By Ros Satar, in Melbourne

  • Novak Djokovic [1] def. Rafael Nadal [2] 6-3 6-2 6-3
  • Becomes the first man to win seven Australian Open titles
  • Holds three of the last four Slams
  • Moves within just two Slams from Rafael Nadal’s 17 titles.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Novak Djokovic brushed Rafael Nadal aside to claim a record seventh title at the Australian Open.

 

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Novak Djokovic [1] def. Rafael Nadal [2] 6-3 6-2 6-3

With the build-up for the tournament reliving their epic 2012 final, the scene was set for episode 53 of Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal. Throughout the tournament Nadal had been imperious, with a devastating new service action that made mincemeat of his competitors.

On the other side, we saw elements of frailty from Djokovic with a couple of testing matches with the ATP’s NextGen stars Denis Shapovalov and Daniil Medvedev, but against Lucas Pouille, he dropped the hammer and lifted his game up a notch.

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The start of the first set was electrifying. An edgy looking Nadal struggled to make any headway against the constant peppering of his forehand by Djokovic as the six-time champion jumped out to a 3-0 lead. In fact, it took until Djokovic was serving for the set to lose his first (and only) point of the set on his serve.

Nadal looked to be a lot more settled in the second set leading on serve for the first time since the start of the match, and it looked as though he might get a foothold in the match. But just as it looked as though he was picking up the pace, the patience and intelligent play from Djokovic earned him two breaks in succession.

Occasionally a serve from Nadal would leave Djokovic static, and any time he was able to change direction and knock the World No. 1 off balance, he would strike, but those were depressingly few and far between for the Spaniard.

With another serve to love, Djokovic hit cruise control for the 2-0 lead. Nadal still could barely get a point off the Djokovic serve before he found himself broken again. He kept trying and was ‘rewarded’ with his first and indeed only break point chance but even that glimpse of hope was soon snuffed out.

With an impending sense of inevitability Djokovic arrived at championship points, needing just two to win an historic seventh title.

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In an impassioned post-match speech, Nadal said: “First thing is many congratulations to Novak and all his team. Was an amazing level of tennis tonight and throughout the 2 weeks, so well done for everything.

“It has been a very emotional two weeks. Even if tonight wasn’t my best day, I had somebody that played much better than me tonight… Even if tonight was not my night. For me it’s important to be where I am today again coming back from injury.

“I’m going to keep fighting hard to be a better player, to keep fighting for the most important things. This tournament has been tough for me in terms of injuries and in terms of opponents, like tonight! Many thanks for everything and I really hope to see you next year.”

It is worth remembering that last year, Djokovic was made to look step slow by ATP NextGen champion Hyeon Chung. This year all young gun challenges were halted, and in fact Nadal had been more ruthless with them, and Djokovic had been tested a little. But when all said and done the World No. 1 was indeed the last man standing!

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He said, on court: “I would like to return the favour and obviously give compliments to Rafa’s couple of weeks. Obviously tough match tonight. You are showing to me and all your other colleagues what is the definition of the fighting spirit and resilience.

“I’m just trying to contemplate the journey in the last 12 months. I had the surgery exactly 12 months ago so to be standing in front of you today and to win this title and three out of four Slams is amazing. I’m speechless.”

Djokovic now holds 15 Slam titles, two behind Nadal and five behind Roger Federer.

The next Slam of the year is Roland Garros, which takes place between 26 May – 9 June.

 

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