The victory over Dominic Thiem gave him his 17th Grand Slam singles title, and allowed him to reclaim the No. 1
MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic extended his record by winning his eighth Australian Open singles title on Sunday, defeating Dominic Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
The victory allowed Djokovic to reclaim the No. 1 ranking from Rafael Nadal and to reassert his dominance in Melbourne.
Based on the evidence, the hardest task in men’s tennis remains defeating Nadal at the French Open. But the second-hardest task must be beating Djokovic down the stretch at the Australian Open.
He has never lost a semifinal and is now 8-0 in finals, after winning his second straight final here. He excels on all surfaces, but he has won nearly half of his 17 Grand Slam singles titles on the medium-speed hardcourts in Melbourne.
“Definitely my favorite court and my favorite stadium in the world and I’m blessed to hold this trophy once again,” Djokovic said after a final that lasted 3 hours 59 minutes.
Djokovic took quick command of the fifth set, breaking Thiem’s serve in the third game. He saved two break points in the next game to stay in front.
Thiem’s last good chance to close the gap came with Djokovic serving at 4-3 but at 30-all, Djokovic hit a wide, bold second serve that surprised Thiem, then closed out the game with a first serve that Thiem could not return. After Thiem held, Djokovic served out the match for the championship.
This was the third straight men’s Grand Slam final to require five sets. Djokovic saved two match points before defeating Federer at Wimbledon last year. Nadal then held off Daniil Medvedev, who had rallied from two sets down, to win the United States Open.
At the start on Sunday night, it looked like Djokovic might avoid another marathon. His form in the opening games looked similar to his dazzling display in last year’s straight-set rout of Nadal in the Australian Open final, which Djokovic considers one of the finest performances of his career.
He jumped out to a 4-1 lead, winning points from all parts of the court and with all manner of tactics: drop shots, powerful groundstrokes and penetrating first and second serves.
But Thiem, unlike Nadal, found a way to weather the early storm and get back to 4-4 before Djokovic closed out the set.
It was a taut, tense affair from there, although both players rarely peaked in unison. The second set turned Thiem’s way after Djokovic was called for consecutive time violations by the chair umpire, Damien Dumusois, when serving at 4-4.
The second violation cost him a first serve. Thiem went on to break, and Djokovic, fuming, patted Dumusois’s feet as he passed in front of his chair. “Great job, man,” Djokovic said. “You made yourself famous. Well done.”
Thiem served out the set and swept to the third as Djokovic looked increasingly sluggish and off balance. With Thiem leading 4-1, Djokovic received a visit from the medical staff but did not take an injury timeout.
But Djokovic often has looked down and out in his long career only to find a way back to a more sunlit place. He found his rhythm and energy again in the fourth set as Thiem’s level dropped, and they were soon into a fifth set, which is beginning to seem like the rule in major men’s tennis.
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