Novak Djokovic: The King of the Australian Open

andrew hendrie:

Novak Djokovic is on the cusp of securing a record-extending eighth Australian Open as he prepares to face Dominic Thiem in the final on Sunday night.

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The undisputed King of Melbourne – as Thiem put it after his semi-final triumph – Djokovic has played the best tennis of his career at the Australian Open and now stands one win away from making more history.

Djokovic has been supremely dominant in Australian Open finals throughout the course of his career, winning all seven and losing just five sets in all of those matches combined. Simply staggering.

Ahead of his final showdown with Thiem on Sunday night, we look back at the seven Australian Open title Djokovic has won over the last 12 years.

2008: Djokovic def. Tsonga 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6(2)

The triumph that started it all. Djokovic, after beating Roger Federer in the semi-finals, came back from a set down to beat the unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in four sets to secure the first Grand Slam of his career – and the first of his seven Australian Opens. The win ushered Djokovic into the ‘Big Three’ as it was the first time since 2005 that a Grand Slam final didn’t featured Federer or Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic became the first Serbian player to win a Grand Slam men’s singles title – a feat he was immensely proud of.

“I’m very, very happy that I won my first Grand Slam here,” said Djokovic.

“I want to thank all the Serbian fans who came here to support me – I am so proud to be the first Serbian to win a Grand Slam title.”

2011: Djokovic def. Murray [5] 6-4 6-2 6-3

The first of three straight Australian Open titles, Djokovic bounced back into form in devastating fashion at the 2011 tournament. After his initial breakthrough three years previously, Djokovic struggled with his serve and fitness and failed to win another major crown, but it all came together for the Serbian as he crushed fifth seed Andy Murray in straight sets in the final. Djokovic also once again beat Federer in the semi-finals as the Swiss was defending champion.

At the time, Djokovic also ended Murray’s dream to snap a 75-year drought for a British man to win a Grand Slam singles title.

“I understand how he feels, it’s his third final and he didn’t get the title,” Djokovic said. “As I said on the court, I really have big respect for him and his game, because I think he has everything what it takes to become a Grand Slam champion.”

2012: Djokovic def. Nadal [2] 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7(5) 7-5

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal after the 2012 Australian Open (Photo by Corinne Dubreuil/ABACAPRESS.COM)

Arguably the best Grand Final we’ve ever seen and certainly the most physical. Djokovic defended a Grand Slam title for the first time in truly epic circumstances, outlasting Nadal in five hours and 53 minutes – the longest match in Australian Open history and the longest Grand Slam singles final in the Open Era.

Nadal fought back from the brink to force a fifth set and appeared to carry all the momentum into the decider, but Djokovic dug deep to pull off one of the most famous wins in tennis history, condemning the Spaniard to the unwanted record of becoming the only player in the Open Era to lose three major finals in a row.

The match started on Sunday and went into the early hours of Monday morning, finishing at 1.37am local time.

“Rafa, you’re one of the best players ever, one of the most respected players on tour. We made history tonight; unfortunately there couldn’t be two winners tonight. I wish you all the best for this season and I hope that we will have many more finals like this,” Djokovic said during his acceptance speech.

2013: Djokovic def. Murray [3] 6-7(2) 7-6(3) 6-3 6-2

More major heartbreak for Murray and more history for Djokovic, who became the first man in the Open Era to win the Australian Open three consecutive times as he conquered the Scot in four sets, coming from behind to finish strongly, losing just five games in the last two sets.

Djokovic also avenged his U.S. Open loss to Murray from the previous year and retained his No. 1 ranking as a result of his victory.

“It’s an incredible feeling winning this trophy again,” Djokovic said. “It’s definitely my favourite Grand Slam, my most successful Grand Slam. I love this court.”

2015: Djokovic def. Murray [6] 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-3 6-0

After falling to Stan Wawrinka in the 2014 quarter-finals in one of the best matches in recent Australian Open history, Djokovic swiftly regained his throne in Melbourne as he once again defeated Murray in the final.

It was basically a carbon copy of their 2013 final, with the pair splitting the first two sets in tiebreaks before Djokovic ran away with the match to prevail in four.

Djokovic avenged his loss to Wawrinka in the semi-finals and condemned Murray to a fourth runner-up finish at Melbourne Park, with the Scot becoming the first man in the Open Era to lose the final on four occasions.

”I’m so grateful to be standing here as a champion for the fifth time, and to be in the elite group of players,” Djokovic said after becoming the first man in the Open Era to win five Australian Open titles.

2016: Djokovic def. Murray [2] 6-1 7-5 7-6(3)

The fourth Australian Open final between the pair and the fourth win for Djokovic, who equaled Roy Emerson’s all-time men’s record of most Australian Open singles titles won with six.

Unlike the last two, Djokovic was dominant from start to finish as Murray made more unwanted history, becoming the second man in the Open Era (after coach Ivan Lendl) to lost five Grand Slam finals at the one tournament.

“Every Grand Slam title is very significant in its own way,” said Djokovic. “Here, because of the fact that I managed to make history tonight and equal Roy Emerson’s six Australian Open titles. I’m very honoured to be mentioned alongside legends of our sport like Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver and to win as many Grand Slams as they did.

“I can’t lie and say I didn’t think about it. Of course it was in the back of my mind. Coming into the court I knew that I had a chance to make history. Of course it served as a great motivation, as a great imperative to play my best.”

2019: Djokovic def. Nadal [2] 6-3 6-2 6-3

Djokovic would land a number of personal milestones in crushing Nadal for the 2019 Australian Open title. The Serbian captured an all-time record seventh Australian Open crown, surpassed Pete Sampras for 15 overall Grand Slam titles (placing him in third on the all-time list behind Nadal and Federer) and retained the No. 1 ranking.

Djokovic said it was the most complete performance in a Grand Slam final as he dropped just eight games to the second seed.

“That was probably the best performance I had in [the] final of a Grand Slam in my career,” Djokovic said. “I had some thrilling, exciting matches. Probably the two most epic matches that I was part of were the final against Rafa here in 2012 that almost went six hours, the record of the longest ever final in history.”

2020? Djokovic vs Thiem

Djokovic arrives back in the final playing some of the best tennis of his career once again in Melbourne, coming off a straight sets dispatch of Federer in the semis, while he’s lost just one set all tournament (to Jan-Lennard Struff in the first round).

All up, Djokovic has won 16 consecutive sets dating back to the opening round – and if he beats Thiem in straight sets in the final, he will better his personal best of 18 straight sets won at the Australian Open.