledgeable by a health care provider that he was doubtless dehydrated. “To be trustworthy, I nonetheless don’t perceive the explanations that occurred,” he mentioned of his bodily points.

However Djokovic usually has seemed down and out in his lengthy profession solely to discover a method again to a extra sunlit place. So it went on Sunday as he rallied to increase his dominance and stop the youthful era from breaking by means of.

Thiem, who misplaced the final two French Open finals to Nadal, is now 0-Three in main finals and no lively males’s participant below the age of 31 has gained a Grand Slam singles title.

The Huge Three have gained 13 majors in a row and can stay within the prime three within the rankings on Monday with Thiem at No. 4. However as each Djokovic and Thiem made clear of their post-match speeches, there are extra vital issues than rankings and tennis.

Djokovic, with the lads’s singles trophy again in his grasp, turned his ideas to Bryant and his daughter.

“It is a reminder to all of us we should always stick collectively greater than ever,” he mentioned.

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