MELBOURNE: A tournament that had to contend with many uncertainties due to the Covid-19 pandemic, climaxed with Novak Djokovic remaining an unbreakable force as he thrashed Daniil Medvedev to claim a record-extending ninth Australian Open title yesterday.
The world number one’s 7-5 6-2 6-2 triumph under the lights at Rod Laver Arena secured his 18th Grand Slam title, bringing him within tantalising reach of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal’s all-time men’s record of 20.
Much like Dominic Thiem in last year’s final, Djokovic faced an opponent desperate for success and his own seat at the Grand Slam table. Unlike Thiem, who pushed Djokovic to five sets, Medvedev never really threatened in his second Grand Slam final.
Djokovic made a mockery of the Russian’s 20-match winning streak and his pre-match barb that all the pressure to win was on the champion. He broke him seven times for the match and closed out the one-sided contest with a net-rush and a brilliant leaping volley.
Having extended his unbeaten record in nine finals at Melbourne Park, the Serb roared in triumph and wrapped up his team in a group hug.
After acknowledging Medvedev’s congratulations, Djokovic thanked the blue centre court during the trophy ceremony.
“I would like to thank Rod Laver Arena. I love you each year more and more. It’s been a love affair that keeps growing. Thank you so much,” he said.
“On the court, he’s (Medvedev) definitely one of the toughest players that I ever faced in my life.
“It’s a matter of time when you hold a Grand Slam that’s for sure. If you don’t mind waiting a few more years.”
Djokovic now has won six Grand Slam titles after the age of 30, equalling Nadal’s record.
He had said pre-match that Medvedev was the man to beat in Melbourne Park and seemed determined to do it quickly as he slammed down an ace first point and broke Medvedev immediately.
With an acrobatic, leaping smash, he shot out to a 3-0 lead.
It was deflating start for Medvedev but he rallied to 3-3. Running the Serb ragged in an epic rally, Medvedev clinched two break points when Djokovic netted a drop-shot from the baseline and the Serb dropped serve with a smash into the net.
With Medvedev matching him on the baseline, Djokovic tried pulling him to the net, the Russian’s least favourite part of the court. The ploy paid off as Djokovic ripped a backhand passing shot for three set points and took it when a flustered Medvedev thumped a forehand into the net.
The momentum swung to Medvedev as Djokovic’s backhand wavered when serving first in the second set.
Yet the Russian could not consolidate, handing the break back with an error-strewn game.
Play was suspended briefly mid-point at 2-1 after a protester yelled “free the refugees” repeatedly during play before being ejected to cheers from the crowd.
Medvedev seemed unperturbed when he fired an ace on the next point but then dropped serve in a hurry with a pair of unforced errors.
Djokovic marched on to a 5-2 lead and Medvedev smashed his racket in fury.
The Russian sunk deeper into a funk, slapping a forehand long to concede two set points before being almost knocked off his feet by a sizzling Djokovic return.
Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek won their first Grand Slam title together on Sunday, taking down defending Australian Open men’s doubles champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 6-3 6-4 in the final.