MELBOURNE, Australia – Novak Djokovic’s dominance at the Australian Open is intact – nine finals, nine championships.
And he wins again and again against Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam classification, now up to 18 in the overall classification, two points less than the men’s records of his two rivals.
Djokovic used an excellent serve and usual relentless return and superb performance to win 11 out of 13 games in a period and a visibly frustrated Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 for a third straight trophy on Sunday in Melbourne Beat Park.
The 33-year-old from Serbia improved to 18-0 in the semi-finals and finals on the hard courts of the Australian Open.
By and large, Djokovic has won six of the last 10 major tournaments and is certain that he will stay in first place until at least March 8th. This gives him a lead of 311 weeks and breaks the Federer brand.
The 4th Medvedev competed in his second Grand Slam final – he was Nadal’s runner-up at the 2019 US Open – but is still trying to collect his first such championship.
Djokovic ended the 25-year-old Russian’s 20-game winning streak. Medvedev had also won his last 12 games against the top 10 opponents.
Playing against Djokovic in Australia is a completely different challenge.
On the second set, as things slipped away, Medvedev bounced his white bat off the blue square, then smashed it with a full spike. By the third, he looked up at his trainer with his palms raised as if to ask, “What can I possibly do here?”
It’s a familiar feeling in this stadium, on this pitch, at this tournament. Federer, Nadal, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem – all Grand Slam champions, all defeated by Djokovic in the semi-finals or final in Melbourne.
So place the nine triumphs in Australia next to five at Wimbledon, three at the US Open and one at the French Open for Djokovic.
The math looks good for Djokovic. He is about a year younger than Nadal and 6 1/2 younger than Federer, who will turn 40 in August. Federer has not competed in more than a year after two knee operations, but is expected to turn to the tour next month.
On a cool, cloudy evening, an event was delayed by three weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic, which concluded with an announced attendance of 7,426 people at the Rod Laver Arena. Spectators were completely banned for five days at the start of the tournament due to a local COVID-19 lockdown, but were eventually re-admitted at 50% capacity.
A majority favored Djokovic on Sunday, so that many refrains of his nickname rang out – “No-le, No-le, No-le!” – and Serbian flags graced the stands, flapping in a swirling breeze.
Medvedev’s flat forehand, which wrapped the racket around his neck, was initially doubtful and was missing far, long and into the net in the first 10 minutes. Djokovic took 13 of the game’s first 16 points and took a quick 3-0 lead.
Soon, however, it was 3: all because Medvedev corrected his mistakes, while Djokovic, after a game in which he had a drop shot, then an overhead, the most glaring – only? – weakness in his game.
But from 5-all, Djokovic stepped forward and Medvedev stepped back. Djokovic held on to love and then broke off to claim the sentence when Medvedev hit a forehand into the net shortly after someone in the crowd yelled during the point.
There were often extensive discussions at the beginning of the study. Both men were able to cover the field of play well enough to devour each other’s potential point-to-point shots. Medvedev rarely strayed from the back of the pitch unless he was lured forward by one of Djokovic’s relatively frequent drop shots.
Djokovic started the second set with a mistake in the net, then shook his left arm out and moved his shoulders. That point ended with missing a backhand in the net, shrugging his shoulders and staring at his guest box. Another backhand achieved Medvedev a break and a 1-0 lead.
Signs of anger? Not for long.
There might have been reason to believe Djokovic was just a little more vulnerable this time around.
First he tore the middle part during a slip in the third round against the American Taylor Fritz; After that win, Djokovic said he tore a muscle but when he played his semi-finals declared himself painless.
In addition, Djokovic had already ceded five sets in six games on Sunday, most of which he had lost on the way to the final in a Grand Slam tournament.
This was his 28th grand final, even with Nadal second best by a man in tennis history who fell short of Federer’s 31st.
The extreme experience gap seemed to be showing. For example: Medvedev immediately gave back that early break in the second set by giving up two of his own service games in a row.
Djokovic broke in half of Medvedev’s 14 service games, gaining 73% of the points when his own first serves and 58% in seconds. And Djokovic played so cleanly with only 17 easy mistakes. Medvedev made 13.
When it was over, after less than two hours, Djokovic fell on his back with his limbs spread. He said he felt at home and was not ready to give up the property.