MELBOURNE, Australia — Maybe, just maybe, people thought Novak Djokovic would be in a little more trouble this time around at the Australian Open.
He tore his abdominal muscle in the third round and wasn’t sure if he could continue with the match. Before Sunday, Djokovic lost five sets in the tournament, the most he has ever lost en route to a major final. To make matters worse, he was up against Daniil Medvedev, who had been winning 20 matches.
Yeah, that’s right. There is talk of Djokovic at Melbourne Park, where his dominance is certainly intact with nine titles in nine finals now. He also continues to win over Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam standings and now has a total of 18, two less than the men’s record shared by these rivals.
Djokovic used his improved serve and his usual relentless return and perfection from the baseline to win 11 of 13 matches in a row and beat Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 to win his third Australian Open in a row.
Definitely, emotionally, the hardest Grand Slam I’ve ever had with everything that’s happened – the injuries, the sudden things, the fact that I’m in my 40s, Djokovic said. A roller coaster ride.
When the match ended less than two hours later, Djokovic stepped aside, lifted his white shirt and removed pieces of beige tape from his abdomen.
I was very worried, Djokovic said of the injury. I didn’t think I could play realistically. I didn’t know until two hours before the match in the fourth round.
After battling what he called bearable pain, Djokovic improved his result to 18-0 in the semifinals and final on Melbourne’s hardcourt courts.
It probably won’t be the last, Medvedev said. I have nothing to say.
Djokovic, a 33-year-old Serb, has won six of his last 10 tournaments and will play at least until the eighth. The month of March remains number 1 in the world rankings. That would give him 311 weeks and break another Federer brand.
Today his eyes are even more focused on the Grandes Coulées than before.
Nine wins for Djokovic in Australia, plus five at Wimbledon, three at the US Open and one at Roland Garros. Math suits him: He is about a year younger than Nadal and 6½ years younger than Federer.
I appreciate the success even more each time, Djokovic said, because I know that the more time passes, the harder it gets.
Medvedev, the fourth seed, was in his second Grand Slam final, losing to Nadal at the 2019 US Open.
The 25-year-old Russian has recorded 12 wins in a row against top-10 opponents, but facing Djokovic in Australia is a unique challenge.
He reads the opponent’s game very well, Medvedev said, he knows what to do next, how to beat them.
As everything slipped away from him, Medvedev bounced off the white noise of the blue track, only to completely destroy it with a full swing. He looked at his coach, palms up, as if to ask what I can do here.
Novak Djokovic did better than 18-0 in the semifinals and hardcourt final at the Australian Open. AP
It’s a familiar feeling in this stadium: Federer, Nadal, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Dominic Thiem – all Grand Slam champions who have beaten Djokovic in Melbourne in the semi-finals or the final.
The event, which had been postponed for three weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic, ended on a cold and cloudy evening with 7,426 spectators announced at Rod Laver Arena. Spectators were sidelined five days before the start of the tournament due to the COVID-19 exclusion, but were eventually able to return to 50% capacity.
Djokovic says he has mixed feelings about what happened last month or so when the tennis players arrived in Australia. But I think if we draw the line at the end, it will be a successful tournament for the organizers.
And for him.
Medvedev’s set-up was questionable at the start as it lacked width, length and accuracy in the first ten minutes. Djokovic grabbed 13 of the first 16 points of the match and soon led 3-0. But soon it became 3-0 and then 5-0.
But then Djokovic stepped out and Medvedev withdrew. Djokovic held the forehand and then took the set when Medvedev hit a forehand after someone in the crowd yelled during the point.
Djokovic started the second set with a break at the net, then shook his left hand and let his shoulders droop. That stab finally missed the bottom of the net and he looked at his outbox. Another setback gave Medvedev some breathing room.
But the extreme discrepancy in experience has been revealed. Medvedev immediately lost the next two games. In total, Djokovic failed seven times and made just 17 unforced errors to Medvedev’s 30th.
A masterpiece, said Goran Ivanisevic, the 2001 Wimbledon champion who is one of Djokovic’s coaches.
Medvedev rallied to a minuscule 4-2 in the third, got to 15-30 on Djokovic’s serve with a winning forehand and waved to the crowd to make noise. As if he had taken it as a personal insult, Djokovic grabbed the next three points and the equalizer, then pointed at his temple with his index finger and clenched his teeth.
It was almost over.
Coming to Australia always gives me an extra dose of confidence, Djokovic said, because of my background here and the way I play.
frequently asked questions
Where did Novak Djokovic win his 17th Grand Slam title?
Djokovic dominated the 2020 Australian Open to win his 17th title. Grand Slam title. Later that year he reached the final of the French Open, but lost to Nadal. Djokovic won another title by winning the Australian Open in 2021.
How many Australian Open titles has Djokovic won?
1 in 6, the open-ended record he shares with Pete Sampras. Djokovic won 18 men’s Grand Slam singles titles and 82 ATP singles titles, including a record 36 Australian Open and a record 36 Masters.
How many Grand Slams has Novak Djokovic lost?
Novak Djokovic’s career statistics – Wikipedia
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